Aging is as natural and as unavoidable as the sun’s rays, and try as we might, there truly is little we can do to ward off the persistence of our own mortality. Muscles lose strength, metabolism slows down, and suddenly we wake up one day feeling as though our youthful spirit has completely abandoned us.
Now, I’m not here to be needlessly pessimistic, despite how grim that initial statement was. Time changes everything and we are not immune to that fact, but that does not automatically give you a reservation for death’s door. It doesn’t even guarantee that your days spent in retirement will be miserable and laced with pain either, so long as you take your health seriously and employ good practices in your daily life.
Bone and joint health are both major areas of concern that often decline with age, leading to issues like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Thankfully, contemporary science makes dealing with age-related health concerns easier than ever before with the assistance of supplements.
If you’ve never heard of glucosamine chondroitin before, prepare to take a quick dive into this whirlpool of information and get swept away by the possible advantages these supplements can offer you. This article will answer the following questions:
- How does cartilage affect joint health?
- What does glucosamine chondroitin do?
- Are glucosamine and chondroitin supplements good for your health?
The Role of Cartilage
Why Cartilage is Necessary for Healthy Joints
Cartilage is an essential part of your skeletal system and, without it, movement would be a whole lot more difficult, not to mention painful. Cartilage functions as a firm, flexible fibrous connective tissue present throughout many areas of the body. It serves many structural and functional purposes, such as supporting other body tissues and acting as a cushion for your joints.
Healthy cartilage allows for ease of movement in the joints, promotes healthy bone growth, and even helps shape certain organs like ears and nostrils, keeping them sturdy yet flexible. In the embryonic stage, cartilage is the precursor to bones.
Cartilage is a strong, smooth avascular tissue composed of specialized cartilage cells, which we can refer to as “chondrocytes.” These chondrocytes produce a considerable amount of dense extracellular matrix that is composed of collagen, proteoglycans, and other non-collagenous proteins. All of these components are vital for healthy cartilage, helping it attract water, sustain its shape, and perform other functions essential for your body.
Among the many components that make up cartilage, glucosamine and chondroitin are two naturally occurring compounds present in the specialized connective tissue. These compounds are crucial to helping cartilage maintain its structure by protecting the chondrocytes and fulfilling the role of being the building blocks behind new cartilage.
Taking care of your cartilage is extremely important. As the cushion between rough bone ends, healthy cartilage is essential to fluid, painless movement by giving adequate flexibility to your joints. Allowing the quality of your joint health to deteriorate by way of a serious condition will have a direct impact on the well being of your bones, ultimately leading to serious problems with your overall health.
As the most prominent type of cartilage throughout the human body, hyaline cartilage is present in all joints, where it lines the ends of bones to help the body move freely. The primary function of hyaline cartilage is to provide cushioning between bone ends by supplying a smooth surface for movement, resulting in less friction and less pain.
As flexible and strong connective tissue, hyaline cartilage gives structural support to certain parts of the respiratory system, including the trachea and nostrils.
As the strongest out of the three types of cartilage, fibrocartilage is also the most rigid, making it notably less flexible than its counterparts. This is a crucial property of fibrocartilage that makes it great for high-stress areas of the body such as between bones, tendons, and ligaments.
Fibrocartilage can predominantly be found in the intervertebral discs present in the spine and in the menisci of the knee.
Composed of elastin fibers, elastic cartilage is a highly flexible form of cartilage that is much more malleable than hyaline and fibrocartilage. Despite its notable flexibility, elastic cartilage balances a supple nature with structure, making it the perfect tissue for holding open tubular structures in the body.
Elastic cartilage is present in the ear, nose, and certain parts of the lungs such as the larynx.
What Are Glucosamine and Chondroitin and What Do They Do?
How They Work For the Benefit of Your Cartilage
Though they are often paired together in supplements that offer relief from joint pain, glucosamine and chondroitin are natural compounds found in healthy cartilage. As we age, our bodies change, and then those changes turn into potential health problems. Bones lose density, joint inflammation flares up, and suddenly there’s a lot more white hairs poking out of your head.
While glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can’t be magical elixirs of everlasting life, they do have the potential to change the quality of your health for the better by slowing cartilage degeneration and reducing pain.
In osteoarthritis, the gradual breakdown of cartilage leads to various unpleasant symptoms such as swelling and bouts of intense pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin work to preserve cartilage health through different protective mechanisms and reduce painful swelling with their anti-inflammatory properties.
