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Supplements for Psoriatic Arthritis: What Actually Helps?

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Written by Suzanne Mooney
Posted on May 9, 2023

Biologics, over-the-counter pain relievers, and other treatment options can help with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), but if you are exploring natural remedies to find pain relief, prevent joint damage, and improve your quality of life, you are not alone.

“Which vitamins or supplements does everyone take for psoriatic arthritis besides the prescription medications?” asked one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “Im looking for alternatives for the pain.”

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of four supplements commonly used to ease PsA symptoms, along with information about the role of complementary therapies in treating psoriatic disease.

Before taking any supplements for PsA, seek medical advice from your primary care provider or a board-certified rheumatologist.

Complementary Therapies for Psoriatic Arthritis

PsA affects approximately 30 percent of people with psoriasis. It’s a type of inflammatory arthritis that can cause joint pain, inflammation, fatigue, back pain, and other symptoms. Like psoriasis, PsA is the result of an overactive immune system.

Treatment options for PsA include:

  • A class of drugs called biologics
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors
  • Steroid injections

Some health care professionals also recommend maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol use to prevent or treat flare-ups.

Although natural therapies shouldn’t replace lifestyle changes or medications your doctor prescribes, some may provide additional benefits. They are often called complementary therapies because they complement your treatment plan. Alternative therapies are those used instead of conventional medicines or treatments.

Complementary therapies for PsA include dietary supplements, acupuncture, massage, meditation, herbs, anti-inflammatory diets, and others.

Supplements Aren’t Regulated, So Choose Carefully

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate complementary therapies for safety or effectiveness the same way it does with conventional medicines. For example, supplements for PsA do not require a prescription and can be sold without FDA approval.

The lack of FDA oversight and regulations for supplements means some may contain unsafe ingredients, so it’s best to purchase from a reputable company that participates in third-party lab testing.

Additionally, although researchers have found some complementary therapies to be safe and effective in helping with psoriasis symptoms, others aren’t. In certain cases, the only risk is spending money on something that doesn’t work. In other situations, the risks can include harmful side effects or interfering with your medications.

Talk to your health care provider before trying any complementary therapies, and be sure you understand the risks, benefits, and safe dosages. Natural does not necessarily mean safe.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are components of cartilage, the connective tissue that cushions bones and joints and prevents them from rubbing together. The body makes glucosamine and chondroitin, but they are also available as dietary supplements. According to the Arthritis Foundation, these are two of the most commonly used arthritis supplements.

Although there’s no scientific evidence confirming that glucosamine and chondroitin help with PsA, some MyPsoriasisTeam members have noticed a difference after taking supplements that include these components.

“My hands were so sore that I could not make a fist,” said one member. “A friend suggested glucosamine and chondroitin. Six weeks later, I can make a fist and wiggle my fingers. There’s still a little pain, but it’s tolerable.”

Another member said, “I use MSM [methylsulfonylmethane] and glucosamine for psoriatic arthritis, and I feel pretty good.”

MSM is an organic sulfur compound often added to glucosamine and chondroitin. You may also see labels advertising glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate.

Research has found that glucosamine and chondroitin are generally safe, but potential risks and side effects may include headaches, heartburn, diarrhea, and drowsiness. Glucosamine supplements may contain shellfish shells, so read the label with care if you don’t or can’t eat shellfish. Similarly, chondroitin is often sourced from animals such as sharks or cows, so the same warning applies.

Vitamin D

People with PsA are at risk of having low levels of vitamin D, an essential nutrient that can reduce inflammation and support healthy bones. Vitamin D may also protect you from heart disease and diabetes. In one study, nearly 41 percent of participants with PsA had a vitamin D deficiency, compared to 26.7 percent of people in the control group.

You can get vitamin D by spending time in the sun, but be aware of the risks of skin cancer and know how to prevent it. You can also get vitamin D by eating foods like egg yolks, sockeye salmon, tuna canned in water, and mushrooms. Some products come fortified with vitamin D, too, including orange juice, plant-based and dairy milks, cereals, and tofu.

While more research is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplements can alleviate symptoms of PsA and other psoriatic diseases, some MyPsoriasisTeam members see benefits.

“I have been taking vitamin D for a few years,” said one member living with PsA. “For me, it helps with joint pain and bone aches.”

There is no evidence that vitamin D supplements are beneficial if your levels are normal, but they may help if your levels are low. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to find out if you have a vitamin D deficiency.

Risks and side effects of too much vitamin D include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle weakness
  • Kidney stones

Turmeric

Turmeric is a plant related to ginger. It is native to Southeast Asia and has been used in cooking and traditional medicine for many years. Curcumin, the main chemical in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation.

