Home / Articles / Do Collagen Supplements Help RA?

Do Collagen Supplements Help RA?

Supplementing with collagen cells for rheumatoid arthritis garners mixed research opinions. Here’s what to know before deciding for yourself. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its joints, causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and fatigue. Collagen is a type of protein that has been known to have anti-inflammatory effects, so some

  • Posted on 12th May, 2022 11:45 AM
  • 1487 Views
Do Collagen Supplements Help RA? Image

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its joints, causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and fatigue. Collagen is a type of protein that has been known to have anti-inflammatory effects, so some wonder if it may help relieve RA symptoms.

Collagen is found in connective tissues, such as skin and cartilage. It's rich in amino acids, which theoretically may help rebuild joint cartilage that RA has damaged. Though there are anecdotal accounts of how collagen can help RA symptoms, clinical research on its effectiveness has shown mixed results.

This article discusses research on collagen use in RA treatment.

Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

What Is Cartilage?

Cartilage is the main type of connective tissue in your body. Healthy cartilage provides cushion for your bones and prevents them from rubbing against each other.

Possibilities of Collagen for Joint Pain 

Researchers have been studying the effects of collagen on arthritis for years, but the findings have been inconsistent.

Scientists believe collagen may help joint pain by triggering the body to produce substances that combat inflammation, though this claim isn’t proven. Additionally, ingredients in collagen, such as chondroitin and glucosamine, are thought to help rebuild cartilage.

A 2017 study found that oral collagen supplements improved pain, morning stiffness, and swollen joints but noted that collagen is not a replacement or as effective as typical RA drugs.

However, other research has shown that collagen is ineffective at helping RA symptoms. Therefore, more substantial research is needed to determine if collagen can be an effective component in RA treatment.

Drawbacks and Research Limitations

Very little solid research has shown positive results on collagen's effectiveness for RA.  

Many of the existing studies had one or more of the following flaws:

  • They weren’t well-designed.
  • They weren’t conducted in humans.
  • They didn’t compare collagen to a placebo or standard treatment.
  • They led to inconclusive results.
  • They were conducted by companies that had a financial interest in the product being studied.

Collagen vs. Placebo Clinical Trials

Of four clinical trials that tested collagen against a placebo, only one showed positive results.

Role of Inflammation in RA

With RA, inflammation in the body can damage cartilage, which protects the joints. This is what causes joint pain and discomfort.

You might develop symptoms of pain and inflammation in areas of the body, such as the:

  • Fingers
  • Hands
  • Wrists
  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Toes
  • Feet

Collagen Types and Dosage

According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are 16 different types of collagen, but almost all the collagen in your body is type I, II, or III.

Type II collagen is found in cartilage, so it’s the most common form used for RA symptoms. This type of collagen is usually taken from chickens.

The exact dosage of collagen has not yet been determined. How much you take will depend on the type of collagen and healthcare recommendations.

How to Take Collagen

Collagen comes in many forms, including powders, capsules, and liquids. You can also consume collagen through the foods you eat. Additionally, some topical creams contain collagen.

Collagen Side Effects 

Collagen is generally considered a safe supplement that doesn’t pose any major risks.

However, some people do report side effects, such as:

  • A feeling of heaviness in the stomach
  • Rash or skin reaction
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache

Collagen Allergies

An allergy to ingredients in collagen is possible, so be sure to check the label before using a collagen product. Many supplements contain shellfish, chicken, egg, or fish.

Other Uses of Collagen 

Collagen is often used for other purposes, such as to:

  • Improve the appearance of skin and nails
  • Create stronger bones
  • Increase thickness of hair
  • Build muscle mass

Supplement Safety

As with all supplements, collagen isn’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means the ingredients in different brands aren’t standardized.

Some supplements contain heavy metals or toxins that could be damaging.

Check Your Label

If you are looking for a collagen supplement, look for a trusted brand that includes a third-party label, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International. You can also check out the company’s website to see how they make their collagen products.

Best Sources

In some cases, eating foods rich in collagen or foods that boost collagen production in the body may be more beneficial than taking collagen supplements. One reason is that supplements are largely unregulated, so you don’t exactly know what you’re putting in your body.

Some foods that help your body boost levels of collagen include:

  • Bone broth
  • Chicken
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Egg whites
  • Spirulina
  • Fruits and veggies

Drug Interactions

There are no known drug interactions associated with collagen. Still, it's good to talk to your healthcare provider before taking this supplement, especially if you are taking other medications.

Summary

Though collagen is a popular rheumatoid arthritis supplement due to its anti-inflammatory properties, the evidence for its effectiveness is lacking. Some studies have suggested the protein can provide slight improvements, while others have shown collagen isn’t significantly helpful for people with RA.

There are many ways to take collagen, including through the foods you eat or in a supplement form. Be sure to speak to a healthcare provider before taking collagen.

A Word From Verywell

Rheumatoid arthritis can be a painful condition, so you may be considering ways to improve your symptoms by adding collagen to your treatment plan. However, research has shown mixed results. It's always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements like collagen.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does collagen cause joint pain?

    Collagen doesn't cause joint pain. In RA, uncontrolled inflammation damages cartilage, which causes the discomfort. People take collagen supplements in an attempt to lessen this inflammation and improve symptoms of joint pain.

  • Are there vegan versions of collagen for RA?

    Most collagen supplements are made from animal sources, but there are some specifically created for vegans. These products may contain genetically modified yeast and bacteria.

  • How does collagen compare to methotrexate?

    While there's not a lot of research on this topic, one study found collagen was not as effective as methotrexate at relieving symptoms of RA.

Do Collagen Supplements Help RA? View Story