What is Chondroitin?
Chondroitin, or chondroitin sulfate, is a substance that occurs naturally in the body. It is part of a large protein molecule known as a proteoglycan, and is a major component of cartilage—the “cushion” between joints. Chondroitin works by holding water and nutrients in cartilage and giving it structure. This is an important property, since cartilage has no blood supply.
In other words, chondroitin lubricates joints and maintains healthy cartilage tissue.
When cartilage between bones wears away (due to aging, stress or injury/disease), chondroitin is lost, and painful symptoms of osteoarthritis result.
Although it’s not a cure, chondroitin sulfate supplements may help reduce the symptoms of this painful condition.
Helps with Osteoarthritis!
Although not all studies show a benefit, overall, chondroitin sulfate may provide some relief to people with mild to moderate osteoarthritis, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects (similar to aspirin, ibuprofen and other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs).
There is a wide range of chondroitin formulas on the market.
Before trying one, however, it’s important to be sure that your joint pain is being caused by osteoarthritis and not some other condition.
Interaction with Prescription Medications
Chondroitin supplements can be taken with other medications prescribed for osteoarthritis, but it could decrease or eliminate the need for other pain relievers.
Consult with your physician before taking chondroitin supplements to determine whether other medications should be adjusted or eliminated.
The chondroitin currently used in most commercial supplements is derived from animals such as cows, pigs and chickens.
Shark cartilage is another popular source.
As of this writing there are no vegetarian sources of chondroitin sulfate, although at least one company (Martek) is in the process of developing one.
The content of chondroitin supplements tends to vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. It is often used as part of a formula that includes other substances as well, most commonly, glucosamine and manganese.
Quality Control can be an Issue
Read the label to be sure that you are aware of the ingredients contained in the supplement or formula you are using.
Quality control has also been an issue with chondroitin products: some have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals and/or underdosed.
Make sure you purchase your supplement from a reputable source.
Ideal Chondroitin Dosage
The dosage of chondroitin sulfate used in most definitive studies is 1200 mg per day.
Tablets of chondroitin are often available in strengths of 400 mg or 800 mg.
The recommended dose is generally one or two tablets a day. Chondroitin sulfate supplements should be taken for six to eight weeks to determine whether they are effective in any given case of osteoarthritis
Chondroitin Side Effects
Chondroitin sulfate is generally considered to be safe, although hypersensitivity reactions can occur in some people. In addition, pregnant women, children and people taking prescription blood-thinners (Warfarin/coumadin) should not take chondroitin supplements.
Since it is a natural substance, it appears to have fewer side effects than long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs, which can cause significant stomach irritation and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Nonetheless, some side effects have been reported: gas, bloating and softened stools are the most common.
These symptoms may be more related to the brand of chondroitin used than to the chondroitin itself. If side effects are experienced, switching brands may solve the problem.
I’ve used glucosamine/chondroitin products for years, and have always found them very helpful. I’ve recommended to my weight training buddies, and my mom takes it for her arthritis. It’s a great supplement. Try it on its own or in combination with glucosamine.
To purchase a quality chondriotin-based product online, check out the offerings on iHerb.com, one of our recommended online retailers.