One study found that turmeric extract and curcumin may alleviate arthritis symptoms — particularly osteoarthritis — while another study suggested benefits for people with rheumatoid arthritis. More research is needed to explore the benefits of turmeric for people with PsA, but some MyPsoriasisTeam members recommend it.

“I have been trying out a turmeric supplement, and it has helped a lot with my arthritis,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “Turmeric really helps with my joint pain,” said another.

Turmeric and most curcumin products are probably safe for most people, but you should not take them if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, about to have surgery, or have gallbladder disease. Risks include blood thinning and an upset stomach. You should avoid turmeric if you’re using a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin), apixaban (Eliquis), or rivaroxaban (Xarelto), as it can compound the effects of the medications and cause bleeding.

Fish Oil and Other Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids — sometimes simply called omega-3s — can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke and heart failure, and decrease triglycerides. Some dermatologists recommend omega-3 supplements for people with PsA because it may help skin and joint symptoms, though more research is needed.

One way to get omega-3 is through fish oil capsules and supplements. According to the American Academy of Rheumatology, the benefits of fish oil for arthritis are modest and may take months to appear.

Fish oil supplements are safe for most people, but risks include nausea, upset stomach, bad breath, and burping. Fish oil supplements can also interfere with certain medications. Too much fish oil can increase your risk of bleeding. Additionally, some supplements may contain mercury and vitamin A, which can be toxic at high levels. Ask your doctor if you have questions.

You can also get omega-3s by eating fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, which are staples of the Mediterranean diet.

“Salmon is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids ­– a big benefit for people with inflammatory conditions like psoriatic arthritis,” shared one MyPsoriasisTeam member who eats salmon as part of a healthy diet.

People who are pregnant should avoid eating some types of fish due to the potential for dangerous levels of mercury.

Plant-based omega-3 supplements and capsules are also available, often made from algae oil. Additionally, plant-based food sources of omega-3s, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, include:

  • Chia seeds
  • Edamame
  • Flaxseeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Seaweed

Discuss Supplements With Your Doctor

While researching these and other complementary therapies for PsA, you may come across information about other supplements and vitamins for psoriasis. You may also read articles about probiotics, Epsom salts, capsaicin, gluten-free diets, and more. Remember, you and your doctor are a team. Don’t change medications, adjust dosages, or add complementary therapies without talking to them first.

If you are interested in trying supplements for PsA, here are five things to keep in mind:

  • The FDA does not regulate supplements for medical use.
  • Complementary therapies are not substitutes for doctor-prescribed medications.
  • Some supplements can interfere with your PsA treatments and other medications.
  • Natural remedies that work for someone else may not work for you.
  • Research the risks and side effects of all medications and therapies.

If you have questions about supplements for PsA, consult your health care provider or a board-certified rheumatologist for guidance.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 117,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Have you used supplements for psoriatic arthritis? How have they worked for you? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. About Psoriatic Arthritis — National Psoriasis Foundation
  2. Natural Remedies for Psoriatic Arthritis — Cleveland Clinic
  3. Psoriatic Arthritis and Back Pain — Arthritis Foundation
  4. Psoriatic Arthritis — Mayo Clinic
  5. The Ins and Outs of JAK Inhibitors for Psoriatic Disease — National Psoriasis Foundation
  6. Complementary Therapies —Better Health Channel
  7. Complementary and Integrative Medicine — National Psoriasis Foundation
  8. Dietary Modifications — National Psoriasis Foundation
  9. Complementary and Alternative Medicine — National Cancer Institute
  10. Popular Supplements for Arthritis: What You Need To Know — Arthritis Foundation
  11. Supplement and Herb Guide for Arthritis Symptoms — Arthritis Foundation
  12. Do Glucosamine and Chondroitin Supplements Actually Work for Arthritis? — Harvard Medical School
  13. How To Get More Vitamin D From Your Food — Cleveland Clinic
  14. Vitamin D Deficiency in Chronic Inflammatory Rheumatic Diseases: Results of the Cardiovascular in Rheumatology [CARMA] Study — BioMed Central
  15. Vitamin D — National Institutes of Health
  16. Turmeric — National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
  17. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials — Journal of Medicinal Food
  18. Anticoagulant Activities of Curcumin and Its Derivative — BMB Reports
  19. Fish Oil Pills Aren’t Doing What You Think They’re Doing — Cleveland Clinic
  20. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Plant-Based Diets — Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
  21. Mediterranean Diet for Heart Health — Mayo Clinic
  22. Herbal Remedies, Supplements & Acupuncture for Arthritis — American College of Rheumatology
  23. Fish Oil — Mayo Clinic

Posted on May 9, 2023
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Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
Suzanne Mooney writes about people, pets, health and wellness, and travel. Learn more about her here.

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