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Arthritis: Nutraceutical Remedies From Nature

Arthritis: Nutraceutical Remedies From Nature

Article by Arnie Gitomer


Arthritis: Nutraceutical Remedies From Nature

an excerpt from the book, The Arthritis Bible, by Craid Weatherby & Leonid Gordin, M.D. (Healing Arts Press, Rochester VT, 1999)


IN RECENT YEARS, SCIENTISTS HAVE REDOUBLED their efforts to find new therapeutic and protective agents in nature. The results have included nutritional, food-derived substances with pharmaceutical (drug) effects. This dual nature explains the origin of the term nutraceuticals that is used to describe them. It can be difficult to draw clear lines between nutraceuticals and herbs, but the distinction has real meaning. For example, curcumin and capsaicin are of benefit in treating rheumatic diseases, but neither one comes from a traditional "arthritis herb." Their source plants contain small amounts of therapeutic chemicals that have been concentrated in dietary supplements. Other nutraceuticals, such as sea cucumber, have histories of therapeutic use but do not fit neatly into any traditional category of remedy.




EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a polyunsaturated fat that is essential to human health. It belongs to one of two main categories of essential fatty acids, called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Certain fish fats are rich in EPA-an omega-3 essential fatty acid-and the body can also manufacture it from an omega-3 fatty acid called LNA (alphalinolenic acid; see "Indirect Sources of EFA"). EPA is among the bestresearched and most widely promoted of all nutraceutical arthritis remedies. The bulk of the evidence indicates that it can provide moderate benefits for many people with rheumatoid arthritis.

How does EPA help? Among other things, the body uses EPA to make prostaglandins that tend to dampen inflammation (see Chapters 3 and 6). The available evidence suggests that when arthritis patients increase the ratio of EPA or LNA in their diets-relative to meat, dairy, and standard vegetable fats—painful inflammations gradually decline in intensity. Medical researchers have thought that vegetariantype arthritis diets relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis because they automatically increase the ratio of polyunsaturated fats like EPA to saturated fats. One controlled study, however, found no relationship between the changes in ratios of various fats in tissues and the degree of relief experienced by people eating vegetarian-style diets.’

The supplemental sources of EPA-various types of fish and seed oils-range widely in cost ($12 to $120 per month) and usually take three months to produce benefits. You will want to know the pros and cons of each one, so we will take a closer look at the evidence. Be aware that every source of EPA takes three months or more to give noticeable therapeutic benefits.


The body fat in most cold-water ocean fish is rich in EPA, and for this reason these fats have been packaged in capsules and tested in rheumatoid arthritis patients a number of times. The results have been quite positive. A Harvard University team reviewed many of the arthritis studies that have tested the effects of EPA fish oil capsules. They concluded: "Use of fish oil improved the number of tender joints and duration of morning stiffness at three months as analyzed by both meta- and mega-analysis."2

Most studies have shown that rheumatoid arthritis patients see improvement in joint tenderness and pain after taking 3-7 grams of fish oil (in capsules) for three to twelve months.’ Some studies have also shown that patients were able to limit or stop taking NSAIDs following this therapy.4 Other controlled trials have shown that fish oils lead to imp