|Fending Off Joint Stiffness and Pain|
|Fending Off Joint Stiffness and Pain|
We all know the aging process brings unwanted physical changes such as wrinkles, extra pounds and balding and/or graying of the hair. However, aging not only can wound our vanity but also can significantly contribute to the increased risk for chronic and degenerative diseases. Some chronic conditions, such as arthritis, are so prevalent among those over the age of 50, that they seem almost inevitable. Surveys show that more than 40 million Americans have osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis). With a four out of five chance of someday suffering from osteoarthritis, it is not surprising that many people greet ails such as stiffness, loss of joint function, acute localized pain, tenderness and swelling or bony hardness as a forgone conclusion of aging.
And unfortunately, the unstoppable aging process is indeed the primary cause of osteoarthritis. The cumulative effects of decades of "wear-and-tear" lead to degenerative changes caused by stress to the collagen matrix of cartilage. Damage to cartilage results in the release of enzymes that destroy cartilage components. With aging, the ability to restore and manufacture cartilage structures greatly decreases. Compounding the frustration of being inflicted with osteoarthritis is the fact that anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen provide little more than temporary relief. However, an ever increasingly popular dietary supplement called glucosamine is grabbing headlines as a treatment for osteoarthritis that does much more than simply dull the pain or mask the symptoms.
For more than a decade, a number of clinical studies have been conducted to test the efficacy of glucosomine as a therapeutic treatment of osteoarthritis. Collectively, the results of these studies show a number of benefits including: symptomatic relief of joint pain and inflammation; improved articular function and range of movement; blocked degradation of cartilage; stimulation of the synthesis and repair of connective tissue and cartilage; better long term pain reduction than over-the-counter medication; and suppression of symptoms weeks after glucosamine use is discontinued. To fully understand glucosamine's value to people suffering from arthritis, however, it is helpful to look at exactly how glucosamine functions in the human body.
Dense connective tissues, such as ligament and tendons, provide stability and support to muscle-skeletal structures such as joints. As person ages, or when a joint is injured or traumatized, the body's defense mechanism responds by increasing its production of soft tissue, synovial fluid, articular cartilage and connective tissue in an attempt to repair the damaged tissue. Osteoarthritis results when the degenerative process exceeds the regenerative or maintenance process. To meet internal physiological demands, the body draws from its existing supply of components to satisfy the manufacturing needs.
Glucosamine is one such natural component in the body. Glucosamine is a simple molecule that is produced from glucose and glutamine. Its primary function for joints is to stimulate the manufacture of glycosaminoglycans (proteoglycans), which are vital base substances of cartilage. These glycosaminoglycan molecules are responsible for the gel-like nature and shock-absorbing capabilities of cartilage, Glucosamine also is one the major building blocks for the natural synthesis of synovial fluid and articular cartilage.
As many people age, they lost the ability to produce sufficient levels of glucosamine. Without glucosamine, the cartilage in joints often deteriorates to the point where bone rubs on bone. In other words, osteoarthritis has set in.
Supplemental glucosamine helps by penetrating joint cartilage and entering the chondrocyte. Once absorbed, it is then distribute primarily to joint tissues, where it is incorporated into the connective tissue matrix of cartilage, ligaments and tendons.
Currently, there are three forms of glucosamine available to consumers individually and in various product formulations - glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL) and n-acetylglucosamine (NAG) - each touted by their respective advocates as the most bioavailable and efficacious form. Although some products do utilize NAG, glucosamine HCL and glucosamine sulfate are far more prevalent in the market. Of these two forms, glucosamine sulfate, whether because of proven effectiveness (most of the clinical studies conducted on glucosamine utilized glucosamine sulfate) or because of more effective marketing, appear t o be the more popular form.
Dosage recommendations for glucosamine vary slightly. Some medical practitioners recommend a loading dose of 500 mg given three times daily for six to eight weeks, followed by a maintenance dose ranging from 750 mg to 1,500 mg daily depending on the individual condition. Others recommend ingesting 1,500 mg daily both as a first and maintenance dose. Glucosamine supplementation does require a degree of patience on the user's part, however, as it can take between two to eight weeks to note significant benefits. For those over the age of 65, it may even take several months before results are seen. Glucosamine is not toxic and there are no known interactions with any medication.