Glucosamine and Chondroitin – What are They?

Our bodies regularly consume Glucosamine and Chondroitin and naturally produce them as well. Glucosamine is a type of sugar which is regularly produced by your body. It is a building block of cartilage which covers and protects bone ends. It allows a smooth movement of bones against each other.

There are 2 forms: Glucosamine Sulfate and Glucosamine Hydrochloride. Chondroitin, also naturally produced by the body, helps channel nutrients and hydration towards the cartilage for absorption, keeping it healthy and cushioned. One problem is that the body produces these in small measures only. Pharmaceutical companies have been producing supplements to further supply these natural substances in our bodies. Supplements are often made from cow or shark cartilage. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are often combined together in bone and joint support supplements. The supplements are normally made from lobster, crab, or shrimp shells. Some supplements use the plant form of glucosamine in combination with chondroitin. The supplements may be bought over the counter at your local pharmacy. Unlike NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), these are natural meds with no adverse side effects reported. They help the body repair weak or damaged cartilage which is most necessary for bone and joint health.

Health Benefits

Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements are believed to give benefits to arthritis patients especially those who live with arthritic conditions like osteoarthritis (OA) in particular; a degenerative joint disease and a condition in which cartilage breaks down. The supplements work to ease the pain, prevent or lessen it and to prevent further breakdown of cartilage if not slow down the degeneration. Studies confirm this in the case of osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients were found responsive to Glucosamine hydrochloride medication (not glucosamine hydrochloride). As for Chondroitin, it seems to help slow cartilage breakdown in OA patients. That is why a combination of both of these is often prescribed. 

In a study published in 2014 by NPS Medicinewise, 303 participants were drafted and were broken into two groups. The group that had taken Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements for 2 years had half the measurement of joint space narrowing which the other group had at the end of the study period. Knee pain was reduced as well.

The Arthritis Foundation of Atlanta, Georgia shared a finding in which Chondroitin relieved pain and improved functions in those suffering with OA. The supplement taken was fish based and doses were at 800 milligrams daily for six months. Within 3 months of intake, improvements were observed. Morning stiffness became shorter but the intensity of pain and strength of grip had no improvement. As a combined medication, no special recommendation for taking the supplement was given in the end. But should people respond well to the supplements, they are encouraged to keep taking it for health benefits already being experienced.

Mayo Clinic cited other medical conditions Glucosamine and Chondroitin can help with like Bone diseases (increase of physical mobility, preservation of cartilage), Bladder Wall Inflammation, Knee Pain, Lumbar Pain, and Sexual disorders (treatment of sexual dysfunction especially in men).

Bodybuilding.com endorses the use of these combined supplements for faster and effective joint healing.

Effects

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are considered generally safe and side effects are fewer compared with other medicines. Some may experience stomach upset like diarrhea, skin breakouts, and headaches. Other common effects due to Glucosamine intake are: drowsiness, gas, softer stools, insomnia, nausea, sensitivity to the sun, and toughening of nails. People may also experience elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and heart palpitations.

Some Caution

People who have seafood allergies, particularly shellfish allergy should not take these supplements. Those who take blood thinner medications must have this supplement approved before mixing it with their maintenance meds as this supplement may cause bleeding. Since glucosamine is sugar, diabetic patients may experience spikes in sugar levels when they take this combination so check with a doctor first. Breastfeeding moms are prohibited from taking the supplements.

If you suffer from bone and joint problems, you may try using these as natural medications to help you better manage your condition.

Glucosamine-Chondroitin combination supplements may also be taken as a preventive medication by those who have a medical history of bone and joint diseases. They may help to protect your body from age-related problems and help stimulate production or strengthening of cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate, especially, will help nutrients flow and get into your cartilage and bring fluids that will act as shock absorbers during movement or pressure. Know though that not even the FDA has given an official or definite thumbs up sign for the efficacy of this combination but FDA does acknowledge that a number of studies have been documented which show that it does benefit a lot of patients suffering from bone and joint problems.