What exactly makes glucosamine and chondroitin such a dynamic and powerful duo at relieving arthritis? Could it their ability to relieve pain? Or perhaps it’s because they help reduce cartilage loss? Maybe it’s their because of their anti-inflammatory properties that tame the swelling so common in arthritis? Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t come with the dangerous side effects associated with prescription and over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories (e.g. Celebrex, Advil, Aleve, etc.) commonly taken for arthritis? Or maybe it’s the combination of all of this and much more that makes glucosamine / chondroitin combos a fantastic supplement choice for arthritis.
What Are Glucosamine and Chondroitin?
Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural cartilage components and are supplements that are often taken in combination for best results as they have separate but complementary functions. Chondroitin helps with water retention in the cartilage, which helps with joint lubrication. Glucosamine is a building block and structural component for cartilage. As a supplement, they are created by breaking down animal by-products, such as cow cartilage (chondroitin) or the shells of shellfish (glucosamine). There are very few known side effects, and they can be used safely long-term.
Let’s explore all the different ways studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin are beneficial for those with arthritis.
Glucosamine / Chondroitin Supplements Decrease Pain
Not only do glucosamine and chondroitin improve pain, some studies, such as one here, show that they do so as effectively as powerhouse NSAIDs, such as Celebrex. Studies have been inconsistent in this finding with some showing similar pain relief capabilities to NSAIDs while others show NSAIDs performing better for pain; however, glucosamine and chondroitin don’t carry the dangerous side effects, like heart attack and stroke risks and GI bleeding. In addition, adding a supplement that also contains curcumin should help get that more powerful pain-fighting kick, if glucosamine and chondroitin aren’t tackling it alone.
Glucosamine / Chondroitin Reduce Cartilage Loss
Study after study continues to support the ability of glucosamine and chondroitin to reduce cartilage loss. One found that both Celebrex and glucosamine and chondroitin reduced pain, but is also found that glucosamine and chondroitin not only reduced the narrowing in the joint space due to arthritis but also improved function. These cartilage findings have also been found in other studies using MRI to measure joint space. Chondroitin, in this study, was found to decrease cartilage loss, as shown on MRI.
Another study found that when glucosamine and chondroitin are taken together for two years, they slow the progression of arthritis. This one also used X rays to measure cartilage loss.
Glucosamine / Chondroitin Supplements Reduce Inflammation
Glucosamine / chondroitin supplements have also been shown to be powerful anti-inflammatories. One study found that glucosamine and chondroitin performed just as well as prescription Celebrex at fighting inflammation.
Another study looked at common inflammatory markers in the blood known as c-reactive protein (CRP). Half of the study participants took glucosamine and chondroitin and the other half took a placebo. Inflammatory markers in those taking glucosamine and chondroitin were 23% lower than in the placebo group, meaning there was significant effect on inflammation.
Choosing a Glucosamine / Chondroitin Supplement
There are two major forms of glucosamine—G-HCL and G-SO4—typically seen in supplements. It’s preferable to obtain a supplement with both forms as G-HCL seems to be more effective at pain relief, while G-SO4 is more effective at protecting cartilage. The Regenexx Advanced Stem Cell Support Formula includes both G-HCL and G-SO4 as well as pain-fighting curcumin (mentioned above). Regardless of what supplement you choose, look for these components in a high-quality supplement.
A glucosamine / chondroitin combo, with their pain-relieving, cartilage-protecting, and inflammation-reducing properties, are indeed a dynamic duo for arthritis. Adding curcumin will enhance pain improvement if needed. And the bonus? None of these supplements come with the dangerous side effects of NSAIDs.