What Is It?
A natural component of the cartilage that cushions joints, chondroitin sulfate seems to block the enzymes that can destroy this crucial tissue. For this reason it has become a popular dietary supplement for the treatment of arthritis. Some studies indicate that it may even be as effective at relieving osteoarthritis pain as aspirin and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)–without posing the same risk for gastrointestinal problems.
Preliminary findings indicate that the supplement can increase joint mobility, possibly slow cartilage loss, and assist the body in rebuilding cartilage in some arthritis sufferers. Experts disagree, however, on how well chondroitin in supplement form is absorbed by the body–and thus how effective it really is.
Research is currently underway to determine whether chondroitin can enhance the effects of glucosamine, another supplement with the ability to maintain and repair cartilage. Chondroitin is often sold in combination with glucosamine.
If you take a blood thinner or a daily aspirin (of any strength), only take chondroitin under a doctor’s supervision: its molecular configuration is similar to that of the blood-thinner heparin, and could potentially cause excessive bleeding.
Chondroitin takes time to become effective, and you may need to continue using conventional painkillers for six to eight weeks after starting this supplement. If you don’t experience pain relief within a few months, chondroitin is probably not going to work and you should stop taking the supplement.
Consult your doctor before decreasing or discontinuing conventional arthritis medications. Be sure to continue other arthritis therapies, including exercise and a weight-control program.
Chondroitin is manufactured synthetically or extracted from cow tracheas or shark cartilage. Because the quality and concentration of chondroitin in cow and shark products can vary widely, select products that indicate they are made from synthetically manufactured chondroitin. Unfortunately, not all products give such details.
Avoid chondroitin supplements if you are pregnant.
Chondroitin is considered safe, although there is little information on its long-term use. In rare cases, stomach upset has been reported.
Arthritis 400-600 mg chondroitin sulfate 3 times a day
David Edelberg, M.D.
Because chondroitin sulfate is a major component of cartilage itself, it’s long been thought that supplements containing this substance should be able to help heal worn down joints. In the past, however, a number of researchers have downplayed the effect of this compound, arguing that its molecule was too large to be absorbed effectively.
HOW IT HELPS ARTHRITIS
How it may work is still unclear, but recent studies indicate that chondroitin eases arthritis pain as effectively as NSAIDs (aspirin or ibuprofen) but without the digestive side effects. Research has also shown that chondroitin appears to increase the flexibility of sore joints and slow the loss of cartilage.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Chondroitin is generally available in individual capsules, which are manufactured either synthetically or from animal products. Be careful Animal products containing shark cartilage can vary greatly in quality and concentration of chondroitin. Read labels carefully.
If you decide to try chondroitin, here are a few pointers: In conjunction with glucosamine: One good way to take chondroitin sulfate is with another supplement (such as glucosamine) that’s been shown to maintain and repair cartilage. You can either take separate supplements or use a combination product. Just make sure in the combination products that the dose of each individual component is adequate. To be effective, you’ll need 250 to 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate three times a day.