The Importance of Cartilage and Joint Health
Both cartilage and joints are essential for the body’s movement.
Cartilage is a unique type of connective tissue in the body, made up of cells called chondrocytes. It is flexible, contains no blood vessels or nerves, and is a precursor to bone (1).
This flexible tissue is found throughout the body, primarily in the ears and nose, but also in the coverings of joints.
Cartilage covering the joints is meant to act as a cushion. These layers of cartilage are strong and thick, protecting them from the friction. Making of movements smooth and easy.
However, over time the cartilage that cushion the joints can wear away. The degeneration of cartilage is an inevitable part of aging, wearing away after years of physical activity.
This can cause serious and painful strain and inflammation of the joints, most commonly those of the knee. Other joints that are affected by worn cartilage include – hands, feet, spine, and hips (1).
The most common conditions caused by cartilage wear and tear and damage to the joints include (1):
- runner’s knee (aka: chondromalacia patellae)
- a herniated or slipped disk
The Essentials of Joint Health Across The Lifespan
Though degeneration of cartilage is an inevitable part of aging, there are steps you can take to stave off poor joint health.
Essential habits you should begin adding into your daily routine to keep your joints healthy throughout the lifespan:
- Eat a healthy diet (high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D)
- Manage your weight
- Practice good posture
- Using padding or braces for irritated joints
- Apply immediate hot or cold therapy for achy joints
- Regular low-impact cardio exercise and range of motion exercises
- Consume a reliable supplement, if needed
Although these habits are helpful for all, there may be some ssues beyond your control when it comes to joint health. These include – sex, family history, and occupation.
Supplements For Healthy Joints
When keeping your joints healthy, it may be necessary to add a supplement to your daily routine.
Joint supplements aim to both keep the joints strong and reduce discomfort associated with weakened cartilage.
When looking for reliable joint supplements you will see a number of ingredients, but the most common – and more effective – is chondroitin.
Chondroitin – also called chondroitin sulfate, chondroitin sulfuric acid, or chonsurid – is a natural component of cartilage (2).
This compound is an essential building block of the cartilage padding of our joints, but production of chondroitin naturally reduces with age; which is why it is common in joint supplements.
Chondroitin supplements can either be from natural, animal-derived sources, but can also be synthesized in a lab (2).
These supplements can be found individually, or also combined with glucosamine – another essential building block of the body’s cartilage.
Like chondroitin, supplemental glucosamine is found in natural sources (from shellfish) or can be created synthetically (2).
However, there is no data of taking chondroitin and glucosamine together or separately to be more effective (3).
Using Chondroitin as a Joint Supplement – Dosage, Benefits, and Possible Risks of Chondroitin
It is well known that chondroitin and glucosamine are building blocks of the body’s cartilage, but what makes them effective as joint supplements is still unclear.
More clinical research is needed to tell exactly how these type supplements benefit joint health (3). However, there is some data that trails have proven.
If the dosages of either of these compounds causes an upset stomach, its advised to reduce dosage or spread the dosages into smaller units throughout the day.
The benefits of chondroitin (and glucosamine) that research has found in current and past trials have a focus on discomfort over long periods of supplementation (up to 2 years).
They include reduced (3):
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Plus – supported already healthy joints (preventing breakdown of cartilage)
The risks and side effects linked to joint supplements of chondroitin occur primarily in the stomach.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
Is a Chondroitin Joint Supplement Right for You?
If you’re looking for an extra boost to keep your joints healthy or are experiencing joint discomfort associated with aging, a chondroitin joint supplement might be right for you.
When selecting a chondroitin supplement, always ensure to use high-quality supplements from a reputable manufacturer.
Also, it is always important to seek the advice of a trusted medical professional when deciding to take a new supplement or if you experience discomfort when using a new health product.
Author: Allison Lansman, RDN, LD