8 Essential Minerals For Arthritis: Do They Really Work?

Arthritis is a disease involving mainly inflammation of joints. There are over 100 types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease characterised by degeneration of bone tissue.

Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are inflammatory forms of arthritis. Gout and septic arthritis are other common types of arthritis.

Joint pain, swelling, inflammation and reduced joint function are the main symptoms of arthritis. Other symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, malaise, poor sleep. Arthritis can either be restricted to the joint or spread to other organs. It can also pave way for other complications such as obesity, autoimmune conditions, depression etc.

Nutritional deficiencies are observed in many patients suffering from arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers are investigating whether rectifying these deficiencies can help in treatment of arthritis.

What is the role of minerals in arthritis treatment?

As mentioned previously, mineral deficiency may be observed in individuals suffering from arthritis and this can be rectified by mineral supplementation. Mineral deficiency may accelerate progression of the disease.

Also these minerals work as antioxidants and may improve antioxidant defences in arthritis. Certain minerals reduce loss of bone mineral and density. Minerals are also essential in regulating immune responses.

Some conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis associated anemia may require iron supplementation. Mineral supplementation may prevent progression of the disease as evidenced in case of osteoarthritis by Bansal et. al.

8 Essential Minerals In Arthritis: Do they really work?

Here is a list of minerals whose supplementation has been evaluated in arthritis and assessed as to whether they reduce arthritic symptoms.

1. Calcium

cheeseLoss of bone mineral and density has been observed in rheumatoid arthritis. Steroids recommended to treat arthritis lower bone mineral density.

Calcium supplementation, with vitamin D, is said to prevent bone loss in rheumatoid arthritis. Peng et. al in their 4 year study report that rheumatoid arthritis patients taking vitamin D and calcium experienced a reduction in loss of bone mineral density than those who didn’t.

Supplementation with calcium is found to reduce knee discomfort in arthritis within 14 days. Vitamin D (500 IU) and calcium when supplemented with DMARD therapy to treat arthritis is effective in reducing pain.

Calcium supplementation in osteoarthritis was found to reduce inflammation in 2 weeks.

What does this mean?
Calcium supplementation is beneficial in counteracting bone loss in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Natural sources: Dairy products, chia seeds, poppy seeds, beans, lentils, amaranth, spinach, kale

2. Selenium

Selenium may modulate immune and inflammatory responses. It also works as antioxidant which may be beneficial in arthritis treatment.

Individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis have low selenium levels.

Clinical trial suggests that supplementation with selenium enriched yeast has no benefits in arthritis. Dietary supplementation of selenium may improve antioxidant defenses.

Canter et. al report in their review study that selenium supplementation may not be effective in arthritis treatment.

What does this mean?
Selenium supplementation may not effective in reducing symptoms of arthritis despite of the fact that individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may have low selenium levels.
Natural sources: tuna, shrimp, sardines, brazil nuts, chicken, lamb, beef

3. Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency may cause inflammation and cartilage damage in arthritis.

Dietary magnesium intake may prevent knee osteoarthritis. Magnesium intake may help counteract gastric side effects of painkillers.

A fairly old study reports that 3g of magnesium salt (magnesium dithisalicylate) is as effective as 3g aspirin in relieving pain and inflammation in arthritis. Magnesium in combination with stomach acid reducing medications can protect from gastric side effects of painkillers in arthritis.

What does this mean?
There are not many studies to confirm the effectiveness of magnesium supplementation in arthritis though it may help in reducing gastric side effects of medications used in arthritis.
Natural sources: Spinach, pumpkin seeds, black beans, cashews, avocado

4. Manganese

Managanese contributes to bone mineral and bone health. Manganese is essential for formation of antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase which may have therapeutic effect in arthritis. Also use of steroids in arthritis may impair manganese metabolism.

Old studies have investigated the role of magnesium supplementation in arthritis. Recent studies show that magnesium in combination with chondroitin and glucosamine may attenuate symptoms of osteoarthritis.

What does this mean?
Manganese is an essential component of bone mineral. Its combination with glucosamine and chondroitin can be beneficial in osteoarthritis.
Natural sources: Oats, pumpkin seeds, spinach, brown rice, garbanzo beans, soybeans, pineapple

minerals

5. Zinc

Zinc levels are reduced in individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Zinc supplementation may be beneficial in fighting inflammation and regulating immune responses.

Zinc supplementation may help prevent bone loss and stimulate immune responses. An old study demonstrates that zinc supplementation may attenuate arthritis symptoms. No recent studies however have examined this point.

What does this mean?
No recent study examines the therapeutic effect of zinc supplementation in arthritis.
Natural sources: Beef, garbanzo beans, pumpkin seeds, spinach, cashews

6. Iron

Iron supplementation may be necessary if suffering from rheumatoid anemia.

Iron supplementation may work only in combination with other treatments required to alleviate iron deficiency.

What does this mean?
Iron supplementation may be necessary only in case of rheumatoid anemia.
Natural sources: Red meat, poultry, spinach, beans, sweet potato, broccoli

7. Potassium

The role of potassium supplementation in arthritis has not been thoroughly investigated but it may have an anti-inflammatory effect and regulate hormonal imbalances in arthritis.

A clinical trial was conducted wherein patients suffering from potassium deficiency and rheumatoid arthritis were supplemented with oral potassium dissolved in grape juice. The dose was 6g potassium chloride and study lasted for 28 days.

Around 43% experienced reduced pain intensity and 31% showed moderate improvement. Potassium supplementation was found to reduce pain intensity.

What does this mean?
Potassium supplementation may reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis in case of deficiency but more studies are required to confirm this.
Natural sources: Avocado, spinach, chard, sweet potato, pinto beans, lima beans

8. Boron

almondsBoron supplementation in animals is found to increase bone strength. Boron is held to be beneficial in arthritis because of its action on steroid hormones and mineral metabolism.

Dr. Newnham published a paper in 1994 stating that boron supplementation had relieved his arthritic pain. He correlated the data that areas whose population had deficient boron intake had a higher prevalence of arthritis. 6mg/day of boron supplementation relieved pain in osteoarthritis.

What does this mean?
There is very limited evidence available to comment on effectiveness of boron supplementation in arthritis.
Natural sources: Almonds, walnuts, chickpeas, bananas, carrot, prunes, raisins

Dosage

Various government and health related bodies have outlined the recommended daily intake value of minerals and vitamins which you can freely access.

If opting for supplements, evaluate yourself prior for deficiency and consult a doctor regarding the dosage.

Precautions

Vitamins and minerals when in balance or at normal levels have no side effects. Excess or deficiency of these micronutrients can lead to gastric side effects, fatigue, hair loss etc.

Consult a doctor before taking supplements. They may interact with anti-arthritic medications or even increase risk of bleeding disorder.

Conclusion

Supplementation with minerals may help rectifying deficiencies in arthritis but whether they can bring a significant reduction in disease activity still needs to be validated by rigorous clinical trials.

Calcium supplementation may help reducing bone loss moderately. Potassium and magnesium salts may help in relieving pain and inflammation but more studies are required to confirm this.

Iron can be beneficial in rheumatic anemia. Manganese supplementation in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin may help relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Optimum mineral intake may also be beneficial in counteracting complications associated with arthritis such as depression, lack of sleep and autoimmune conditions.

In case of opting for supplements it is best to consult a doctor about regimen and dose, but its necessary to keep in mind that supplementation with minerals may take as much 4 months to 1 year to deliver visible effects.

Supplements are advised only in case of deficiency.

What’s better is to include foods rich in these minerals for they would provide you with more than just minerals and improve overall health.