Ease Aching Joints
Photography by: Jim Wehtje
Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate
Glucosamine is one of the building blocks of joint cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate, which is said to work best with glucosamine, is a long chain molecule in cartilage that helps keep it elastic. There’s some controversy as to how effective glucosamine is in building cartilage and relieving pain, but there is research that shows long-term use may improve cartilage structure, even if you don’t notice symptom changes.
Buying guide: Rexall’s Osteo Bi-Flex or Nature Made’s Triple Flex, both of which contain glucosamine and chondroitin.
Dosage: 1,500 of glucosamine once daily, 800-1,200 milligrams daily. Be patient: If you don’t notice any reduction in pain after three months, try increasing your dosage by 1.5 to two times the suggested intake.
Need to know: If you’re a vegetarian or allergic to shellfish (used to make most glucosamine), look for a vegetarian variety of a glucosamine-only product. Chondrotin is always derived from animal products.
SAM-e (short for S-Adenosylmethionine) is a naturally occurring amino acid derivative that regulates some of the body’s metabolic reactions. In joints it appears to help build one component of cartilage. A University of California, Irvine study found it was as effective as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug at relieving osteoarthritis symptoms.
Buying guide: Look for a non-synthetic product, like Nature Made Mood Plus SAM-e.
Dosage: 800 to 1,600 mg daily; always take SAM-e on an empty stomach.
Need to know: SAM-e, also valued for its antidepressant properties, may cause mood changes related to an increase in serotonin. Some doctors suggest taking B-vitamins with SAM-e, since large doses can raise your levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which might put you at risk of heart disease.
Avocado-Soy Unsaponifiables (ASU)
ASU is a natural extract of phytosterols from avocados and soybeans, which have antiinflammatory benefits. Several studies in Europe, where it has been available since the 1980s, have found that ASU not only reduces joint inflammation, it may also promote the repair of both cartilage and smooth bone surfaces. ASU supplements may work better when taken with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, according to a new study.
Dosage: 300 mg once a day.
Buying guide: Cosamin ASU, by Nutramax; Avosoy (developed by Theodosakis; see drtheos.com).
Need to know: Don’t take ASU if you’re allergic to its food sources: avocados or soy.