Arthritis is a generic term that describes over 100 different medical conditions. All of these conditions will cause inflammation in the musculoskeletal system. At this point a definitive cause for the development of most of these arthritic conditions is not been found. However, researchers and doctors do have specific treatment protocols which help individuals to decrease pain, inflammation and improve their function. (1) One of the treatments which individuals and physicians have experimented with are fish oil supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, both fresh water and salt water varieties. Research over the past decade has found that both Omega six and Omega three fatty acids are considered essential. This means there are essential to human health and cannot be made in the body. For this reason they must be obtained from the food. Together, they play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development.
There has been data from a few randomized double controlled studies that have demonstrated a beneficial effect to individuals who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and use a dietary fish oil supplements. In many of these studies the patients were able to decrease the amount of other medications they use in order to control or inflammation. And in one study the researchers found that combining fish oil with olive oil could also enhance the anti-inflammatory effects. (2,3,4)
However, while researchers do know that Omega three fatty acids from fish oil will decrease the inflammatory process in the body, and therefore cause reduced pain and swelling in individuals who suffer from some forms of arthritis, there has also not been any evidence that it reduces the progression of the disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also lowered triglycerides, reduce blood pressure and protect against cardiovascular disease. (5)
The type of fish oil which is used for the supplements is important. Research has found that salmon, mackerel, halibut, tuna and herring, all of which are cold water fish, produce the best omega-3 fatty acids to produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Researchers believe that you cannot get enough of the omega-3 fatty acids from eating foods alone and must use dietary supplementation. However, not everyone should take these supplements. For instance, individuals who are on an anticoagulant therapy program will find that omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil will impact their clotting times. Pregnant women should not take these supplements because of the danger of mercury poisoning to the baby.
As with all supplements that you may consider in order to reduce the pain and inflammation from your arthritis, you must consult with your primary care physician or rheumatologist. While they may be dietary supplements, they are still chemicals which you are putting into your body and can cause either side effects or interactions with other medications you are already taking. Your rheumatologist will be able to help you with these questions and your pharmacist will be able to tell you if there is any drug interactions with any medications you’re currently on.
Arthritis can be a seriously debilitating disease. The good news is that recent research has discovered there are excellent natural products, including omega-3 fish oils, then help to treat the pain and discomfort for individuals who are suffering from arthritis. As research continues to develop and discover a variety of ways of treating this inflammatory process there continues to be hope on the horizon for those who suffer on a daily basis.
(1) Arthritis Foundation: Types of Arthritis
(2) The Journal of Rheumatology: Collateral Benefits of Fish Oil Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis
(3) Arthritis and Rheumatism: Effects of high-dose fish oil on rheumatoid arthritis after stopping nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. Clinical and immune correlates
(4) Arthritis Today: Supplemental Relief
(5) Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease