What are the Best Supplements For Joint Support?

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    Healthy joints are essential for our bodies. The good news is that some supplements have been shown to support healthy joints and reduce temporary joint pain.

    Joints are important to our health and mobility. Unfortunately, many of us will experience joint issues from time to time – whether after intense exercise or simply through use in the regular course of life. That’s why it’s important to start supporting joint health today. Through exercise, stretching, and even the use of some joint health supplements, you can help yourself maintain healthy joints.

    15 supplements that have proven joint benefits

    Let’s take a look at some of the most popular joint health supplements and see what the research has to say.

    1. Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s present in many foods, added to others, and is available in supplemental form. It’s also produced when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit your skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis in the body.

    Vitamin D plays a role in your metabolism and helps support your body’s absorption of calcium. Moreover, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to muscle weakness and declining bone health. All of these factors support vitamin D’s role in joint health.

    Moreover, vitamin D manages chondrocytes, which are the cells responsible for the production and maintenance of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in cartilage. If you’re looking to support bone, muscle, and joint health, you might want to look into whether you’re getting enough vitamin D. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 15-20 mcg or 600-800 IU. Care/of offers a 30-day, easy-to-digest pack of a vitamin D supplement.

    2. Omega-3 Fatty acids

    A review of available clinical research shows that taking fish oil supplements – which contain omega-3 fatty acids – can promote healthy cholesterol levels already in normal range and support cardiovascular health. Moreover, the same review found that taking fish oil supplements didn’t seem to have adverse effects. Joint comfort and supporting overall joint health in healthy participants is a potential area for future study.. This preliminary animal study shows potential for omega 3 levels supporting bone growth, bone quality, and overall health. Typical fish oil doses range from 300 to 1,000 mg per day, depending on your needs. And research shows fish oil can support brain, eye, cardiovascular, and prenatal health. You can check out Care/of’s Fish Oil supplement, made with non-GMO wild-caught fish.

    3. Turmeric

    Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family and it’s frequently used to add flavor to different meals and cuisines. It’s also become an increasingly popular supplement for promoting joint comfort and supporting joint health. The main source of turmeric’s health benefits is curcumin, a phytonutrient that seems to have antioxidant-like properties. While more research on turmeric’s effect on occasional exercise-related joint pain is needed, a systematic review of existing studies found that it promoted joint comfort more than a placebo did. Another study similarly found that curcumin, (found in turmeric) supported joint health.

    Because curcumin has low bioavailability (when taken as a supplement), it is typically combined with black pepper or piperine (an extract) to help with absorption. It’s generally taken in a dose of 500 mg, two to four times per day. Care/of offers a top-notch, 30-day supply of a turmeric supplement.

    4. Collagen

    Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, found in tendons, ligaments, fat, and skin. It gives joints their structure, forming a sort of scaffolding that holds the body together. As a supplement, it’s available in capsule and powder form. Since collagen production declines with age, it’s important to get collagen from food or supplement sources. Collagen-rich food options include bone broth, eggs, fish, and more.

    There are two different types of collagen supplements available, and it’s important to be able to recognize their differences, as one of them is superior for targeting joint health.

    Type I collagen

    Type I collagen represents about 90% of the collagen found in our bodies. It is a major component of the bone matrix, providing structural support to the bones and contributing to jaw strength.

    The natural production of type I collagen begins to decline as we age. Type I collagen is a common ingredient in bovine and marine collagen supplements. It’s considered to be the most useful form for supporting healthy skin, hair, and nails. However, clinical research is lacking to definitely say that it’s effective. Most research is small or has other confounding factors. Nonetheless, type I collagen has a good safety profile, and some research does indicate potential benefits.

    UC-II collagen

    UC-II collagen (undenatured type II collagen) is a type of collagen in the body that is needed for maintaining cartilage and skeletal wellness. Unlike type I collagen, which is often associated with promoting healthy skin, hair, and nails, UC-II collagen is primarily valued for its potential to support joint health. This type of collagen differs in that it primarily comes from cartilage sources when used in supplements. This study’s results suggested that 40mg of UC-II taken over 8-12 weeks can support healthy participants with longer exercise duration in comparison to a placebo group.

    When it comes to collagen supplements’ support for joint health, results are promising. A 24-week study on the use of collagen supplements in athletes with activity-related joint pain found that the athletes who were treated with collagen hydrolysate had better joint health and reductions in exercise-related joint pain.

