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Fish Oil and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Updated on January 25, 2010

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful disease that is caused by your immune system’s attacks to the joints of the body as a measure of self defense.  While a lot has been learned about rheumatoid arthritis, there still is no cure.  A lot of debate has occurred on the effectiveness of natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis, one such remedy being fish oil.  Various studies have been conducted on fish oil (or omega-3 fatty acid) supplements testing the effectiveness in reducing rheumatoid arthritis pain.

Fish oil is a concentrated formulation of two essential Omega 3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid (better known as DHA and EPA).  Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a precursor to those omega 3 fatty acids and often included in fish oil supplements (you may find a lot of references to alpha-linolenic acid).  These Omega 3 fatty acids are the ingredients that have been shown to relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain.

When considering taking fish oil, or any <A HREF=”http://hubpages.com/hub/Rheumatoid-Arthritis-Natural-Remedies”> rheumatoid arthritis natural remedies</A>, it is important to understand its effects (why it works), its undesirable side-effects (what harm it can do), and to check with your doctor to make sure there aren’t any unforeseen complications.  It can be valuable to check with a certified nutritionist as well to provide a whole-diet approach to your rheumatoid arthritis treatment. 

So Why is Fish Oil so Important?

Fish oil is important as a supplement because it contains a high concentration of omega 3 fatty acids.  Because the omega 3 fatty acids are not produced by out body we have to get it from external sources.  There are a number of foods that have significant levels of omega 3 fatty acids in them such as cold water fish (like salmon), flaxseed, soybean, and walnuts.  Fish, by far, have the highest levels of omega 3 acids; however, they also have high levels of toxic heavy metals such as mercury.  The great thing about fish oil supplements is that they have filtered out all of these contaminants and provide only the essential ingredients (DHA, EPA) needed to get the benefit.

How Can Fish Oil help with my Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Fish oil helps with rheumatoid arthritis because omega-3 fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic compounds.  This means that having increased levels of omega-3 in your bloodstream will naturally reduce inflammation and stiffness in your joints.  Studies have shown that taking 3 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids a day will reduce morning stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis as well as the number of joints affected.  Also, taking the fish oil supplement can reduce and even eliminate the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil or Aspirin.  To get these benefits the fish oil supplement should be taken at least 12 weeks.

Tips for choosing fish oil supplement

While you can grab fish oil supplements at your local pharmacy, it’s important to consider a few things first.  Because fish oil is derived from fish, it still has the “fish odor” that most people find offensive or at least annoying.  Some supplements offer a low odor formulation that may be helpful if you have a low tolerance for odors.  Another thing you’ll want to consider is the amount of the omega 3 compounds that each pill contains, remember you’ll need to get 3 grams/day.  Finally, it’s important to shop around to get the best price.  You can try looking around online at the different fish oil supplements and their prices; oftentimes, you’ll get a better price if you buy in bulk

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