Glucosamine and chondroitin: are they good for the joints?

Glucosamine and chondroitin are substances that exist naturally in the cartilage and the fluid that surrounds the joints and are also sold on the market as food supplements. But what are they used for and how are they used?

Many people take glucosamine and chondroitin thinking that it will help them to form new cartilages because several studies claim that more than half of people with osteoarthritis  improve taking these substances, they can move better and their pain decreases, especially in the short term. However, in general, scientific evidence indicates that more studies and research time are still needed to really verify if they are responsible for these improvements or not.

Chondroitin is normally found in our body in what is known as connective tissue that is in the joints and bones. Between its functions it helps the cartilage to conserve water (since the cartilage functions as a buffer) and together with glucosamine, it helps to preserve the cartilage.

Separating a little of one substance from the other, we know that glucosamine is found, in addition to our body, in other natural sources such as oceans shells, and when it is part of dietary supplements, most of the time it is created in the laboratory

Chondroitin, in turn, is created from animal sources, such as cow’s cartilage, and for more than 20 years there are records of its effectiveness in relieving arthritic pain (when used with other conventional medicines that relieve also pain and inflammation or swelling).

Although glucosamine and chondroitin together can control pain, they do not seem to help stop the progression of arthritis and create new cartilages (although many people, in fact, use it for the latter, the results of the tests do not confirm). So many doctors prefer to recommend these supplements to their patients and try a couple of months (usually three) to assess whether they are helping them or not.

In the United States and other countries are found as food supplements.

Applications of glucosamine and chondroitin

Osteoarthritis (arthritis of the degenerative type that develops over the years, and which is the most common form of arthritis) can cause a lot of pain and deform the joints, especially those of the fingers, but also others and Although glucosamine and chondroitin are widely used to treat this condition, the results of the investigations are mixed, for example, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in the United States does not recommend it specifically for the treatment. of osteoarthritis in the knees, for lack of long-term evidence.

However, in relation to the improvement in pain, as I mentioned earlier, according to numerous studies in the last 80 years, in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, spine, hips and hands, The benefit they noticed not only in pain relief but in the ability to move and the fact that they reduced the amount of medication they took for pain, seems to represent solid scientific evidence for the use of chondroitin for osteoarthritis. However, the studies were only for the short term (6 to 24 months), and that the long-term effect is unknown and it is not known if the use of chondroitin with glucosamine is better than one of the agents is only better than both of them.

On the other hand, the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health did not find the studies as positive because it only qualified condoitin as possibly effective in reducing pain in osteoarthritis when taken orally. Think that the results may be due to the differences in the people studied, the products that were used and the design of the studies. And that the benefit is modest or insignificant. As for the creams that contain chondroitin, they mention that they usually come in presentations with glucosamine and camphor and that it is the last compound that helps to improve the pain.

Additionally, the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health states that although glucosamine is possibly effective for osteoarthritis of the knee, it does not work in all people especially those with severe cases, those who are overweight, those who have had the problem for a long time or in the elderly. This agency mentions that neither chondroitin nor glucosamine does not seem to help the joint develop new cartilage or stop the progress of osteoarthritis.

Other uses for these supplements have been studied, for example, glucosamine, which has been tried to treat psoriasis and glaucoma . The scientific evidence based on the studies carried out to date for these conditions suggests that their efficacy is doubtful and more research is required in these areas before reaching firm recommendations.

Chondroitin, in turn, has also been studied in the prevention of heart disease, psoriasis, glaucoma, interstitial cystitis and overactive bladder. But the scientific evidence for these conditions is poor, so it is doubtful that chondroitin will help in these cases and more studies are required.

If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, you also feel that there is not enough information that these substances are safe for you or your baby. Remember that it is a very delicate period and you can not self-medicate under any circumstance without knowing the effects it could have on your health and that of your child.

If you have diabetes , low blood sugar or are taking medications that affect glucose, also be careful before taking chondroitin and / or glucosamine. It is not well known how they can affect insulin in your body or blood sugar and although some studies suggest that they are not affected, until it is known for sure and your doctor authorizes it, it avoids its use.

Also be careful if you take medications for cancer treatment, glucosamine could make them less effective.

Glucosamine and / or chondroitin can worsen health in patients with asthma , can cause dizziness, sleep and thin the blood.

If you are allergic to shellfish, you should be careful with products that contain chondroitin and / or glucosamine since you may have an allergic reaction.

Regarding the dose, doses of 200 to 400 mg have been studied two to three times a day, from 800 to 1,200 mg once a day with similar effects. The agencies that regulate the supplements are different in each country. In the United States, there is no agency to oversee them and they are not under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that the quality and quantity of what comes in each bottle may vary and may be different from what was evaluated in the scientific studies.

Remember that although the FDA approves this type of food supplements and that buying them is relatively easy (since no recipe is required) it is advisable to consult the doctor before starting any type of medication or supplement and to monitor any changes you feel.

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