What is Chondroitin sulphate?
Chondroitin sulphate is a sulphated glycosaminoglycan (GAG) which is composed of a long chain of alternating sugars. These sugars are called N-acetyl galactosamine and glucuronic acid.
Chondroitin is a major component of healthy cartilage, helping to build, repair, and cushion. This substance forms a sponge like compound that acts like a shock absorber almost for the joints.
Chondroitin is also an essential component in helping to keep the tendons, ligaments, and cartilage healthy. This compound also helps to attract some fluid to the joints to cushion and relieve pain.
Chondroitin is found naturally in the body, but can decrease as people get older and when people suffer from conditions like arthritis and osteoarthritis. Chondroitin is also known to create more elasticity in the cartilage providing better movement for the joints.
Chondroitin as a supplement is usually extracted from animal or shark cartilage, which acts in the same way as human cartilage. Chondroitin is widely used for many conditions and diseases. It is quite often combined with Glucosamine which enhances its effects on the joints.
What is the history of Chondroitin?
Chondroitin is a fairly new compound to be used as a supplement. The USA only started to sell Chondroitin as a supplement twenty years ago. Before this time, Chondroitin was not used for its qualities as a supplement to treat the certain conditions.
Chondroitin has been used to treat osteoarthritis for over twenty years within Europe, especially when combined with Glucosamine. The effects that Chondroitin can have to the body have been known for over twenty years, but it has only been considered the past twenty years as a supplement in helping treat various conditions.
Clinical studies were made on Chondroitin before twenty years ago, and discovered that it possessed qualities that could help ease many symptoms, including pain, swelling, and flexibility in the joints.
What problems can Chondroitin help?
There are a few conditions which can be helped by either Chondroitin on its own or by Glucosamine and Chondroitin mixed together, these are:
- This condition can cause severe pain, swelling, and restricted mobility of the joints. Chondroitin helps to repair and re-build cartilage; this eases the pain and swelling, as well as improving the joints mobility.
Arthritis (especially of the knee)
- Chondroitin can help to re-build the cartilage around the joints. It also cushions the joints relieving them from pain and stiffness, so arthritis sufferers can benefit greatly from taking Chrondroitin.
- Any inflammation especially in the joints can be eased by Chondroitin. It possesses qualities to reduce the chemicals that cause inflammation by suppressing them.
- Some sports injuries can be helped by using Chondroitin. It can take the pain and swelling away from the injury and could help the recovery period to speed up.
Tendon and Ligament damage
- Due to Chondroitin's repairing ability of the cartilage tissue, it can help to speed up recovery in muscle and tendon injuries.
What recent scientific tests have been done on Chondroitin?
Although Chondroitin is a fairly new product it has had extensive clinical trials and research done on it. Most of these have found positive effects from taking Chondroitin with various conditions.
The Boston University of Medicine carried out trials with Chondroitin and Glucosamine in people with osteoarthritis. The study was a randomised double blind placebo trial, so none of the participants knew which tablets they were taking. Nine of the 15 trials had Chondroitin taken in them, and lasted for at least four weeks. The results from the trials were positive, and showed that people with mild to moderate OA felt positive effects from taking Chondroitin.
The National Institute of Health funded studies to be done on Glucosamine and Chondroitin to see their effects on patients with knee osteoarthritis. It was a double blind, 6 month, placebo trial. The results found that when these substances were taken together they relieved symptoms of the patients suffering with more severe pain then with those who suffered mild to moderate pain.
The National centre for complementary and alternative medicine also carried out clinical trials on Chondroitin with 1,583 participants in a two year study. There was a significant increase in pain relief for most of the sufferers. It showed that up to 70% of the participants taking Chondroitin had a 20% greater pain reduction then those who were taking the placebo pill. In a second trial 79% of the participants who had moderate to severe joint pain found greater relieve from pain when taking Chondroitin.
Other studies showed that patients who suffer from knee osteoarthritis, taking Chondroitin; throughout their treatment all experienced positive effects, with improved mobility and pain relief.
