Since the publication of the Arthritis Cure, articles and products touting the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates have flooded the American market. But can these substances actually improve arthritis symptoms and is there good science and research to support their use? The answer to both of these questions is yes.
Doctors in Europe and Asia have been using glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates for years to treat osteoarthritis and other joint problems. Numerous studies have shown that these substances are effective in reducing joint pain, swelling and tenderness and improving range of motion. Thousands of patients worldwide have found relief through the use of these ingredients. Despite these positive findings overseas, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates did not become well known in the US until the publication of the best- seller
The Arthritis Cure by Jason Theodosakis, M.D., M.S., M.P.H. In the book, Dr. Theodosakis lays out the scientific basis for the use of these ingredients and the large body of research supporting their use in osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease that affects approximately 30 million people in the US. NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help manage the pain, but they can have dangerous side effects and drug interactions. Long-term use of the NSAIDS can actually worsen joint damage. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates, on the other hand, actually address the cause of osteoarthritis and exert a beneficial effect on the disease process itself.
Glucosamine sulfate is a naturally occurring ingredient made up of sugar and an amino acid. It is needed to produce proteoglycans, substances that are essential to the structure and function of cartilage in the joint. Glucosamine sulfate provides the joints with the building blocks needed to repair damage from osteoarthritis. Glucosamine sulfate has been the subject of over 300 scientific investigations including over 20 double-blind studies. These studies have shown that glucosamine sulfate helps to reduce pain and improve joint function in those with osteoarthritis. Results of ten clinical studies show that glucosamine sulfate relieves the symptoms of osteoarthritis at least as effectively as NSAIDS.
Chondroitin sulfate consists of long chains of sugar units. It is a major component of cartilage where it functions to hold in fluid and nutrients. In damaged joints, chondroitin sulfate helps to inhibit cartilage-destroying enzymes. Chondroitin sulfate is also responsible for giving cartilage its sponge-like quality.
As the evidence shows, there is now a better approach to arthritis than simply blocking pain and inflammation with drugs. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can halt and even reverse the process of arthritic joint damage. These substances are normally found in the body and do not produce any significant side effects. Taking these supplements can actually help the body to repair the damaged joints themselves leading to a reduction in pain and swelling and an increase in mobility.
Q and A
Do I need to take both ingredients or can I take glucosamine sulfate by itself?
Many studies have been done using glucosamine sulfate alone, and they have yielded very positive results. Research suggests that adding chondroitin sulfate does add to the benefits. Studies using just chondroitin sulfate have also showed a positive effect on arthritis symptoms. Dr. Theodosakis recommends taking a combination product with both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate as these substances exert complementary functions in the joint. Many people find that glucosamine alone provides good results for them, while others take a combination product for maximum benefit.
How long until I notice a difference?
Some people notice a difference in only a few days while others may have to wait 8 weeks to see an effect. Because the ingredients are used by the body to help repair damage rather than just blocking pain, results may not be noticed for several weeks. You should give the product an 8-12 week trial period to see if it is going to work for you.
Can I take glucosamine and chondroitin with other medications?
According to Dr. Theodosakis, there does not appear to be any medication interactions with glucosamine and chondroitin. Many people take these supplements with their pain medications (NSAIDS and Tylenol). After taking glucosamine and chondroitin for a few months, many people are able to stop taking NSAIDS.