Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain, inflammation and limited joint movement.
In osteoarthritis the joint that is affected has degenerated cartilage. As this is the cushion between the joints, one gets bone rubbing against bone and thus pain, inflammation and lack of mobility follows. Standard treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. Brufen, Orudis) or by injection with steroids (e.g. cortisone). mask the symptoms and relieve the pain as the disease progresses and deleterious side effects may occur.
Since the mid 1990s, excellent results have however best achieved with a combination of natural nutritional supplementscombining glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate.
Firstly healthy cartilage needs three things: water for lubrication and nourishment, proteoglycans to attract and hold the water, and collagen to keep the proteoglycans in place.
Proteoglycans are like a rope that threads itself through the collage and are essential as they hold many times their own weight of water, which both lubricates and nourishes the collagen. If the cartilage is damaged the thread of rope becomes weak and ‘leaks’ out and thus the collagen loses its nourishment as the proteoglycans lose their grip and float away. Thus the cartilage cannot withstand shocks, cracks and may wear out completely.
Glucosamine is a major building block of the water- loving proteoglycans. In addition its presence acts as a stimulus to the cells that produce proteoglycans – in fact glucosamine is a key factor in determining how many proteoglycans are produced by the cells. Glucosamine has been shown to speed up production of both proteoglycans and collagen and it normalises cartilage metabolism which helps keep cartilage from breaking down.
Thus because of the affect of glucosamine on cartilage metabolism it can help the body to repair damaged or eroded cartilage.
Besides stimulating cartilage production, glucosamine also reduces joint pain and inflammation.
Where glucosamine helps form the proteoglycans that sit within the space in the cartilage, chondroitin sulphate acts like ‘liquid magnets’. Chondroitin is a long chain of repeating nigans that attracts fluid into the proteoglycan molecules. This is important for two reasons:
- the fluid acts as a spongy shock absorber
- the fluid sweeps the nutrients into the cartilage. Joint cartilage has no blood supply thus all of its nourishment and lubrication comes from the fluid that ebbs and flows as pressure is applied and released to the joint. Without this fluid, cartilage would become malnourished, drier, thinner and more fragile.
HOW CHRONDROITON SULPHATE WORKS
Chrondoiton Sulphate is a long chain molecule with a negative charge attached to it. As these chains wrap around proteoglycans they repel each other and thus create spaces between each proteoglycan. These are what are known as matrixes within the cartilage and this is where the fluid flows. There may be as many as 10,000 of these chains on a single proteoglycan molecule – thus we have a super water retainer as these chains make sure all these molecules are away from each other and cannot clump together.
Besides drawing in precious fluid, chondroitin :
- protects cartilage and stops it from breaking down and inhibits certain ‘cartilage chewing’ enzymes
- interferes with the metabolism of other enzymes that will starve the cartilage of fluid
- stimulates production of proteoglycans, glucosamine and collagen.