Glucosamine and chondroitin are found in connective tissue and particularly abundant in cartilage. Cartilage is used in the body as a form of cushion between bones known as a joint. It is also found in ears and nose. Individuals with osteoarthritis often take glucosamine and chondroitin alone or together to help relief inflammation and pain in their joints. The benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin are far reaching.
As we age, our joints begin to function differently. Cartilage that lines our joints is avascular which means it has no blood vessels running through it. This is fine in the sense that this prevents scar tissue from developing when the tissue it damaged. When damage occurs, pieces of cartilage are broken down and removed from the joint. As time passes this process doesn’t work properly. The cells that produce cartilage known as chondrocytes realize damage has occurred and make enzymes that break down the tissue. Unfortunately, the chondrocytes don’t regulate this function very well and don’t known when to stop producing enzyme. So degradation continues. Degradation not only continues but spreads to healthy tissue areas causing further injury. During this process, chondrocytes are trying to build new cartilage, but the new cartilage is somewhat different in that it has a looser, less organized structure making it somewhat brittle. This new cartilage is more susceptible to damage. This process tends to have a snow ball effect until the cartilage becomes useless. Clinical studies indicate that glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin sulphate may be beneficial in joint and bone repair.
Chondroitin sulphate is a complex polysaccharide known as glycosaminoglycans or GAGs. Chondroitin is made up of repeating units of disaccharides that consist of glucuronic acid and glactosamine. Depending on how these disaccharide units attach to each other determines which chondroitin it is. These types include chondroitin A and chondroitin C.
Chondroitin sulphate combines with other proteins to make proteoglycans. These proteoglycans make up what is called biologically the ground substance in the outside matrix of chondrocytes such as tendons, ligaments and cartilage. These sugar-proteins and water make up the glue stuff that holds all our cells, tissues and organs together.
Taken orally chondroitin sulphate has been demonstrated clinically to repair cartilage and allow the cartilage to become functional again. It has been reported that chondroitin has the ability to decrease pain and inflammation. The mechanism of action has not been fully elucidated however it is known that ingesting chondroitin sulphate increases levels of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is found in synovial fluid and synovial fluid is known to lubricate joints. No doubt in part this is responsible for pain reduction with increased range of motion. It is also known that chondroitin sulphate and hyaluronic acid are protein components of joint cartilage that provide shock-absorbing capability.
Glucosamine is made up of a glucose molecule and glutamine which is an amino acid. This molecule is a component of connective tissues such as bone and cartilage as well as hair, skin and nails. Glucosamine is a part of the proteoglycans found in cartilage so important for attracting water molecules keeping this tissues moist as well as provide cushioning to parts of our bodies particularly our joints. Along with collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, water and minerals form the ground matrix around chondrocytes that provide for the cushioning ability of connective tissue. As cartilage becomes damaged within a joint, this ground matrix of sugars, proteins, minerals and water begin to unravel.
Where do supplemental forms of glucosamine and chondroitin come from? Glucosamine is often isolated from the covering of shellfish and it can be man made and is absorbed by the body easily. Chondroitin can be isolated from shark or bovine cartilage as well as synthesized. Chondroitin is not as easily absorbed by your body.
Why You Should Take Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Experiments have demonstrated that supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin actually have the ability to slow down bone loss in patients with arthritic knee and hip problems. Samples where actually taken from patients after being supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin and it was seen that supplementation actually slowed arthritic related bone loss. Remember that bone is a living tissue and as such continuously remodels itself. That is to say bone is broken down and rebuilt. The cells responsible for rebuilding are known as osteoblasts and the cells responsible for breaking down bone are known as osteoclasts. What happens with osteoarthritis is the cartilage begins to break down causing loss of the underlying bone. Bone loss also occurs due to the imbalance of osteoclast activity to osteoblast activity. When bone breaks down faster than it can be rebuilt you end up with brittle bones that are poorly structured. Nevertheless, when osteoclasts are exposed to glucosamine and chondroitin, osteoclast activity is decreased allowing for more bone regeneration. So, clearly the benefits of glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin sulphate include support for bone and joint health.
A small clinical trial in Italy has reported success with glucosamine supplementation. Two males were administered with oral glucosamine sulphate that was labeled with radioactive carbon 14. This study found radioactive glucosamine an hour later in these patients blood as well as in other tissues. So, glucosamine sulphate is absorbed rapidly by the gut and rapidly diffuses into tissue of which it is particularly attracted to cartilage and bone. Intravenous and intramuscular injections of glucosamine sulphate has been demonstrated to deliver an even higher concentration to tissues. Nevertheless, the benefits of glucosamine have been observed in both oral and injection forms.
Osteoarthritis symptoms include join tenderness, stiffness and pain, loss of range of motion or flexibility, grating sensation and/or bone spurs. A grating sensation is when you fell or hear a grinding sensation in your joint. Knee and ankle joints are often accompanied with a clicking sound when worn and bone is moving on bone. Bone spurs are abnormal pieces of bone that form around a bad joint which may feel like a hard lump. These often project outward from bone in a pointed fashion and may cause moderate to severe pain.
If you are experiencing symptoms of osteoarthritis or perhaps you do a lot of physical labor or exercise heavily, the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin may be far reaching for you. Make sure to consult with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing inflammation and/or stiffness in your joints before taking supplements. Your doctor will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and suggest treatment plans. Nevertheless, patients with osteoarthritis who have taken glucosamine sulphate and
chondroitin sulphate have been demonstrated to decrease pain, inflammation and range of motion within a relatively short period of time. You may want to consider the benefits of glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin sulphate and make this supplement a part of your regular diet especially as you age and/or exercise heavily.