Many of us suffer from chronic joint pain. What you may not know is that there are some natural remedies for stiff, aching or inflamed joints.
The health of our joints impacts our quality of life and determines how active we can be as we age. Degeneration and inflammation of the joints (arthritis) is America’s number one crippling disease, affecting approximately one in three American adults, and is the leading cause of disability among persons over age 15. Luckily, research has shown that arthritis and joint degeneration can be safely and effectively addressed using natural healing methods.
In fact, many nutrients have been found to provide significant relief of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis pain and stiffness without the potential side effects of over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications. We will take a look at a few compounds that have been proven effective in clinical trials to help alleviate joint pain and often times, help repair degeneration in joints.
One of the most studied compounds for joint health is glucosamine sulfate. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body, synthesized by special cells in the body (called chondrocytes) for the purpose of producing joint cartilage. When the joints degrade (as in osteoarthritis or after injury), this synthesis is often defective, so supplying the body with additional glucosamine through supplementation can provide the body the nutrients it needs to rebuild and repair the joint.
In addition, glucosamine sulfate has been shown to relieve most symptoms as effectively as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, Aleve, and aspirin. In one well-designed study of 178 patients with OA of the knee, one group was treated for 4 weeks with glucosamine sulfate (1500 mg daily) and the other group was treated with ibuprofen (1200 mg daily). Glucosamine relieved the symptoms as effectively as ibuprofen and was tolerated significantly better (i.e., fewer side effects) than ibuprofen. The safety and tolerability of glucosamine can easily be explained by the fact that it is a substance normally used by the body.
As with most natural remedies, the therapeutic effect of glucosamine is not immediate. It usually takes 1-8 weeks to appear. Once achieved, it tends to persist for a notable time even after discontinuing glucosamine supplementation. The probable reason for this is that glucosamine is incorporated into rebuilding the cartilage itself. In most studies, the dose has been 500 mg three times daily.
Chondroitin sulfate is a major component of cartilage. It is a very large molecule, composed of repeated units of glucosamine sulfate. Although the absorption of chondroitin sulfate is much lower than that of glucosamine (10-15% versus 90-98%), a few studies have shown very good results from long-term treatment with chondroitin sulfate, reducing pain and increasing range of motion.
Chondroitin sulfate has an excellent safety record, with no known toxicity. In repeated clinical studies, oral chondroitin sulfate (1200 mg/day) was consistently effective in reducing OA symptoms, and was very well tolerated (no side effects). In most studies, the dose has been 400 mg three times daily.
Studies indicate that glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate work synergistically to provide a greater benefit combined than either does separately. Glucosamine has been shown to increase the production of beneficial joint compounds and chondroitin sulfate has demonstrated ability to inhibit joint deterioration. Thus, used together they have shown a marked ability to improve joint health.
Purity and Labeling of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate Products
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are both obtained from animal tissue sources, and purity can vary widely depending upon the extraction techniques and analysis technology. The studies of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate referenced in this article were all conducted using carefully assayed, purified compounds. The purity of the compounds used can certainly be expected to effect the outcome.
Furthermore, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are considered dietary supplements, and are therefore not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Although many brands of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine are available over the counter, independent laboratory analysis has shown that many products do not actually contain the amounts claimed on the label.
For instance, in a recently published study done at the Pharmacy School at the University of Maryland, 32 bottles of chondroitin sulfate were purchased at pharmacies and health food stores. Only 2 of the products met label claims while 14 of the 32 bottles purchased contained 10% or less of the label claim. What were the buyer’s chances of getting a good product when only 2 of 32 products met their label claim?
Other Factors in Joint Health
Diet plays a key role in joint health. Certain foods can aggravate joint pain and inflammation – including tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants and bell peppers. In addition, you can also eat foods that can enhance the repair process and decrease inflammation!
In addition there are many therapies, nutrients and herbs and specific supplements that you can use to dramatically improve your joint health. Natural therapies can be very effective for those suffering from arthritis or other joint injury. Studies have proven that natural remedies, diet and certain forms of exercise can slow down the progression of joint disease and even reverse it in many cases.
Dr. Chad has studied, lectured and taught throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Peru and southern Africa. He is very active in teaching natural healing techniques and has given presentations to thousands of people worldwide. He is a faculty member at the University of Natural Medicine where he teaches doctors and other health care practitioners the value of alternative testing techniques in the healing process.
The Natural Path Health Center is a complete naturopathic health care center that provides you the information and resources you need to help your body heal. We offer a large array of natural healing modalities, including diet and nutrition counseling, botanical medicines, nutritional supplementation, cleansing and detoxification, physical therapies such as massage, acupressure, craniosacral, Trager and numerous other hands-on bodywork techniques; hydrotherapy, including our entire therapy area, which is dedicated to helping relieve the toxic burden on the body by drawing toxins out through the skin; energy work, including the therapeutic use of Reiki, and counseling.