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Glucosamine and Chondroitin

By Denise Elliot

Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural compounds that are produced by the body, as part of the structural components of cartilage tissue, that surrounds and cushions the ends of joints.

They are both provided as dietary supplements. Glucosamine is usually sourced from shellfish and chondroitin can be made from cartilage of animals like cows or sharks. Both can also be made in a laboratory.

Our cartilage wears with age and some medical conditions such as osteoarthritis can cause complete break down, and in severe cases bone is on bone, with no cushioning in between from the worn cartilage. Damage to cartilage and soft tissues in and around joints is not always arthritis, as sports injuries, heavy lifting and excessive manual work can all cause wear and tear on joints and bones.

Glucosamine is utilised by the joints to repair, strengthen and increase the integrity of the cartilage and improve the synovial fluid. Even though glucosamine does not offer a direct anti-inflammatory effect it may reduce pain and inflammation over the long term. It is not an immediate action and it appears that a few months supplementation may be necessary, or of course longer term for ongoing repair. There are many studies about this nutraceutical and in some, results are shown to be minimal, and in others you would not want to be without it. Supplementation may even have the capability of lessening damaging joint structural change. There is no miracle in a pill though, so lifestyle choices may need to alter. Glucosamine is however an ideal choice for a building block with ‘dodgy’ joints, with most studies utilising 1500mg on a daily basis. Be aware glucosamine is not appropriate for anyone with a shellfish allergy.

Chondroitin also helps stimulate manufacture of important compounds in cartilage, and may be involved with maintaining the synovial fluid within the joint capsule.

The American Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which evaluated more than 80,000 natural drug ingredients, rated glucosamine as “likely effective” and chondroitin as “possibly effective” for osteoarthritis. Knee and hand, pain and function were shown to modestly improve.

Treating joint breakdown
naturally can also include anti-inflammatories such as omega 3 fish oil, which will enhance anti-inflammatory pathways. If muscular aches and pains are present seek advice as to whether magnesium supplementation may be appropriate. It is a mineral that is depleted in our body when under stress, which can often go with lack of sleep due to joint pain. Magnesium strengthens the nervous system and eases tight sore muscles which may often be seen with pain as the body attempts to balance.

Seek professional advice where necessary.