    5. Boswellia

    Boswellia has been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for its therapeutic properties. It’s a supplement that contains more than 12 active boswellic acids, including what’s known as AKBA. AKBA plays an important role in cells that manage bone metabolism. A recent study showed that boswellia can promote joint health by maintaining cartilage and glycosaminoglycans.

    6. Glucosamine

    Glucosamine is a natural component of cartilage that may promote healthy cartilage and joint mobility. The two main forms of glucosamine found in supplements are glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate. Both have been studied for their effects on joint health. We’ll take a look at what the research says about each of these.

    Glucosamine sulfate

    Similar to collagen, the body's natural glucosamine levels decline with age. Research suggests that glucosamine sulfate salt is the most effective form for supplementing glucosamine. Glucosamine sulfate is similarly effective, too. It has the ability to support joint comfort and ease of movement. Long-term use, especially when combined with chondroitin sulfate, may contribute to ongoing joint health over a longer period. Results from this study found glucosamine to be effective at promoting joint range of motion with flexion and extension after supplementing with chondroitin at 1500 mg daily over a 28 day period.

    Glucosamine supplementation also plays a role in promoting microbiome health by helping the body utilize amino acids, which are the essential building blocks for tissues. Glucosamine supplements should be taken with food for optimal effectiveness.

    Glucosamine hydrochloride

    Of the two forms, glucosamine sulfate has been found to improve the symptoms of exercise- related joint issues, while glucosamine hydrochloride has been found ineffective.

    7. Chondroitin

    Chondroitin is like glucosamine in that it’s also a building block of cartilage. Moreover, like glucosamine, it may also help promote healthy cartilage and joint mobility.

    Numerous studies have found chondroitin to be effective at promoting joint comfortn. Per one study, about 53% of people who use chondroitin supplements have an increase in joint comfort. A typical chondroitin dose is 400 to 800 mg, two to three times a day. It’s also common to see joint supplements combine chondroitin and glucosamine.

    8. Devil's claw

    Devil’s claw, which is also known as harpagophytum, may support joint health. One study showed that devil’s claw worked to promote joint comfort after a daily dosage of 57 mg of harpagoside (the major chemical component thought to be responsible for the soothing effects) over a period of four months.

    Another study demonstrated antioxidant properties in devil’s claw. Still, more research is needed to determine its effectiveness. Most studies concerning the use of devil’s claw have administered doses of 600 to 800 mg, up to three times per day.

    9. MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

    Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a frequently used ingredient in supplements that may support joint health. One study found that MSM promoted joint comfortcompared relative to a placebo. Another study found that MSM may have antioxidant properties and can support physical function and performance. Average MSM doses range from 1,500 to 6,000 per day.

    10. SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine)

    SAM-e is a compound found naturally in the body that supports a number of enzyme reactions, including joint support. SAM-e typically needs to be used consistently for 1-2 months before the effects can be noticed. Research has demonstrated its potential to effectively promotejoint health when taken at daily doses ranging from 800 to 1600 mg after 2 months of use. However, findings have been somewhat mixed, as a Cochrane review of 4 trials that included 656 participants did not conclude that SAM-e is effective.

    SAM-e may interact with other medications and can cause some side effects. It’s important to ask your healthcare provider first, especially if you have any diagnoses or take any medications.

    11. Hyaluronic Acid

    Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring molecule found in synovial fluid which supports joint health and comfort. Its versatile properties have led to its widespread use as a joint, eye, and skin health supplement.

    An 8-week placebo-controlled trial explored the combination of oral hyaluronic acid with glucosamine/chondroitin and positive outcomes were observed, particularly regarding knee joint comfort. However, the results could potentially be influenced by the pairing with glucosamine/chondroitin and the relatively short trial period. To better understand hyaluronic acid's individual impact on joint comfort, we need more research.

    12. Green Tea Extract

    Green tea has been used for centuries due to its numerous beneficial properties. The primary active ingredient in green tea is a phytochemical called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). The EGCG has properties that can support cardiovascular health and manage oxidative stress.

    Currently, randomized controlled trials have not provided conclusive evidence of clear benefits of green tea extract for joint health. However, a small double-blind trial did find a potential association between EGCG and post-exercise muscle comfort, though its effects on joint comfort remain uncertain. Larger trials specifically focusing on joint health are necessary to gain a better understanding.

    13. Ginger

    Ginger supplements have been touted for their potential to promote healthy immune responses and maintain free radical balance in the body.

