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Healing Choices for RA, Issue #012 -- Do glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help?
August 31, 2012

Do glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help?

Hope your summer has been great!

Several readers have asked whether glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help repair joints in RA.

Many advertisements suggest that complex carbohydrates, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, can help heal joints of osteoarthritis patients.

Well, do they heal joints and can they help RA patients?

Their role in cartilage

Cartilage comes in several forms in your body. The cartilage on the ends of your nose and your outside ears is quite flexible. Most bones have cartilage (called articular cartilage) at their ends in joints where they meet.

Articular cartilage is more firm than the nose or ear cartilage because it has to bear weight and be rubbed without being damaged. Articular cartilage can be compressed and bounce back to its original shape. In fact, compression of articular cartilage during exercise releases its fluids including waste and helps it absorb nutrients from the surrounding fluid.

Picture a heavy duty car sponge that you compress, put in clean water, and allow it to absorb the clean water.

Articular Cartilage is made of many repeating components, and some of them can hold a lot of water. Collagen type 2 is the major protein that gives cartilage its shape. Collagen is laid down in a lattice pattern –sorta like a plaid with diagonal strands too.

Hyaluranon is a complex sugar molecule (glucosaminoglycan) that usually parallels the collagen strands. Many units of aggrecan bind to each strand of hyaluranon and collagen. Aggrecan is a protein coated with many chondroitin sulfate units and keratin sulfates.

The complex sugar molecules including chondroitin sulfate units and keratin sulfates and others hold lots of water, which helps support the weight put on articular cartilage. Cartilage is damaged in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

You’d expect that both types of patients will benefit from nutrients essential for rebuilding cartilage. These nutrients usually show significant benefit in osteoarthritis patients.

Why do these nutrients show modest benefit for RA patients?

Several possibilities come to mind:

The diets of only some patients are low in these nutrients. Only those patients who are low in these nutrients gain benefit from eating the supplements. Food sources include gelatin and broth made from bones.

Second, you may need to exercise moderately for your condition to gain the most benefit. After injury, new collagen protein strands are laid down. If the joint receives lots of oxygen, the pattern of new collagen matrix looks like a normal plaid with diagonal strands.

But, if insufficient oxygen is present, the strands are put down any which way. Exercise in moderation (for your condition) can help increase oxygen to the joints—range of motion exercises can also help. Thus, more benefit may occur with a combination of exercise and these nutrients.

Third, other essential nutrients for rebuilding bones and joints may be low in your diet. All of them are needed in the right proportion to rebuild bones efficiently.

As a prelude, I’m almost finished with compiling the known nutrients in a special report on “The Nuts and Bolts of Strong Bones and Joints”.

A recipe for a delicious food rich in these nutrients

It has no food additives or dyes.

One envelope of unflavored Knox gelatin and 2 cups of your favorite juice (apple cider or cranberry-raspberry juice works well). Follow directions on box for a delicious snack or dessert. It has only the sugar in your fruit juice.

I personally find that eating this homemade gelatin reduces pain from overactivity—works slowly…hours to overnight. However, I can do more activity without overexertion since I began eating it regularly.

Here’s to your healing!

Have a great weekend!



Kathy Molnar-Kimber, Ph.D.

P.S. I recently gave a slide presentation on Nutritional deficiencies as a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis in Montreal at a conference on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Very interesting presentations but I’ll write about them another time.

P.P.S. Consultations for a second opinion on your specific case of RA are available. Potential causes and lifestyle suggestions that have helped me reduce and eliminate disruptions from RA symptoms can be discussed. Disclaimer: This information is solely information and not intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate or cure any disease. Discuss any suggestions with your healthcare provider to determine their suitability for your case of RA. Please see the disclaimer.

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