An Overview of Joint Supplements
Many people choose to use joint supplements to ease the pain and discomfort of arthritic joints, but with a wide array of joint supplements, this often proves to be difficult. We take a look at some of our leading supplements for joint pain.
The health of our joints has an impact on our quality of life and determines how active we can be. It is estimated that over 30% of the adult population suffer from some sort of chronic pain usually associated with the degradation of joints. The figures jump up to nine out of ten people when the age goes up to 60. Many of us suffer from chronic joint pain and choose to use drugs such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, NSAID’s, which are not without side effects. There are some safe and effective supplements for joints that may be used to help alleviate pain, improve joint mobility and the health of our joint tissues.
The most common type of joint concern is arthritis. Arthritis is a general term for numerous conditions that may affect any joint or tissue in our body. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis affects the weight bearing joints such as the back, knees, hips and the small bones in your hands. These joint tissues are affected because of the repeated use of them which results in the loss of the cartilage between the bones. When the cartilage which cushions the joints degrades, the result is bone rubbing onto bone causing a loss of flexibility, joint swelling and joint pain. Since arthritis is degenerative, many people choose to take control of their health by investing in natural remedies for arthritis.
I have highlighted some of the most popular joint supplements to counter pain and encourage joint mobility.
Natural Eggshell Membrane
Natural Eggshell Membrane, NEM®, is the thin membrane that is found just beneath the eggshell and it contains a host of compounds including proteins, glycosaminoglycans, hyaluronic acid, rare amino acids, collagen and elastin, each of which has a role in joint health. Much of benefits of NEM® are thought to be the result of its nutrients being able to boost the production of critical joint molecules.
One of the most notable study over a 60 day period was conducted at six different sites throughout Germany to evaluate the efficacy of NEM® for the relief of joint pain and joint discomfort associated with osteoarthritis of the knee and/or hip. Statistical analysis of the results revealed:
- Significant pain relief with 10 days
- A fifth of the subjects experienced a 50% improvement in pain-related questions at the end of the study
- Significant improvement for joint stiffness was noted at the 30 day and 60 day intervals
- Analgesic use had dropped considerably after 30 days use of NEM®
Although there are some joint supplements containing NEM, in my opinion, Superior Joints is by far the best formulated joint supplement. Superior Joints is specifically formulated for arthritic & joint pain and contains NEM® together with hyaluronic acid, turmeric, ginger and tart cherries to support joint health.
There are hundreds of glucosamine joint supplements on the market which can be confusing. Glucosamine is normally produced naturally within the body and is essential for maintaining healthy cartilage, the tissues between bones which helps to keep the joints flexible. As we age, our bodies fail to manufacture sufficient glucosamine and so glucosamine supplements such as glucosamine sulphate are used to help maintain joint mobility. Glucosamine is thought to help the cartilage retain water and to prevent its breakdown.
Glucosamine is controversial. Trials involving its use produce mixed results varying from no better than a placebo effect to a significant improvement in joint pain and function. The largest study to date, Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Study, GAIT, involved 1600 people with osteoarthritis of the knee. The first phase of this study found a small subset of patients who experienced significant pain relief when taking glucosamine combined with chondroitin. The second phase results found that neither glucosamine nor chondroitin slowed down joint damage. In the next two year phase, glucosamine and chondroitin were found to be as effective as a prescribed pain killer for joint pain suggesting that this nutrient provided benefits when used on a long term basis. Most Glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplements are derived from shellfish and so please check the label as there are other options available.
Taking fish oil for joint pain is both safe and effective. Fish oil joint supplements contains two omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. These two important fatty acids, which have been the subject of extensive studies, are converted by the body into compounds that exert a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Research suggests that one requires levels of 2000–3000 mg of fish oils to counter impaired joint movement.
Numerous studies indicate that people with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis taking fish oil supplements exhibit fewer tender joints and are less prone to morning stiffness that are both the hallmarks of this disease.
Our intake of omega 3’s has been on a decline over the past two decades which is why the Government recommendations are that we eat some oily fish such as mackerel at least once or twice a week as a minimum. Aside from being beneficial for joint health, omega 3’s are important for countless other processes within the body and deficiency of these vital compounds can only be detrimental to our health. Krill Oil provides the cleanest source of omega 3’s but if you do intend to take fish oils then please consider Wild Alaskan Full Spectrum Omega Softgels by Solgar Vitamins which provides these omega 3’s from Sockeye Salmon prized for its meat and oil content.
Bromelain is an enzyme derived from the stems of the pineapple plant. Bromelain's benefits are well documented which include its ability to break down protein-rich and fat-rich meals. Bromelain tablets however also exhibits powerful anti-inflammatory properties when taken on an empty stomach and is generally regarded as safe unless you have a peptic ulcer.
Bromelain is often included in joint supplements as it is thought to work by inhibiting the formation of inflammatory chemicals in the body that cause pain and additionally it is known for its ability to heal soft tissue injuries. For bromelain to be effective, the ideal strength is 2000 GDU’s, and a supplement that provides 2000 GDU’s per capsule is Bromelain by Viridian Nutrition.
Turmeric's joints benefits arise from this spice having a long traditional history of use. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which is found in the root of the plant and this is the compound responsible for turmeric’s colour.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant which may help protect the joints but it also displays potent anti-inflammatory properties notably acting as a COX-2 inhibitor which is akin to how certain drugs such as ibuprofen work. Curcumin is also thought to inhibit the production of prostaglandins which are chemicals that cause pain and swelling within the body.
The biggest problem with turmeric supplements for joint pain is that they are ill-absorbed by the body with as little as 5% of curcumin in turmeric being absorbed on average. Once absorbed curcumin, being water soluble, is readily excreted out of our bodies. It is worth looking at Curcumin Elite™ by Life Extension as this supplement not only delivers curcumin, but also the lesser spoken about curcuminoids, which are active compounds in turmeric that help to reduce inflammation and are thought to help protect the neurons in our brain. Please check with your GP or health advisor if you are taking blood thinning medications or have gall stones before taking curcumin supplements.
Nature has provided us with many potent compounds including anthocyanins. These are a group of antioxidants that are responsible for the colours of berries, fruits and vegetables. Tart cherries are unique in that the anthocyanins they contain are different from those of blueberries called phenolics which mediate inflammation.
Several studies indicated that patients taking tart cherries in supplement form experienced a significant improvement in joint mobility and pain. Other studies involving the use of tart cherry juice showed a reduction in C-reactive protein which is a marker of inflammation within the body.
A supplement that contains tart cherries together with turmeric and other supporting herbs is Terra Nova’s Tart Cherry, Nettle and Turmeric powder. Nettle and Turmeric work to inhibit inflammation and to encourage the removal of uric acid, the compound responsible for pain and joint stiffness.
Joint pain is not inevitable with age and one of the biggest factors affecting our joints is the weight we carry. Any extra weight we carry puts stress on the joints which may speed up deterioration impacting on joint health. Aside from using supplements a healthy diet and exercise are important to help prevent joint pain.