Chondroitin is actually naturally found in the human body and like collagen, is a major component of cartilage which is the tough connecting tissue that cushions joints. Commercial chondroitin is taken from natural sources such as shark cartilage or synthetically produced.
It’s role is to maintain cartilage health by absorbing fluid (mainly water) into connective tissue. It not only protects, however, as chondroitin also blocks the enzymes that break down cartilage and influences the production of new cartilage.
Although this supplement is mainly being studied for its effects on joints and inflammation, it may also help reduce pain associated with various conditions. It’s often offered in combination with glucosamine, contributing to overall collagen production, as well as cartilage and bone support.
What is Chondroitin?
Chondroitin is a chemical that’s naturally found in cartilage that surrounds joints throughout the body. Its main effect is the reduction of pain and inflammation, improving overall joint function and slowing the progression of related joint and bone conditions.
Although research is mixed, we do know that Chondroitin enhance shock-absorbing properties of collagen, blocking enzymes that break down cartilage. It is also believed that Chondroitin retains water, helping reverse cartilage loss.
Often being used to treat conditions like osteoarthritis, helps reduce pain. Since this condition occurs when cartilage in the joints breaks down, taking Chondroitin can help slow down this process. Some users also take Chondroitin for heart disease, anemia, osteoporosis, and high cholesterol.
What is Chondroitin Used For?
Chondroitin has several applications in terms of therapeutic use and treatment. Most Chondroitin is sourced from extracting cartilage from pig and cow tissues, however, other sources include sharks, birds, and fish.
Based on its effects, chondroitin is believed to target symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA). Since this condition’s main characteristics include a breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage, chondroitin can help reduce the negative impact osteoarthritis has, particularly within the hips and knees. Based on research, it’s believed that individuals with osteoarthritis can experience some benefits when taking Chondroitin.
Although research and results have varied, chondroitin has been found to:
- Reduce pain associated with OA
- Improves functioning in both the knees and hips of OA patients
- Reduces swelling and stiffness within joints
- Provide relief from OA symptoms for three months after treatment has finished
- Improve eye health in terms of cataracts and dry eyes
- Reduce bladder inflammation
- Reduce soreness after exercising
Results continue to be mixed and further research will need to be conducted. Most studies have shown that chondroitin should be taken for two to four months before individuals expect benefits, although some notice improvements sooner.
In one study, it was found that chondroitin helped to relieve symptoms of interstitial cystitis. This condition makes people feel as though they constantly need to urinate while experiencing pelvic pain. In another study, when taken orally, chondroitin helped reduce symptoms of an overactive bladder.
Chondroitin is used in order to cushion joints, preventing your bones from rubbing together. Chondroitin also absorbs water, allowing your cartilage to stay hydrated and healthy. Once again, this is what aids in symptoms of osteoarthritis. Some of the other conditions chondroitin has shown to positively impact include:
Bone disease: A study reported the positive effects of chondroitin on people who suffer from Kaschin-Beck disease, which cause bone issues, as well as joint stiffness and pain
Coronary artery disease: Chondroitin is believed to improve the symptoms and fatality of coronary artery disease.
Eye disorders: Chondroitin may be found within treatments that target eye conditions, such as cornea inflammation and dry eyes.
Muscle soreness: When suffering from inflammation and pain, chondroitin could help soothe sore muscles. Once again, more research is needed to confirm this.
Potential Side Effects and Precautions
Chondroitin is considered to be safe and relatively free from side effects when taken within the recommended dose. When doses are higher or taken for long periods of time, some people may experience drowsiness, allergic reactions, stomach issues, and headaches.
If you suffer from asthma, chondroitin may make your symptoms worse. The same is true for those who suffer from bleeding disorders, diabetes, and prostate cancer. For diabetics, chondroitin could potentially affect your blood sugar readings and interfere with medication.
In terms of prostate cancer, some research has shown that chondroitin may actually spread or cause the recurrence of prostate cancer. This effect was not shown when testing chondroitin sulfate supplements. Although more research needs to be conducted, don’t take chondroitin if you have had prostate cancer in the past or you’re at a higher risk of developing it based on genetics.
If you are taking any blood thinners or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), speak to your doctor before taking chondroitin. Since chondroitin is similar to heparin, a common anticoagulant drug, it may enhance blood-thinning effects. Regarding NSAIDs, chondroitin may reduce the dose you need to take.
Chondroitin is generally sold in capsules or tablets. As mentioned, it’s often combined with glucosamine and in more rare cases, manganese as well. This supplement is not recommended for children and is mainly used to target osteoarthritis, which typically targets older adults. For adults, 400 mg should be taken three times daily or 600 mg twice daily.