It May Sound Fishy, But Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Help Rheumatoid Arthritis

Fish meal

You may have heard that omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart. Now, research suggests omega-3s may also help people with arthritis. The reason? Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, are shown to reduce inflammation, which can help lower the risk of heart disease and improve arthritis symptoms.

Studies to date show that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) taking omega-3s notice:

  • A reduction in the number of tender joints, stiffness, and pain. Omega-3s are not shown to reverse or prevent joint damage.
  • Reduced use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids.
  • Increased functional ability, such as increased grip strength.

Most of these studies involved patients with rheumatoid arthritis, although some laboratory studies suggest diets rich in omega-3s may also help patients with osteoarthritis.

Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oil from cold-water fish, such as mackerel, salmon, herring, tuna, halibut, and cod. It’s preferable to get your omega-3s from fish—two 3-ounce servings a week. However, because most people find it difficult to get adequate amounts of omega-3s from food alone, supplementation with two capsules a day is usually recommended.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you’re taking any other medications, such as blood thinners or diabetes drugs. Interactions with fish oil supplements are possible, so you want to be sure you have your doctor’s approval.

And remember, while omega-3s may help relieve your symptoms, you may still need other medications for rheumatoid arthritis (disease-modifying drugs) prescribed by your doctor to adequately control your chronic disease and to avoid progression.

author name

Sandhya K. Adusumilli, MD, FACP

Sandhya Adusumilli, MD, FACP, is a rheumatologist with Lancaster General Health Physicians Arthritis and Rheumatology.
Education: A graduate of Siddhartha Medical College, Dr. Adusumilli served her residency at Graduate Hospital and a fellowship at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Her areas of expertise include autoimmune disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Call: 717-738-0777

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