A natural compound found in cartilage, glucosamine doubles as a popular supplement due to its beneficial qualities, many of which reduce the inflammation and eventual degeneration of connective tissue. Glucosamine supplements have gained notoriety on account of their ability to help treat specific conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Extensive studies have been done on the effects glucosamine has on pain management in individuals who suffer from either condition, but conclusive research has yet to be documented. Some studies show improvement in pain brought on by osteoarthritis in the knee and a reduced presence of inflammation, and others show no significant difference between patients who took glucosamine supplements and those that took a placebo.
Like glucosamine, chondroitin is naturally occurring within the body and an integral component of cartilage. Chondroitin helps keep cartilage healthy by absorbing water and other fluids into the connective tissue, blocking enzymes that break down cartilage, and providing the foundation the body requires to produce new cartilage.
Chondroitin is also viewed as a prospective remedy for osteoarthritis, though the results on its effectiveness are similarly inconclusive and conflicting as the ones for glucosamine. Some researchers in the past believed chondroitin to actually slow the progression of the disease, which most contemporary medical treatments fail to do. In any case, there are experts who vouch for the value of chondroitin and its ability to decrease osteoarthritis pain.
Are Glucosamine Chondroitin Supplements Effective?
The Truth Behind Taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin to Combat the Degeneration of Joint Cartilage
Efficacy is not universal when it comes to supplements. Even popular supplements like biotin and collagen, which are undoubtedly beneficial for various facets of your health, have their limitations. Still, there are plenty of individuals who swear by supplements and their beneficial properties, so there must be some legitimacy behind the positive claims. Glucosamine and chondroitin, in particular, are alleged to manage pain and discomfort caused by the decline of cartilage.
Osteoarthritis is a debilitating disease that causes cartilage to wear down over time, which can result in bone end rubbing together. This can be exceptionally painful and worsen over time, leading to decreased mobility of the joints, primarily in the knees, hips, spine, and hands. As natural anti-inflammatories, glucosamine and chondroitin can fight back against pain caused by arthritis and similar degenerative diseases.
A whopping 3.6% of the global population suffers from some form of osteoarthritis. Out of that number, over thirty-two million adults with the condition are residents of the United States. With so many people suffering from the condition, the rising popularity of consuming glucosamine and chondroitin doesn’t come as much of a surprise, despite the hearsay and negative claims of ineffectiveness.
While it’s true that medical experts cannot definitively say whether glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are legitimate solutions to arthritis based pain, it isn’t a sentiment to be discouraged by. The field of health care is an ever growing amalgamation of new discoveries and advancements, and treatments can vary from person to person. Our bodies are all unique, as are our medical histories, so it’s impossible to expect the same exact results across a wide array of different individuals.
Despite the conflicting views on the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements in regards to combatting cartilage degeneration and osteoarthritis, there is a general consensus on the safety of supplementing with these compounds. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both considered safe substances that warrant no serious side effects, though it should be noted that these supplements may interact with other medications like blood thinners. Diabetes and glaucoma may want to avoid glucosamine and chondroitin supplements as well, since it may affect blood sugar levels and eye pressure.
Protect Your Joint Health
Take Steps to Sustain Healthy Cartilage Today and Spend Less Time Stressing Over an Unknown Future
There are many people who fear growing older and the declining health that comes alongside it, but the truth is more nuanced than that. Everyone’s health journey is unique, and no two individuals are going to experience the exact same issues throughout their lives.
While some may find old age to be harsh and unforgiving on their physical health, others may not encounter any major issues at all and find themselves to be as energetic as ever. It comes down to many different factors, both in our control and out of it. The steps you take today could be the reason behind your healthy bones and joints later on in life.
There’s no guarantee glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are going to be the perfect remedy for conditions that affect the quality of your cartilage, as there is still much more information to be collected on the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin. I don’t mean to discourage anyone from trying out glucosamine and chondroitin if you are someone who experiences osteoarthritis or joint issues in general, but I do want to be factual and as transparent as possible.
Always consult your doctor before starting new medications, including over-the-counter supplements. Glucosamine and chondroitin may be naturally occurring compounds within your body, but that does not automatically guarantee the effect these supplements will have on you. Communicate with your doctor to ensure the supplements won’t interact with any other drugs you take for health purposes.
Remember, you are in control of your own health journey. The actions you take today can and will have a profound impact on your quality of life years from now, so start making smart decisions now and set yourself up for success in the future!