Arthritis: Glucosamine, Chondroitin, or MSM?
I think the most common question I seem to get is “What can I do naturally for arthritis” followed by “What is better glucosamine, chondroitin, or MSM?”
Those are great questions and first before I begin would like to just start a brief tirade about the use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) otherwise known as the common pain relievers that we use to treat temporary pain such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
Now the KEY to the sentence I just typed is the word “temporary”.
NSAIDS and heaven forbid cortisone injections (please only do this as a last resort as cortisone completely shuts down your joints ability to repair as does stress) are simply a quick fix for pain and not a great long term solution as they actually INHIBIT the synthesis of cartilage.
Isn’t that why we have osteoarthritis in the first place? The meniscus (shock pad between joints) is made of cartilage right? As we age it gets worn down and our joint space naturally diminshes, loses lubrication and eventually as a result we are in severe pain because we have bone rubbing on bone. Ouch!
Now that everyone is hip to the fact that NSAIDS are not a great long term solution for joint pain, let’s talk about the things that are.
The answer to the question of “What is better glucosamine, chondroitin, or MSM?” is “all of the above”. A good student when in doubt always picks “all of the above” or “C”. Now you could effectively choose “C” for chondroitin and that would not be a bad answer, but chondroitin is also pretty pricey so most people buy it with glucosamine and MSM. Glucosamine was shown to reduce arthritis symptoms in 80% of people after just three weeks. Now 80% is FANTASTIC for any drug in a research study. So you can’t go wrong with glucosamine on its own.
Personally I am not convinced that glucosamine is better than chondroitin or vice versa. So in this case we can easily choose “all of the above” because great research studies support the efficacy and safety of all three. So why not use them all together for a nice synergistic effect? Especially a great option for those with severe arthritis. You want to make sure that you are constantly topping off these nutrients that help the joints regenerate. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is typically the least helpful of the three but is also super cheap so in a pinch is better than nothing, and it is great for irritable bladder and the skin.
Be sure to buy a brand that passed the independent laboratory testing through Consumer Labs. Their studies revealed concern surrounding some crab and shrimp sources of glucosamine and chondroitin being contaminated with lead. Now something that we take three times a day should not have lead in it! I usually recommend Twinlab as I have yet to see any of their products fail any tests. As much as I am not a fan of Costco, their Kirkland brand passed with flying colors. Remember that the FDA does not regulate supplements in America so if you want your natural substance to work you need to shop smart. Many chondroitin products do not contain nearly the amount of chondroitin that they purport on the label.
If you have pets please give them human grade products! So many of the pet products in this study FAILED. To determine dosage for your dog or cat you can simply divide their weight by the average human weight of 150 pounds take that number and use it to divide the typical human dose of glucosamine of 1500mg up. So for instance my Golden Retriever weighs 75 pounds so I give him 750 mg of glucosamine daily. This would be an upper limit dose for more severe arthritis. A maintenance dose would be in the range of 250mg per 40 pounds of body weight.
If glucosamine causes digestive upset you should take it in divided doses. Everyone with arthritis should most likely be taking fish oil as an anti-inflammatory measure, and I will write on herbal medicine for arthritis in an upcoming article.
Hope that helps clear up some common questions. If you found this article helpful you are welcome to pass it along to a friend and subscribe for future updates. Please do drop any other questions in the comments section of this article.