Creatine is a nitrogen-based amino acid that occurs naturally in animals and used for supplying energy to muscle tissue. As such, the flesh of all animals is a good source of creatine, although it is also made by your liver, kidneys and pancreas. Bodybuilders and other athletes commonly supplement with creatine in efforts to build strength and muscle mass. Creatine does not reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis, but may be helpful in combating loss of muscle mass that is associated with arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis.
Creatine was isolated in the 1830s by French scientists, who recognized it as a major component of skeletal muscle. It was later discovered that creatine is converted into phosphocreatine and stored in muscle until high-intensity exercise causes it to be further converted into ATP, which is the main energy source in your body. Thus, creatine gives your muscles boosts of energy in times of intense activity, such as sprinting or lifting heavy weights. Creatine is made in your body from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine, and about 95 percent of it is transported to your skeletal muscles for storage, according to "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism." Vegetarians tend to have less creatine in their bodies.
Creatine and Arthritis
Creatine causes modest increases in strength in people with a variety of neuromuscular and degenerative disorders, including muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure and rheumatoid arthritis, as noted by "Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Reference: Evidence-based Clinical Reviews." Muscle wasting is a common side effect of rheumatoid arthritis because of the pain associated with movement. If you don’t regularly use your muscles they will atrophy, or become weaker and smaller. As such, creatine helps reduce muscle atrophy and build muscle with light exercise, but it doesn’t reduce the pain, inflammation or cartilage degeneration commonly seen with the various types of arthritis.
There has been concern that creatine supplementation can lead to diarrhea, dehydration, asthmatic symptoms, kidney damage and reduced liver function, but extensive research over the last decade has shown up to 20 g daily is very safe and devoid of adverse health effects, according to the "Guide to Nutritional Supplements." If you have arthritis and are taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen, however, you should not take creatine as it increases the risk of tissue and joint damage. Consult your doctor before embarking on creatine supplementation.
Other Natural Remedies for Arthritis
Creatine does not directly address the primary symptoms of arthritis, although other natural supplements do. For example, glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin, MSM and hyaluronic acid have all proven to mitigate a variety of arthritic symptoms, such as inflammation, pain, lack of lubrication and cartilage damage, according to the "Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine." Talk to your primary care physician about natural remedies for arthritis and which ones may be appropriate for you.
- “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism”; Sareen Gropper et al; 2009
- “Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Reference: Evidence-based Clinical Reviews”; Catherine E. Ulbricht et al; 2005
- “Guide to Nutritional Supplements”; Benjamin Caballero; 2009
- “Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine: 2nd Edition”; Brent Bauer M.D.; 2010