Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) requires more than just finding the right medications. Many people with RA find they are able to protect their joints and reduce discomfort through alternative and complementary therapies, including dietary supplements.
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel, have anti-inflammatory properties. You can get omega-3 fatty acids by eating more fish or by taking fish oil supplements. Studies in which people with rheumatoid arthritis took fish oil supplements found that fish oil may help with tender joints and stiffness and may reduce the need to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications. One study found that RA sufferers who took 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of cod-liver oil a day for nine months were able to reduce their daily intake of NSAIDs by more than a third.
Be careful when using fish oil. Fish oil supplements may increase the risk for bleeding, especially in people who take medications to reduce blood clotting (anticoagulants). Talk to your doctor before taking fish oil supplements or greatly increasing your intake of fish.
Several other herbs and supplements have been evaluated for their ability to reduce inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. These include Boswellia (also called frankincense), ginger, green tea, and turmeric. Research into these compounds is too preliminary to make specific recommendations, however.