Studies have also been conducted on people suffering from psoriasis with Chondroitin. Biopsy samples were taken from the baseline after and before the course of Chondroitin sulphate. There was a noticeable decrease in the density of the inflammation cells, and a noticeable reduction of the vascular tortuosity. There were also noticeable differences in the hydration and cushioning of the joints, as well as relief from the burning pain that was being suffered.
Some experts have even suggested that Chondroitin and Glucosamine taken together is the best joint treatment available. Consumer reports conducted interviews with experts; most of them believed that by just taking these two substances combined would be more effective then taking them on their own, and other supplements or medication.
There was also a double blind placebo study done on 146 patients with knee osteoarthritis. This study published in the Journal of Rheumatology (Vol 23, pp, 1385-1391, 1996) showed that the group taking Chondroitin noticed significant effects on their joint pain and mobility, after about one month. They also noticed that after ceasing to take the Chondroitin, its effects could still be felt up to two months afterwards.
Is Chondroitin safe to take?
Chondroitin has shown very little side effects, and appears safe to take. If you are taking any prescribed drug you should always seek advice from your doctor beforehand if you want to take Chondroitin, as it may react with some medication.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take this product unless their doctor of physician advises them otherwise. Chondroitin like with any other medicine or supplement can cause side effects and allergic reactions, so you should always be aware of any symptoms you may be experiencing when taking Chondroitin.
Who shouldn't take Chondroitin?
Women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, should always consult their doctor or physician before taking this supplement, as its effects are not known on children. Chondroitin can also have a thinning effect on the blood, so people with particular blood conditions should consult their doctor before taking Chondroitin.
Is it safe to take with other products and medications?
Chondroitin has been known to help thin the blood, so people who either have a blood thinning condition or are on blood thinning medication should be aware that this could interact with them. They should consult their doctor before taking this supplement.
Some preliminary research suggests that Chondroitin may reduce the toxicity in the kidneys which is associated with Cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug used for cancer patients. You should consult your doctor if you are taking this drug before using Chondroitin.
Doctor's response to Chondroitin
Many doctors have given a positive response for using Chondroitin as a treatment for some people who suffer from joint problems. Some have been involved in clinical trials which have shown positive effects especially in the treatment of Osteoarthritis.
Dr David Hungerford, a famous expert in the treatment of Osteoarthritis, has suggested that you try taking this supplement for at least two months before you ask yourself whether you're feeling better or not. Supplements can take time to build up in your system and to have their full effect.
The Arthritis foundation found that a high percentage of people suffering from arthritis, do not tell their doctor that they are taking alternative medicines for their condition. It also found that not many people's doctors were asking them if they were taking alternative medicines either. This can cause harm, and doctors and their patients should discuss this with their doctor to avoid any interactions occurring.
Some doctors even think that when Chondroitin is in its purest form it can do amazing things to help people suffering from various conditions. Most doctors think positively about Chondroitin, and if you are considering taking it you should consult your doctor, and he will most likely support your decision if you will not be harmed from Chondroitin.
Dosage, how much should it take, and who should take it?
The most common cause for people taking Chondroitin is to help relieve the joints from pain and inflammation, improving over all mobility. There are a few people who should be wary when taking this supplement which is stated above, but mostly most people are suitable for taking Chondroitin.
Chondroitin is mostly sold in the form of Chondroitin Sulphate as a tablet or capsule. Chondroitin can be taken from 400mg to 800mg a day orally depending on your severity of problems. You should always consult your doctor before taking Chondroitin if you are on medication or any other supplements, to check that there will be no interactions.
Are there any side effects or warnings?
Like all natural supplements Chondroitin can cause some side effects. There are little known side effects at the moment which have stated many side effects that Chondroitin can cause.
The few side effects reported for Chondroitin are diarrhoea, constipation, alopecia, stomach pain, nausea, and an irregular heartbeat. These are quite uncommon in people taking Chondroitin. Chondroitin can also affect blood thinning medication.
If you experience any symptoms then you should discontinue use of Chondroitin and if they persist then consult your doctor. Children should not take Chondroitin as little study has been made on this.
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