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Glucosamine & Chondroitin
The two most popular natural remedies for joint pain are glucosamine and chondroitin. Whether you suffer from arthritis, are active in sports, or just want to ensure that your joints remain in top shape, these two supplements have clinical backing that shows they are some of the most effective non-drug supplements you can take for joint pain. Many doctors recommend that all patients over 55 take a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement to ward of the dangers of joint injury and degradation. For athletes, these substances can help joints stand up to the pounding from active sports such as running, tennis, and basketball, as well as provide the necessary components for proper joint recovery after a workout.
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine, also called chitosamine, is an aminomonosaccharide (a form of amino sugar), a component of almost all human tissues, including cartilage. Glucosamine is a natural substance that is found in the shells of shellfish or refined from corn. It is available in different forms, including glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG), and glucosamine sulfate, which is a combination of glucosamine and mineral salt.
What can Glucosamine Do?
Glucosamine is a natural product that has been used for the alleviation of the symptoms of arthritis and has been shown to be extremely beneficial for relieving joint pain. It appears that glucosamine may be involved in the production of cartilage, which is a key component for healthy joints. Glucosamine is the principle component of glycosaminoglycans, the material that forms the matrix of all connective tissues. Glycosaminoglycans, together with proteoglycans, the mesh-like tissue that permits cartilage to flex and absorb physical shock, yield healthy joints. Glucosamine stimulates cartilage cells to synthesize glucosaminoglycans and proteoglycans, which are responsible for maintaining the human body's joints. Glucosamine appears to also inhibit the production of the enzymes that break down and destroy cartilage, known as chondrocytes. Glucosamine has been shown to relieve joint pain, rejuvenate the synovial fluid (fluid within the joint), and promote healthy and flexible joints.
What is Chondroitin?
Chondroitin, also known as chondroitin sulfate, chondroitin sulfuric acid, or chonsurid, occurs naturally in human cartilage, bone, cornea, skin and the arterial wall. In addition, Chondroitin can come from natural sources, such as shark or bovine cartilage, or can be made in a lab. Chondroitin is part of a large protein molecule (proteoglycan) that gives cartilage elasticity.
What can Chondroitin do?
Chondroitin has been used for the alleviation of the symptoms of arthritis. It has been reported that chondroitin appears to be involved in the production of cartilage that is important for healthy joints. Glucosamine is a precursor to a molecule called a glycosaminoglycan, the molecule used in the formation and repair of cartilage. Chondroitin is the most abundant glycosaminoglycan in cartilage and is responsible for the resiliency of cartilage. Chondroitin is also being studied for use in medication delivery and to help prevent blood clots.
Benefits of Using Glucosamine and Chondroitin Together
With all the recent news regarding the health risks associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Celebrex and Vioxx, alternative approaches to controlling arthritis pain and providing joint pain relief have been receiving considerable attention. In particular, the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin being used together has drawn the interest of the National Institutes of Health, which is currently funding studies on this natural arthritis remedy. NIH and other scientifically based medical research facilities are currently conducting multiple studies on the benefits of using glucosamine and chondroitin as a safe and natural alternative to current medications being used to treat arthritis and the joint pain associated with arthritis. It appears that together they help offset joint space narrowing, the loss of cartilage within the joint, seen with osteoarthritis, by stimulating production of new cartilage. Both glucosamine and chondroitin are synthesized by the body and are naturally found in cartilage. Researchers theorize that glucosamine assists in the creation of new cartilage, while chondroitin slows cartilage destruction.
In addition, several short-term controlled human studies with these two supplements have been conducted in Europe. The results of these studies suggest that glucosamine used in combination with chondroitin may be effective in providing symptomatic relief in patients with arthritis pain with no demonstrated side effects. These, and other studies, indicate that glucosamine and chondroitin can help alleviate joint pain related to osteoarthritis and improves general joint function including greater joint flexibility. The European studies indicated that 50 to 80 percent of patients receiving glucosamine and chondroitin had noticeable improvement in their joints ranging from less joint pain and swelling to improved joint movement with the beneficial effects providing long-term relief. When comparing these results with the results typically seen with using NSAIDs, the reduction in arthritis joint pain appeared similar, but with fewer side effects. More importantly, (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Celebrex, and Vioxx primarily mask the symptoms rather than treat the cause, typically loss of cartilage in the joint. Unlike NSAIDs, glucosamine and chondroitin don't cause symptoms such as upset stomach, nor do they carry the risk of ulcer formation.
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