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Q. I have heard that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may be beneficial in helping the body repair cartilage and improving arthritic joints. I wonder if this is an old wives’ tale or if it holds up under scrutiny.

A. There have been a number of studies suggesting that fish oil is helpful for joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Even when the doctor does not detect an objective difference, patients taking fish oil report less pain and morning stiffness and take fewer pain relievers (Pain, May 2007).

One reader wrote:

“Fish oil is amazing. My husband is under a doctor’s care for arthritis. Within one day of starting fish oil, the swelling began to go down in his fingers. He still takes his prescribed medication, but in lower doses. This relief is so much better.”

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  1. Al H., MD

    We really do appreciate you folk & all you do for so many. Although I’m a retired physician, I’m not much of a medicine man & have seen so many problems with medicines. Alternative treatments have helped so many – including me — MOM [milk of magnesia] for my seborrheic dermatitis.
    My Bride of 57 years has osteoarthritis – mostly of her knees. NSAIDS, steroid injections in her knees, etc have been of minimal to no help to her. We’re interested in trying fish oil. What is the dose?
    Many thanks & God bless you all!
    Dear Dr. Al,
    We suggest you look at our Guide to Alternatives Treatments for Arthritis:
    We think a synergy with a variety of anti-inflammatory herbs and foods (and home remedies) might be beneficial. You will need to experiment with the dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Each product has a different ratio of EPA to DHA. At least one gram of total EPA & DHA combined is necessary to achieve an anti-inflammatory effect. Some clinicians go higher, but we leave this to you to determine.

  2. Connie M.

    I take micardis for high blood pressure. I believe it causes joint and muscle pain. Can this be true? I was on another blood pressure medication for years and had no problems.

  3. Helen

    A natural food store in my city sold me Chia oil(yes, as in pet Chia)3-6-9 omega oil. The chia is grown in NC. All my morning back and leg stiffness were gone in 3 weeks. I highly recommend Chia or fish oil. I have taken both but like Chia better, no odor.

  4. Loretta

    We recently read an article in a nationally published journal stating that atrial fibrillation could be caused by a common germ and should be treated with an antibiotic. This would be fantastic news for my husband who has been taking coumadin for 2 1/2 years with the need for frequent blood test to check his INR. Do you know anything about this?

  5. linda

    I recently read an article about bone broth for joint pain and to help with synovial fluid. Do you know the recipe and have you heard of this?

  6. don b.

    Lately, articles about fish oil are popping up everywhere. Even my heart doctor raves about it. I was trying unsuccessfully to use it via gel caps, but found, to my dismay, that they passed thru me undigested. So… it was the straight cod liver oil or nothing. Ugh! A 16 ounce bottle at GNC cost me 9 bucks. A flavored bottle elsewhere (specialty food stores) can run over 40 dollars. Suddenly GNC’s 9 dollar version doesn’t taste too bad after all.

  7. EJC

    I have a lot of joint pain; have been diagnosed with arthritis but not sure which kind. Have an appt. with my Orthopedic Dr. in 3 weeks; couldn’t get one sooner. Meanwhile, I want to control my joint pain (especially knees) as much as possible.
    My daughter gave me a copy of your column that mentions fish oil, which I tried for 3 days but was afraid it might be giving me diarrhea. The column mentions use of Certo and grape juice, which I have purchased and would like to know how and in what proportions to use it. Certo used to come in a bottle, but what I got today is in 2 6-Fl-oz pouches. I’ll appreciate any help you can give me.
    I am an 81-year-old woman, recently widowed.

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