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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be a difficult disease to manage, in part because a lot of the medications used to treat its symptoms cause harsh side effects.
Taking daily NSAIDs to manage the inflammation that comes with RA can cause heartburn, belching and bleeding of the stomach lining. While steroids relieve symptoms quickly, they can damage bone health and cause high blood pressure, weight gain and high blood sugar. And methotrexate can cause nausea, headaches, fatigue and brain fog, as well as liver damage.
This is why many RA patients may seek alternative ways to manage their symptoms. For instance, fish oil has been proven in studies to improve RA symptoms. Now, researchers have found a way to make fish oil even more effective in relieving the symptoms of RA…
Take fish oil with cranberry juice
A study has discovered that drinking cranberry juice with fish oil supplements can boost fish oil’s beneficial effects in people with RA by decreasing disease activity and inflammatory biomarkers. Both fish oil and cranberry juice have been studied separately in RA patients, but this is the first study to have combined them.
In the study, 62 patients with RA were either given their typical diet, their diet with 3 g of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids, or their diet with 3 g of fish oil and 500 ml of reduced-energy cranberry juice. Results were then analyzed using the disease activity score-28 for RA with C-reactive protein. This disease activity score is calculated based on assessments of swelling and/or tenderness in 28 joints, an inflammatory mediator known as erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and patients’ overall assessment of their health on a visual analog scale.
According to the results, the group receiving both fish oil and cranberry juice showed a reduction in disease activity score and lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, adiponectin, and interleukin-6. The group receiving fish oil alone also showed a lower disease activity score, but a reduction only in adiponectin levels.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been known to have an impact on several diseases, including RA. They act as precursors to lipid mediators of inflammation and may moderate the autoimmune inflammatory response. Studies have determined omega-3s can improve or prevent experimental arthritis and that they could also decrease disease activity in RA.
Like fish oil, cranberry juice has been studied on its own in patients with RA. In one study, 41 women with RA who consumed low-calorie cranberry juice for 90 days showed a decrease in disease activity score and anti-CCP titres, another measurement of arthritis disease activity.
Healthy ways to get fish and cranberry
Fish and cranberry juice may sound like an unappetizing combination, but if you take your fish oil in the form of supplements, it may be more palatable. Look for krill oil supplements, which are among the healthiest and lowest in pollutants.
As for the cranberry, keep in mind that there’s a difference between cranberry juice and cranberry juice cocktail, which is diluted and contains a lot of added sugar. Straight cranberry juice is tough to drink on its own because it’s so tart, but it’s the best way to get the health benefits of cranberry. Try mixing it with a bit of orange, apple or grape juice to sweeten it. Or, if you prefer, you can take cranberry in supplement form.
If you don’t mind having cranberry juice with your fish, make sure you’re eating the right kind of fish at least twice a week for the best results. Good choices include wild-caught Alaskan salmon and Pacific sardines, farmed rainbow trout, Arctic char and Atlantic mackerel. Try to avoid fish that’s high in mercury like bluefin tuna, farmed Atlantic salmon, mahi-mahi and halibut.
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3. The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Rheumatoid Arthritis — Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology
4. 8 Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication Side Effects — Everyday Health
5. The Right Food For Real Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief — Easy Health Options