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Omega-3s may help protect against inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis

2 min read

Eating a healthy balanced diet is important for people with arthritis, as well as for everyone else for that matter. This is so we get the right balance of nutrients our bodies need for day-to-day functions.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may reduce some of the pain and inflammation of arthritis

There is growing evidence to suggest that particular omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (the ones found in oily fish) may reduce some of the pain and inflammation of arthritis.

However, quite a large dose is needed, either in the form of fish oils or as the purified long chain fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to get the benefit, and any benefit is lost when you stop taking it.

Eat at least one portion of oily fish each week

As part of a healthy diet, oily fish is the best natural source of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Current advice is to eat at least two portions of fish each week, at least one of which should be oily fish. Examples of oil-rich fish include sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna (fresh) and salmon.

Short chain omega-3 fatty acids provided by plants - e.g. alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - can be converted to EPA and DHA in small amounts and are widely found in seeds and nuts, e.g. flaxseeds and walnuts, pulses such as soya, and oils made from nuts and seeds.

Supplementation with chondroitin and glucosamine may help symptoms 

​​A number of nutritional supplements have been used to treat osteoarthritis in the past, including chondroitin and glucosamine. There is evidence that glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin sulphate may help symptoms of osteoarthritis to a degree and do not cause many side effects.

There is also evidence supporting the use of supplements in rheumatoid arthritis, and some can be useful in preventing side effects of certain medications prescribed for the condition. For example, calcium and vitamin D supplements may help prevent osteoporosis if you are taking steroids and folic acid supplements may help prevent some of the side effects of methotrexate. If you can't eat oily fish or simply don't like it then taking a fish oil supplement may help reduce joint pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.