If your joints ache, you know what inflammation feels like.
Inflammation hurts. An inflamed area is red, swollen, hot — and most of all — tender.
Inflammation is part of the body’s response to infection or injury. In the right amount, inflammation serves a vital purpose.But in excess it becomes a problem itself, causing pain and even damaging healthy tissue.
The two most common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis both share excess inflammation as the source of much of the misery they cause. Toning down the inflammation eases the pain.
Traditional medicine tries to do this by doing what it always does. It throws drugs at the problem.
The two broad classes most commonly used to treat pain caused by inflammation are NSAIDs such as Motrin and steroids like Prednisone (not the steroids of athletic infamy). They do suppress inflammation, but at a huge cost. Taken in excess, they are both dangerous leading to many thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year.
Instead of drugs, how would you like to know about a way to sooth inflamed joints that has “side effects” such as reducing your risk of heart attack and cancer? I have two words for you: fish oil.
Although, you may not have heard about fish oil for arthritis from your doctor yet, that may soon change. In an editorial published in the Journal of Rheumatology, commentators conclude that “dietary fish oil supplements should now be regarded as part of standard therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.” 
Fish oil is high in a type of fat known as omega-3 fatty acids. Inflammation results from a chemical chain reaction. These fats interrupt this chain reaction in at least three different ways. Increase omega-3 fatty acids in your diet and you’ll reduce inflammation.
Eating fish is an obvious way to increase your intake of fish oil. However, some people just don’t care for fish. And there’s another concern that’s more worrisome…fish today often contain dangerous levels of contaminates such as mercury and PCB.
These poisons concentrate most in long-lived fish whose diet is mainly smaller fish. Therefore, I can’t recommend frequent consumption of these fish. Women of childbearing age and young children should be especially cautious.
For a lot of folks, fish oil supplements make more sense.
The recommended dosage of fish oil varies from two to ten grams per day and supplements are generally safe. Because of concerns about contaminates, it is important to use purified, quality fish oil from a reliable source. A label with USP certification indicates a brand has been tested and is safe from contaminates.
Some people worry that high doses might affect blood clotting. However, studies show that reasonable doses of fish oil are safe, even in people on aspirin or blood thinners. [2-3] Naturally, anyone on blood thinners should check with their physician any time they take a new medicine or supplement.
Although fish oil supplementation helps most people, like all nutritional supplements, it may take a little time for the full benefit to kick in. Give it 12 weeks as a fair trial.
- 1.Cleland Leslie G. and James MJ. Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 27, October 2000, pp. 2305-06 (article and editorial).
- 2.Bays, HE. American Journal of Cardiology, Vol. 99, No. 6A, March 19, 2007, pp. 35C-43C.
- 3.Harris, WS. Journal of Cardiology, Vol. 99, No. 6A, March 19, 2007, pp. 44C-46C.
Joseph F. McCaffrey, MD, FACS is a board-certified surgeon with extensive experience in alternative medicine, including certification as a HeartMath Trainer. His areas of expertise include mind-body interaction and cognitive restructuring.
Dr. McCaffrey strives to help people attain their optimum level of vitality through attention to all aspects of wellness. For more information, click here.
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- Why Fish Oil May be the Best Therapy for Aching Joints - December 10, 2008