You’re not exactly a spring chicken anymore once you hit your 40s and beyond. This is when the wear and tear of the body begins to manifest. Naturally, this is when people begin looking into joint supplements for short-term and long-term relief. Do pills promising pain relief really work? Vitamins for joints has become a multi-million-dollar segment within the supplement industry. It’s only beneficial, then, to examine the science behind the dozens upon dozens of supplements for joints.
What’s Inside a Joint Supplement?
The most common supplements for joints are those containing the non-essential amino sugars glucosamine and chondroitin as the primary active ingredients. Supposedly, these naturally-occurring compounds act as lubricant for the joints. Studies regarding their efficacy, though, have been mixed at best. An extensive 2010 meta-analysis1 found that glucosamine and chondroitin were no more effective than a placebo for relieving knee and hip pain.
A More Viable Joint Care Solution
Based on the studies available, glucosamine and chondroitin — while immensely popular — may not be the best solution. After all, glucosamine only makes up about 1 percent of cartilage, compared to collagen protein, which makes up about 67 percent.
After examining countless independent studies, it’s our opinion that the best joint supplements are those that target inflammation. This includes the aforementioned collagen, which is a proven inflammation fighter. Collagen type II, in particular, is also known to directly restore joint health, according to studies2.
Why is inflammation relief so important? We believe to cure any illness, you have to target the root of the cause; otherwise, you’re just masking the symptoms. Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are caused at least in part by inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammatory flareups in the joints. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is caused more from years of wear and tear, though researchers are in agreement that inflammation plays a role as well.
What About NSAIDs?
Since we said the best supplement for joints are those that combat inflammation, then doesn’t that make NSAIDs a viable alternative? After all, NSAIDs like Ibuprofen and Tylenol are anti-inflammatory drugs that counteract the effects of the inflammation-inducing cyclooxygenase enzyme.
We don’t deny that NSAIDS reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief. However, since these are synthetic drugs, they carry potentially dangerous side effects especially it taken over the long-term. Common side effects include heartburn, stomach pain, ulcers, migraines and hypertension. Studies3 have also linked long-term NSAID use to severe liver injury.
So, What’s the Best Joint Supplement?
We just mentioned earlier that the best supplement for joints are those that contain collagen or other ingredients known to fight inflammation. That’s not all, though. In order to qualify under the best category, we believe anything that comes in pill or capsule form should be free of fillers or additives. It should also only contain the same ingredients or its compounds that you would find naturally in food. Wholesome active compounds and lack of excipients ensure optimal bioavailability.
In any case, always read the label to know what you’re getting. The popular glucosamine and chondroitin compounds may not be your best bet. This isn’t just our personal opinion; this is the scientific consensus based on extensive meta-analysis research.
What About Foods for Joint Health?
We believe that the cure for all ailments, including arthritis, can be found in nature. Supplements for joints, though, are fine as long as they contain all-natural ingredients, such as collagen. Even though the topic focus here is on joint supplements, we want to list some foods and spices proven to relieve inflammation.
- Pineapples – The stems of pineapples contain an anti-inflammatory compound known as bromelain. We actually dedicated an entire post to bromelain, where we discuss its many benefits, including pain relief.
- Turmeric – Not only is it side-effect-free, but turmeric is said to have a more potent anti-inflammatory property than NSAIDs. Studies4 confirm the spice is effective for treating joint-related pain.
- Olive Leaf Extract – The leaves are rich in numerous polyphenolic compounds, including oleuropein, which studies5 reveal to contain tremendous anti-inflammatory properties.
This is just a very small list of foods for joint health. We recommend seeing our more extensive list of natural anti-inflammatory foods and the studies behind them that verify their efficacy. On the subject of food, some of the more unhealthy choices actually facilitate inflammation. See our list of inflammation-causing foods to avoid.
Natural Is Always Best
Research has taught us that the vast majority of joint supplements in the market are useless. Too many manufacturers ignore the research or rely on outdated studies. This is why a product like Total Relief is an exception. It contains all-natural ingredients, including the ones we listed in the food section. In this sense, a serving of Total Relief is just as good as consuming the actual food itself.
For best results, we recommend a joint supplement of collagen or Total Relief and consuming whole unrefined foods.