Best Joint Supplements
Joint pain and stiffness is one of the most common problems among adults, affecting around one-third of all adults at any given time, and it is more likely to affect people as they get older. Because of this, many people take joint supplements either to prevent joint problems or to treat the symptoms they already have due to existing problems.
How do it work in the body?
The specific role that a joint supplement plays in the body depends on what type of supplement it is, but they all aim to reduce pain and stiffness or to improve and maintain mobility in the joints. One popular type of joint supplement, glucosamine, is a compound found naturally in the body that contributes to the growth and repair of tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and synovial fluid. When taken as a supplement, it encourages the production of these tissues and prevents them from deteriorating as they do in a condition like arthritis.
Another common joint supplement, chondroitin, is also found in the body, primarily in cartilage. It prevents damage to cartilage by helping the tissue to retain water and be somewhat elastic, so as a supplement, it encourages these characteristics and prevents tissue damage.
Conditions Treated with Joint Supplements
The two popular joint supplements mentioned above are proven treatments for pain and other symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. In osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage is worn away from the ends of bones, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility in the joint.
Joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin may help to build this tissue back up over time, thereby reducing symptoms. Interestingly, there is evidence that chondroitin is also an effective treatment for individuals with cataracts; the eyes can be protected during cataract surgery with a chondroitin solution. Kashin-Beck disease, a disorder affecting children and adolescents in which the joints become stiff and deformed over time, may also be improved with the use of joint supplements.
However, more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of this treatment.
Conditions Prevented with Joint Supplements
Surprisingly, there is not much overlap between the conditions that can be treated with joint supplements and those prevented by joint supplements. Osteoarthritis, for example, does not seem to be prevented by the use of joint supplements, even though joint supplements are very effective at treating it. There is some evidence that taking joint supplements, especially glucosamine, lowers the risk of heart disease, but the details of this link and the type of supplement that is most effective are unclear.
Similarly, joint supplements may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but this is not well understood, either. Some types of chondroitin may lower the risk of heart attack, both in people who have never had a heart attack and those who have suffered at least one in the past.
Some different supplements may help with joint problems, including those we have discussed already and others.
- Glucosamine - This building block for many types of tissue is commonly found in the form’s glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride. Glucosamine sulfate seems to be the more effective form when taken without additional “helper” supplements.
- Chondroitin - This is often found in the same joint supplements like glucosamine, although there is little evidence for an increased benefit from using them together as opposed to separately. It effectively reduces pain with a lower risk of side effects than over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and pain relievers, so it may be a safer long-term option for many people.
- Methylsulfonylmethane - This compound is often part of joint supplement blends that include glucosamine, chondroitin, or both. Some studies have shown it to reduce joint pain and inflammation, but it is not as well understood as the previous two.
- Turmeric - Turmeric is a spice made from the root of the turmeric plant, and many people take it as a supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties. The active component of turmeric is called curcumin, which has been shown to reduce joint pain as well as NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
- Boswellia - Another natural anti-inflammatory supplement. It is often used together with turmeric curcumin to treat inflammation and joint pain. Some studies have found that the combination is more effective than either of the supplements alone.
If you have or are concerned about joint health problems, discuss the possibility of using a joint supplement with your doctor. Then you can check our top ten list to find the best joint supplement that suits your personal needs.
Some of these joint supplements can be consumed in the diet, but others are only available as a supplement. Let’s take a look at sources for the five types of supplements we mentioned above.
- Glucosamine - There are no food sources of glucosamine. The compound is found in many animal tissues, but not ones that we eat. For example, glucosamine supplements are often made using the shells of lobster and shrimp.
- Chondroitin - Like glucosamine, chondroitin is not usually found in animal tissues that we would consider food. Pig ears and noses, as well as cow tracheas, are common sources of chondroitin extract. You could get chondroitin from food if you prepared a soup using bones or gristle, but the amount of chondroitin that you would consume from this is negligible.
- Methylsulfonylmethane - Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is found in lots of different food sources. Milk, coffee, tea, and green vegetables are just a few examples of good food sources of MSM.
- Turmeric - You could say that turmeric is a food source itself since it’s a spice. Turmeric can be used on nearly any dish, so it’s very easy to incorporate into your diet if you want to.
- Boswellia - Boswellia is natural, like turmeric, but it isn’t used as a spice or found in as many foods. Some food products may use its oil, but it is most effective as an individual supplement.
Benefits of Joint Supplements
Of course, the main benefit that people take joint supplements for is the improvement of pain, stiffness, and other joint symptoms. You may find other benefits as well, depending on the type of joint supplement. Some joint supplements, especially chondroitin, can also have benefits for eye health, such as protection during cataract surgery and improvement of dry eye. Many joint supplements, including glucosamine and turmeric, can offer improvements in chronic inflammatory conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
Glucosamine is generally regarded as safe, with few and mild side effects. Some people may experience nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or heartburn when they start taking glucosamine.
Chondroitin is also generally safe, with similar mild side effects as glucosamine. Nausea and another mild stomach upset may occur while taking chondroitin. Bloating, constipation, diarrhea, headache, and other more serious side effects have occasionally been reported.
MSM is regarded as safe to take for short periods up to three months. It may cause digestive symptoms or worsen existing allergy symptoms.
Turmeric, as a spice often eaten even without consideration for the health benefits, is very safe. When taken at high medicinal doses, stomach upset may occur.
Boswellia is considered safe to take for up to 6-8 months as a supplement, and usually, no side effects occur. Digestive symptoms and headaches have been reported by some people.
Precautions and Warnings
Some types of joint supplements can be unsafe to take during pregnancy, especially at high doses, and others have not been studied in pregnant women. If you are trying to conceive, you should discuss the safety of joint supplements with your doctor.
There is some concern that glucosamine and chondroitin could worsen asthma, and there has been at least one report of glucosamine use being linked to an asthma attack. This relationship is unclear, so until more information comes to light, asthmatic individuals should avoid these types of supplements unless specifically directed otherwise by a doctor.
Glucosamine is likely safe for individuals with diabetes, but blood sugar should be monitored closely with this treatment. Some research indicates that chondroitin could increase the risk of recurrence of prostate cancer in men with a history of prostate cancer. Until this relationship is better understood, men with prostate cancer or a family history of prostate cancer should avoid taking chondroitin as a joint supplement.
How long do I take a joint supplement?
The length of treatment with joint supplements depends on the type of joint supplement you are using, the dose you are taking, and the condition you are treating.
Many chronic conditions, such as osteoarthritis, cannot be cured, making long-term treatment very important.
However, some types of joint supplement are only confirmed to be safe for several months. When starting a joint supplement, make sure that your doctor is aware of your medical history and any other medications you are taking. This will allow them to advise you on the type of supplement and length of treatment that would be safest for you.
Warfarin, which is used to slow blood clotting, and some forms of chemotherapy should not be combined with glucosamine. Warfarin also should not be used with chondroitin. MSM has no known drug interactions. Cautions should be used when combining turmeric with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs. Boswellia has no known drug interactions.
There are a variety of joint supplements available to treat and prevent many different conditions. Talk with your doctor to see what kind of joint supplement might be right for you and your personal needs. When you know what you are looking for, check in with our list of the ten best joint supplements to choose a high-quality product that would work for you.
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