A wide selection of multicolor tablets, pills, capsules, and supplements arranged neatly.

Is It Worth Taking Supplements for RA?

I have a shelf in my kitchen that is filled with vitamins, herbs, homeopathic supplements, and essential oils. Over the years I’ve delved into the realm of alternative medicine when conventional medicine isn’t helping, or when I feel like I need something else to keep my body healthy. Whenever I do, I end up with more pills to swallow, usually filled with superfoods, or anti-inflammatory herbs. Hence the ever-growing shelf.

Have supplements made a difference?

Has it made a difference in my life? Like most things RA-related, the answer is complicated. The simple answer is definitely yes. Rheumatoid arthritis is a very taxing disease on the body, and most of the medications we have to take deplete essential vitamins - one good example is methotrexate.

Nutrient depletion with RA medications

Methotrexate depletes folic acid so much that doctors prescribe folic acid along with it. Plaquenil, one of the medicines I take, depletes calcium and Vitamin D, along with Vitamin K. And since I have osteoporosis, this is very important for me to know so that I can make sure to add those nutrients to my diet and supplement routine.

Unfortunately, I’ve never had a doctor educate me about this but luckily, I found a book entitled, Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook by Ross Pelton, James B. LaValle, and Ernest B. Hawkins, which has a very comprehensive list of medications and the nutrients that they deplete.

Supplements for RA-related symptoms

Supplementing with nutrients that I know I’m missing is an obvious way to improve my overall nutrition. But, what about supplements that decrease inflammation and/or pain or supplements that improve sleep? These are all vexing issues that really impact the quality of life and often medicine doesn’t help enough to give relief. This is where I’ve found things get complicated.

It involves trial-and-error

There are good choices for all of these issues, but finding what works for you involves trial-and-error and can get expensive very quickly. Herbs and supplements can be potent, and I’ve suffered side effects from them which can get just as uncomfortable as the side effects of medicines. I’ve had hives all over my body from one, I’ve gotten dizzy from a homeopathic sleeping supplement.

I’ve learned that anytime I get advice from a specialist in alternative medicine and he/she immediately wants me to spend hundreds of dollars on new supplements, I’ve consulted the wrong person. I’ve also learned the hard way that there are plenty of people out there who are happy to financially benefit from my desperation and, at times, it has been a desperate search for help.

Finding what brings relief for my RA

Instead, I’ve done a lot of reading, consulted with naturopathic physicians, and, through trial-and-error, I’ve found a few herbs that help my body. I take them according to what I’m needing at the time - sleep, less anxiety, less pain, etc.

Managing expectations

My rheumatologist gets my supplement list and, if I try something new, I make sure to pay more attention to my body’s reaction. What I’ve come to learn about myself is that supplements help my physical resilience, and this in turn helps me to weather all of the ups and downs that RA brings. I’ve learned not to get too excited about the latest new arthritis blasting supplement that just happens to be a multi-level marketing company. I’ve learned to be very picky about who I consult and what I read on the internet when investigating supplement options.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to understand that, like conventional RA treatments, there are no magic bullets in the form of supplements. But finding the right things to supplement with can make my life more comfortable.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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