Arthritis generally refers to joint pain or joint disease marked by inflammation of one or more joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are more than 100 types of arthritis and associated conditions afflicting more than 50 million Americans. Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the United States, with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis ranking as the most common culprits.
Cartilage is a firm connective tissue that covers the ends of bone right at the joints. Overtime, wear and tear, injury, or infection can cause damage to cartilage, resulting in bone grinding on bone. This deterioration of cartilage is called osteoarthritis, a painful arthritic condition that can afflict any joint, but particularly the knee, hip, and thumb joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the synovial membrane (the lining of the joint capsules), eventually degrading cartilage and bone inside the joint to the point of joint deformity.
Risk factors include a genetic predisposition to arthritis, gender (women are more prone to rheumatoid arthritis and men to gout), excess weight that puts stress on the joints, and prior joint injuries. Studies have shown that certain amino acids for arthritis can support cartilage and joint health, thereby helping to mitigate the painful symptoms.
Methionine for Arthritis
Methionine is a sulfur-bearing essential amino acid that has been shown to be an effective joint pain supplement.
Joint cartilage cannot form without sulfur. For arthritis sufferers, a lack of sulfur in the body can have devastating consequences. Studies have shown that the cartilage of healthy people contains approximately three times more sulfur than the cartilage of arthritis patients. For this reason, some doctors recommend supplementing with methionine in conjunction with B vitamins as a way to increase sulfur production in the body.
Methionine helps ease the symptoms of arthritis because it acts as both an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic, meaning it has pain-relieving properties. A study in The Journal of Family Practice demonstrated the efficacy of s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)—which is methionine bound to an ATP molecule. Supplementing with methionine for arthritis worked just as well as NSAIDs did at treating osteoarthritis, but without the adverse side effects that come with NSAIDs. Methionine significantly lowered pain and improved functional limitation in osteoarthritis patients. A different study showed that methionine supplementation was just as effective in reducing pain caused by knee osteoarthritis as the prescription pain-reliever Celecoxib, but without the unwanted side effects.
Methionine also encourages cartilage cells to create more cartilage tissue. Owing to its capacity to form sulfurous chains which, in turn, connect with each other, methionine is able to strengthen the structure of hair, nails, and joints.
Sulfur cannot be taken in tablet form or as a dietary supplement, but methionine is a good dietary approach for boosting sulfur levels in the body. Keep in mind that methionine is an essential amino acid that is crucial for the formation of all the proteins in the body. Therefore it is optimal to take methionine as part of a balanced formulation containing all the essential amino acids to avoid an imbalance in the plasma levels. An isolated excess of methionine can potentially lead to an increase in cysteine, which has adverse effects.
In addition to dietary supplements, you can also eat methionine-rich foods combined with foods high in vitamin B6 and folic acid, such as:
Cysteine for Arthritis
Like methionine, cysteine is an amino acid that helps to produce sulfur in the body. It is a nonessential amino acid that is produced in the body from methionine. It has potent antioxidant properties that protect cells from oxidative stress, and it stimulates the immune system and the production of collagen, a structural component of protein in your body that is particularly important in bone.
Cysteine supplementation may also help improve joint flexibility in those with rheumatoid arthritis. Cysteine is required in the production of taurine, a sulfur-containing compound that is a constituent of bile. Taurine also plays a role as an antioxidant and is essential for cardiovascular and skeletal muscle function.
Dietary sources of cysteine include:
- Sunflower seeds
Arginine for Arthritis
Arginine is an anti-inflammatory amino acid that helps calm the pain associated with joint inflammation by strengthening the immune system and supporting the production of nitric oxide for improved circulation and nutrient delivery to the joints.
For extra arginine in your diet, look to:
- Wheat germ
- Oatmeal dairy products