Arthritis is a real pain in the joints — 27 million of us deal with pain and stiffness from the wear-and-tear of osteoarthritis, where the cartilage that covers and cushions the ends of your bones becomes thin or disappears, and your bones rub together and hurt.
Another 2.5 million endure the red, hot, swollen and painful joints of rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to mistakenly identify your cartilage and bones as foreign invaders (like viruses) — and attack them.
Arthritis isn't an "equal opportunity annoyer." It picks on seniors (65% of people over 65 have osteoarthritis) and on women (7 out of 10 people with rheumatoid arthritis). With so many folks afflicted, you'd think modern medicine would offer some good, safe solutions for arthritis pain. Think again.
The most common class of pain-relieving drugs — nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — hospitalizes more than 100,000 Americans a year from bleeding ulcers, and kills more than 16,500.
Adding joint insult to digestive injury, NSAIDs don't slow the progression of arthritis — and may even speed it up.
The best advice? Take steps to optimize joint health, so you can minimize the chances of developing joint problems in the first place.
There are also several nutrients and natural compounds that are uniquely effective for promoting healthy joints:
Glucosamine. Glucosamine is a component of cartilage. When you take a glucosamine-containing supplement, the compound is incorporated into your cartilage molecules, which helps repair joints and reduce the pain that can result from overuse. I recommend the sulfate form (not glucosamine hydrochloride), because sulfate also promotes healthy joint function. The standard dose is 750 milligrams, 2 times daily, taken with or without food.
After six months, you may find that you don't need to take the supplement daily; at that point, you may choose to take it only when your joints feel like they need help.
Chondroitin Sulfate. This compound also helps create, maintain and repair cartilage. One downside is that only 10% is absorbed. To improve absorption, use the "low molecular weight" form of chondroitin. (Look for those words on the label.) The standard dose is 400 mg three times daily, or 1,200 mg in a single dose.
MSM. MSM is an abbreviation for methylsulfonylmethane, a sulfur-containing compound that gives your proteins a key building block needed for tissue repair. Research show that MSM, chondroitin, and glucosamine work well together. It is reasonable to take all 3 of these daily for the first 6 to 12 weeks after you begin the regimen. This will lay a solid nutritional foundation from which you can begin to maintain healthy joint function. After that, you can scale back to a lower dose.
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