Do dietary supplements help with osteoarthritis? Orthopaedist and joint expert Meike Diessner explains the controversial topic in her new column.

Dear readers,

let’s pick up right where we left off with the previous candy column: we now know that supplementation can make sense in certain circumstances and is not nonsense in general. But when are which supplements necessary? And can we also take action against arthrosis with them?

Anyone who knows me already knows from this column that I am not a supporter of medical absolutist theories. A differentiated look behind the scenes is also worthwhile in “orthomolecular medicine”. This is what we call the medical field that deals with the prevention and supportive treatment of diseases with micronutrients.

Meike Diessner is the founder of the practice for integrative orthopedics in Bochum and specializes in conservative therapy methods. As a sports and nutritionist, the topic of healthy eating is particularly important to her. More information can be found on their website or their Instagram channel.

Because dietary supplements were, are and will probably remain a controversial topic on which science, industry and practitioners – that’s us doctors – do not always agree. It makes a big difference whether you look at dietary supplements (NEM) through laboratory glasses, count the coins as an entrepreneur, or be at the front – i.e. with the patient.

From my experience as a doctor, I would like to tell you that there are always situations in our lives where it can be a little bit more. Temporarily used supplements can therefore support our bodily functions if they are used in a targeted manner. What pills, powder or effervescent tablets definitely cannot do: replace a balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Anyone trying to tell you that is certainly not primarily thinking about your well-being.

This column brings together a number of things that we have already looked at in more detail together. Good thing, because it shows once again that everything is connected and how important cooperation is at all levels in life and for our health.

We discussed the fact that you should significantly reduce household sugar, cow’s milk products and meat, especially the literal mess. Although not everyone likes to hear that. And yes, I can understand it, but I would like to emphasize once again: Nothing is categorically excluded. It always depends on the measure. On the other hand, if you eat mostly fresh, plant-based and little processed food, i.e. eat “clean”, you do a lot for your body.

And yet sometimes we need something “on top”. For example, when you are physically and mentally overwhelmed, for example in competitive sports or as a result of constant stress and chronic lack of sleep. Environmental pollutants to which we are exposed over a long period of time, the annoying smoking (there’s really no two opinions here: quit smoking, please) and taking certain medications – certain blood pressure medication, the birth control pill or even antihistamines – are nasty micronutrient thieves.

If too little arrives or if the body needs more than we can take in through nutrition due to illness, then we bring targeted nutritional supplements into play. This time we look at how you can achieve success with certain supplements, especially with osteoarthritis. Correctly dosed (this requires a blood analysis), the course of the disease can be positively influenced and the need for painkillers permanently reduced. That pleases us and our body at the same time.

Big names, I know, but please stick with me. The two active ingredients glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are lubricating oil for happy joints. Glucosamine occurs naturally in connective tissue, cartilage and synovial fluid. Anti-inflammatory and cartilage-building functions are attributed to it, and glucosamine can also reduce pain. The second part of the team, chondroitin sulphate, in turn has a high water-binding capacity, forms a gelatinous substance that covers the joint partners (bones) like a protective shield and thus assumes a buffering function in our joints.

Joints in happiness: That’s how it works (GU alternative medicine)

dr Meike Diessner

A worldwide study was also able to show that patients with osteoarthritis of the knee joint had less long-term pain from chondroitin sulphate than from taking conventional painkillers such as diclophenac or ibuprofen. Joint function also improved. The current study situation also shows that glucosamine sulfate can inhibit cartilage degradation.

Other supplements that work against osteoarthritis with different approaches and protect against the disease include the antioxidant vitamins C, E and vitamin D. And zinc, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids can also make good contributions to osteoarthritis treatment.

However, please talk to your doctor beforehand whether an addition makes sense in your case. Because just as there is a wealth of supplements on the market, your complaints are also individual. A “multi-panacea” that contains a bit of everything in “homeopathic” doses, as well as preparations that are produced abroad and sold via the Internet, should be treated with caution: the ingredients in the food supplements and the quantities are correct often not in line with reality. People abroad are often a bit more generous with the accuracy of the information.

And another important piece of advice that I give my patients over and over again: please be patient. Even if it is hard. The supporting effect of supplements can only unfold if they are taken regularly over a longer period of time. Classic painkillers ignite the turbo for a short time, but they run out of breath just as quickly. In orthomolecular medicine, we focus on long-term success, not on the short, pain-free interlude with possibly bad consequences.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you should let the manufacturer talk you into a flat-rate subscription to save 3 percent. This makes sense from an industrial point of view, but not for medical reasons. Recommended and tested in the studies is the “cure-wise” intake of such preparations over two to three months. Then there is a pause of the same length before the NEM intake starts again.

So that you can find your way in the jungle of thousands of possibilities and wrong turns, I would like to give you a brief overview in the following table. And before that, activate your gray cells again by pointing out: There is no blanket recipe and not everyone has to resort to dietary supplements.

But if you think you still have room for improvement or sand in the works, consult your doctor for advice on how you can gently make your joints happier. In return, please keep the painkillers with their side effects in the cupboard or better yet on the pharmacy shelf. But that is a topic for the next column.

your dr Meike Diessner