    As a joint supplement, ginger has shown promise in a small-scale study involving 43 participants who were administered a syrup combination of ginger and honey. The group taking the ginger supplement reported improved joint comfort after both 6 and 12 weeks.

    But there were a few factors that could have influenced the positive outcomes. During the study, participants also took over-the-counter pain medicine, potentially affecting the results. Additionally, the researchers allowed for multiple parameters that might have contributed to a false-positive outcome within the small group. Larger-scale trials must be conducted to establish more concrete findings.

    14. ASU (Avocado soybean unsaponifiables)

    Avocado and soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) are vegetable extracts that are believed to positively affect the body’s free radical processes. ASU has been shown to potentially improve joint comfort, but the clinical significance of its effects remains unclear due to confounding factors present in the research.

    The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that there is modest positive preliminary evidence for ASU's efficacy. However, the safety information for ASU has not been fully established, emphasizing the need for additional research.

    15. Bromelain

    Bromelain is an enzyme naturally found in pineapples. You may have noticed its use in topical creams, and now it’s gaining attention for its ability to potentially support joint comfort and health. Bromelain is frequently paired with other ingredients, such as turmeric or boswellia, to create synergistic formulations aimed at enhancing joint support, yet research findings on its efficacy remain mixed. Further studies are needed to gain a better understanding of its impact.

    Bromelain should not be used without consulting your doctor first, as it can interact with certain medications.

    When should you seek medical attention

    You should seek medical attention if you have any injuries to your joints and when joint discomfort is present, persistent, and/or worsening.

    Other questions about joint supplements

    When is the best time of day to take joint supplements?

    The best time of day to take joint supplements may vary depending on the specific supplement and its instructions. Always read the label and follow the recommended dosage and timing provided by the supplement manufacturer. They may suggest a specific time or instructions for taking the supplement, such as whether it needs to be taken with food or not.

    Should you take more than one joint supplement?

    A combination of joint supportive supplements can be beneficial. Consult with your doctor about which combination, if any, makes sense for you.

    What causes occasional joint pain?

    Occasional exercise related joint discomfort is likely to happen to people who make frequent use of particular muscles, such as those who regularly engage in intense workouts or athletes. Joint issues also occur with age. Sometimes, however, joint issues can be the result of a chronic condition. In all chronic cases, it’s best to talk to your doctor about a treatment plan.

    Do supplements really work for joint support?

    There is a growing body of research to support the claim that supplements can work for joint support. Supplements can help support some of your body’s physiological processes, including those involved in strengthening muscles and bones. Some supplements also help promote joint comfort. They can do this in a number of ways, from improving healthy inflammatory responses to supporting cartilage health, joint flexibility, and joint mobility.

    How long does it take for joint supplements to start working?

    The timeframe for joint supplements to start working can vary based on several factors, and research findings are not always consistent. But the studies that show positive benefits from joint supplements suggest that results may become noticeable after a few months of consistent use. However, each person’s health profile is unique, and this can influence how quickly or effectively results are experienced.

    Always work with a healthcare provider before starting supplements. You also want to make sure to keep them informed of how you feel while you are taking one. They will be able to best advise you on how long it should take to see results.

    What are some lifestyle factors that can influence joint health?

    Several lifestyle factors can significantly influence joint health. Leading a more active lifestyle is a great way to support joint health, helping to maintain joint flexibility and strength. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle will not prevent joint issues. Additionally, overusing joints, especially through high-performance athletics or intense training, can contribute to joint problems over time.

    Maintaining a healthy body composition is of utmost importance, as excess weight can place undue stress on the joints. Nourishing the body with a balanced diet rich in nutrients and omega-3 fats can support healthy oxidation responses and benefit joint/tendon health. Quality sleep is equally vital, as the body repairs itself during restful sleep.

    While adopting these lifestyle practices can promote better joint health, it's essential to acknowledge that joint issues cannot always be entirely prevented, as genetics may also play a role in individual susceptibility to joint issues.

    Possible side effects

    Like any supplements, joint health supplements can come with side effects. Some may include nausea, diarrhea or constipation, and increased intestinal gas.

    The bottom line

    There are several supplements with potential benefits for joint support and comfort. When considering joint supplements, it's essential to follow the manufacturer's instructions and work with a healthcare provider to determine the most suitable options for your specific needs.

    There are a few key lifestyle factors that can contribute to optimal joint health, including adopting a more active lifestyle, maintaining healthy body composition, adequate rest and recovery, and ensuring a balanced diet.

    You're unique. Your supplements should be too.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.