What is it?
If you’ve heard of chondroitin chances are good that it was in conjunction with glucosamine, as they’re often sold in combination. Chondroitin works synergistically with glucosamine to help keep cartilage elastic and soft rather than dried out and brittle. Chondroitin comes from animal cartilage; often shark or beef and also from beef trachea and some pork by-products.
First processed back in the 1960′s chondroitin benefits people with osteoarthritis and joints damaged by other stressors including bodybuilders. Some studies show that it actually helps reverse cartilage decay by providing the building blocks to make more in addition to arresting it. There is even some evidence that chondroitin contributes to general bone health.
A complicated term for chondroitin is “glycosaminoglycan” and it normally resides in the tissues that connect our skeletons together. Ligaments, tendons, musclesOeall connective tissue need to stay pliable and well lubricated. It blocks the enzymes that break down cartilage and stimulates water retention in its cells. Even though it doesn’t absorb as quickly as glucosamine because its molecules weigh less, it still provides positive results to those suffering from joint pain and limited range of motion. Some manufacturers now make chondroitin with less molecular density to improve absorption rates.
What Makes It Work?
Some people remain skeptical about chondroitin (as well as glucosamine) because not all studies have shown conclusive results. On the other hand numerous people taking it give it rave reviews. Those who promote its use report as much relief from using a chondroitin supplement as they get from aspirin, or other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Since it occurs naturally in our bodies, they don’t experience the adverse side effects these drugs often cause. Because use in the US is fairly new, numerous studies and more testing are still being done on chondroitin.
Cartilage doesn’t receive blood as other tissues do. Chondroitin supplements carry water, nutrients, and other molecules to these areas. These all combine to give the cartilage and connecting tissues structure and pliability to do their job of supporting the joints and padding the ends of bones.
Who Should Use It?
Chondroitin is one of those supplements that anyone using it will benefit from. It particularly helps weight lifters, bodybuilders, and all serious athletes, but let’s face it, we all age. As we do so our synovial fluid tends to dry out a little more with each passing year. This important lubricant mimics the consistency and texture of egg white and it lubricates the cartilage which in turn cushions the ends of bones. When we stop producing enough fluid and the cartilage dries up, movement causes the joints to rub together producing pain, swelling, and inflammation. The resulting condition is osteoarthritis and it affects millions the world over. Natural supplements such as chondroitin are far more preferable than over-the-counter or prescription medications. They frequently cause severe stress to our gastrointestinal systems and may even contribute to heart disease.
Here are some people who are especially good candidates for chondroitin:
- Bodybuilders – actually all hard training athletes benefit from taking a chondroitin supplement. Normal daily life takes a toll on our joints and extra activity involving them makes it that much worse. Many claim that chondroitin not only slows the breakdown of cartilage but stimulates new production. This is outstanding news for athletes as they continually put pressure and stress on all the key joints
- Blood vessels and bladders – chondroitin lives in their linings and helps keep urine, blood, and other substances flowing smoothly and not penetrating cellular walls
- Osteoarthritis – chondroitin effectively improves movement and lessening of pain in inflamed finger, knee, hips, spine, and other joints. Unlike NSAIDs and other pain medicines, only minor side effects (if any) link back to chondroitin
- Skin – some studies suggest that chondroitin serves as a treatment for the skin condition known as psoriasis
- Eyes – some eye drops used to treat conjunctivitis, maintain ocular pressure, and preserve corneas contain chondroitin
- Others – researchers continually explore other possible uses for chondroitin, including heart and circulation problems, kidney stones, osteoporosis, low iron levels, leukemia, severely dried eyes, and malaria. One other interesting use is in preventing early labor during a pregnancy.
Chondroitin shows promise in treating atherosclerosis. This condition often leads to strokes and coronary artery disease as it’s a type of arteriosclerosis. These medical terms basically mean that fat and cholesterol collect on artery walls. Several studies to date show that chondroitin may lessen or alleviate these fatty deposits.
The average chondroitin daily dose is 1200mg either at one time or divided into two doses. In many cases it takes 6 or 8 weeks for the patient to experience relief. Once the right level is reached then relief remains constant. If you decide to try chondroitin, be patient and don’t be discouraged if you don’t experience immediate improvement. It takes time to damage our joints, cartilage, and connective tissues and it takes time to heal that damage.
