Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Natural Arthritis Prevention: Benefits of Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Most recently, a friend of the family and I had a discussion about her battle with arthritis. She is having much joint pain in her shoulders, ankles and knees. When asked what to do about this from a natural approach- I suggested she start to take glucosamine and chondroitin to help ease her pain and help repair and rebuild the potential damage that is the source and root cause of her pain.

If you are an athlete or have been athletic in your past, you may also want to look at takng glucosamine and chondroitin in your daily supplementation routine.

I stumbled across a great source for arthritis sufferers from the Osteoarthritis Resource Center and wanted to share a great article about the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin.

Using glucosamine and chondroitin in combination may be synergistic. Recently, more and more clinical trials have begun to support the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin for overall joint health and resilience. One study appearing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (February 2003) found that general mobility improved over time in both a placebo group and the experimental group that was taking glucosamine. The results began to manifest after about four to eight weeks of use. The most significant benefits, according to the study, were in reducing the amount of perceived pain.

What Exactly is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is an amino sugar necessary for the construction of connective tissue and healthy cartilage. It is the critical building block of proteoglycans and other substances that form protective tissues. These proteoglycans are large protein molecules that act like a sponge to hold water giving connective tissues elasticity and cushioning effects. This also provides a buffering action to help protect against excessive wear and tear of the joints. Without glucosamine, our tendons, ligaments, skin, nails, bones, mucous membranes, and other body tissues can not form properly.

If Glucosamine is a Natural Product, Why Do We Need Extra Quantities?
Good question. Normally we generate sufficient amounts of glucosamine in our bodies to form the various compounds needed to generate connective tissue and healthy cartilage. But gradually the rate at which our bodies use glucosamine begins to gradually change with our increased athletic activity, injuries, burns, arthritis and other inflammatory disorders, age and other chronic degeneration. In such situations our bodies may not be able to keep up with the demand for glucosamine, leading to a decrease in the amount of proteoglycans produced. This can lead to a decrease in the amount of protective lubricating substances like the synovial fluids, which cushion our joints, and protects them from damage. In a nutshell, more glucosamine is needed but less is produced.

This is why researchers began to suggest extra dietary supplements containing glucosamine. Their studies showed that oral glucosamine could be easily absorbed and lead to the stimulation of healthy new cartilage and other protective molecules. The studies also showed that oral glucosamine carried this benefit without any toxicity, contraindications, or other harmful side effects. This is a stark contrast to dangerous COX-2 medications such as Celebrex or Vioxx. Vioxx was removed from the market in Septermber 2004 and which may have been implicated in tens of thousands of heart attacks and strokes.

How Should Glucosamine Be Taken?

Glucosamine must be taken every day. This is a slow acting supplement that may take a month or more to show any effect. Dosage in most studies was 1,500 mg of glucosamine per day. The product is available in powder, pill and cream form. Glucosamine in a cream form may be nice for your skin, but there's no evidence suggesting that Glucosamine alone can be absorbed through the skin. Anecdotal evidence suggests that liquid glucosamine, in fact, is the best form to take.

Chondroitin Sulfate exists naturally in your cartilage. It’s thought to draw fluid into the tissue to give our cartilage more elasticity and to slow cartilage breakdown by protecting it from destructive enzymes. As a supplement, it is exclusively derived from cattle sources and is often taken along with Glucosamine to assist with maintaining joint health. The combined use is known to produce a "synergistic" effect. It’s been prescribed for pain relief in osteoarthritis in some parts of Europe where it is a prescription drug for decades. If glucosamine is your #1 joint friend, chondroitin is #2.

Although Chondroitin alone hasn't been proven to help with or reverse cartilage loss, in some studies it appeared to help improve function and ease pain. In one placebo-controlled study, joint narrowing in the knee became stabilized in patients who were put on Chondroitin (Uebelhart) supplement. Another controlled study looked at osteoarthritis of the finger joints for a period of three years. Among the group that took chondroitin, there was a significant decrease in the number of patients with new erosions in their finger joints (Verbruggen).

Chondroitin in fact is a glycosaminoglycan (think long chains of glucosamine) that is concentrated in joint cartilage. Like glucosamine, chondroitin helps produce substances needed for the formation of connective tissue. In addition chondroitin (unlike glucosamine) may also have the ability to protect existing cartilage from prematurely breaking down by inhibiting cartilage-destroying enzymes.

How Does Chondroitin Work?

Chondroitin sulfates provide the structural components of joint cartilage, inhibit some free radical enzymes that degrade joint cartilage and collagen, and facilitate the entry of glucosamine into the joints. Like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate attracts water into the cartilage matrix and stimulates the production of cartilage. It also appears to have the ability to prevent enzymes from dissolving cartilage. Recent studies have shown extremely good results from long-term use of chondroitin sulfate (alone and in combination with glucosamine) in increasing range of motion and overall joint health. Both glucosamine and chondroitin should be used together, however, to produce the best results.

How It’s Used

We suggest you take chondroitin as a liquid at the dose of 120mg a day, which does not need to be divided into two doses. It’s most often taken in combination with glucosamine, as a synergistic complex.

Have a question about how to address arthritis pain naturally?

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