As with all things moderation is the key. In other words don’t take more than the prescribed dosage hoping for faster and better results. Read and follow the label dosing instructions. Also talk to your trainer, coach, nutritionist, health care provider, and others that follow a routine similar to yours. Every body is unique but it’s important to stay within safe guidelines. If you have specific health conditions and/ or take medication talk with your doctor before starting chondroitin supplementation.
Another thing to note is that natural remedies such as chondroitin aren’t monitored by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). That means that manufacturers aren’t held to specific standards when they make it. Unfortunately some companies take advantage and put poor quality products on the market, thinking only of making a buck instead of promoting good health. Search for brand names that you recognize, get recommendations from others, and read the labels. The Internet is great because you can research products and companies before you buy.
You also want to make sure you purchase the highest quality for the least amount of money. In other words do some comparison shopping. Expensive isn’t always the best quality and cheaper brands may be full of ingredients that do nothing. Also take into consideration how many doses are in a bottle. You may find the standard 1200mg in one capsule or you may need to take three or four to get the full amount.
Forms of Chondroitin
Chondroitin commonly comes as a tablet or capsule and usually is combined with glucosamine or other supplement. In some cases it occurs in a liquid formula with other ingredients and in mixable powders as well.
Some doctors inject their osteoarthritis patients with chondroitin.
Chondroitin when used properly carries no serious side effects. If you experience nausea, diarrhea, or gas you should try a different brand before giving up. It could be that this supplement doesn’t agree with you or it may not be the best quality. If these problems become more serious or you experience unusual symptoms stop taking chondroitin and call or visit your doctor.
As we mentioned earlier chondroitin research is still ongoing, but studies and clinical trials to date show positive results.
Even though there are few side effects reported from taking chondroitin common sense should prevail. Certain people or conditions need to be taken into consideration. For example the following groups may not be suitable candidates for chondroitin supplements:
- Children – there isn’t conclusive evidence regarding youngsters and chondroitin, so unless prescribed by a physician it would be best to avoid giving it to them
- Pregnant women – again there haven’t been enough studies so pregnant and lactating women should probably exercise caution and not take chondroitin
- Blood thinners – if you take heparin or other drugs because of clotting problems, chondroitin may not be suitable for you as it may combine with the blood thinner and produce bleeding
We all know but don’t always remember that keys to good health include proper nutrition, enough rest, and the right amount of exercise. That means unless we take care of ourselves, no supplement will serve as a substitute. Chondroitin certainly benefits hard trainers and those with arthritis but they need to do their part and keep the big picture in mind.
Chondroitin research is relatively new in the US so long-term study results are still being compiled. For years bodybuilders, other athletes, and osteoarthritis patients ingested lots of NSAIDs both prescription and non-prescription. It’s becoming clear that chondroitin, glucosamine, and other supplements are at least as effective as these drugs and much better for us. They occur naturally in the body so our systems don’t react in the same negative ways as they do to the others. Chondroitin doesn’t cause stomach and other digestive problems including internal bleeding. Not only that, but researchers are starting to see indications that these popular medications may actually contribute to the progression of arthritis. Chondroitin on the other hand increases mobility and range-of-motion, reduces pain, and restores cartilage function.
Disclaimer: These uses are suggestions resulting from various studies. They are not to be considered medical advice. If you experience symptoms related to these conditions or wish to improve any functions, don’t do so without consulting a healthcare professional.
Types of Chondroitin
The most commonly used form of chondroitin is chondroitin sulfate, sometimes referred to as “CS”. It is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG), a main component of cartilage. Because we already produce it naturally, chondroitin supplements are compatible with our chemistry. Some forms of chondroitin sulfate have larger, heavier molecules than others. Those formulas with a lower molecular weight show a better absorption rate into the cartilage and thus attain better results.
We encourage everyone to take good care of their bodies in every possible way. All you hard trainers need to be especially aware of the stress you place on your joints when you work out. Take some time to learn more about chondroitin and other supplements that contribute to well lubricated, supple joints and connective tissues that offer greater mobility.