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5 Natural Substances To Protect Your Joints

  1. Collagen- Athletes certainly need the extra collagen in their joints, and should do everything that can maintain it. Athletes can preserve collagen levels in joints by eating a diet high in free-range poultry, wild fish, and shellfish or through supplementation (3-5). In addition, one of the big reasons we advise strongly against NSAIDs use, especially before exercise, is that these drugs abolish the rise in adaptive collagen that occurs in rhythmic exercise such as running (6).
  2. Glucosamine sulfate – A major component of proteoglycans is the chemical glucosamine.  Supply of this chemical is the rate-limiting step that largely controls the renewal of proteoglycans, and thus the rate of cartilage renewal (2). Preformed glucosamine taken as a dietary supplement increases glucosamine levels in joints (7-13).
  3. Chondroitin sulphate – Taken as a supplement, chondroitin sulfate has been successful in increasing the quality and volume of new cartilage in numerous controlled trials over the last 20 years (13-17). From the research overall, we recommend that athletes routinely use glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate daily.  We recommend doubling normal doses of each daily when doing intense training, such as runs longer than 15 miles in preparation for a marathon, or the four weeks before a big game.
  4. Hyaluronan- A major component of the synovial lubricating system of joints is hyaluronan. For 50 years, researchers have been using various formulations of hyaluronic acid to determine if it will increase production of synovial fluid. The big problem has been absorption, because hyaluronic acid is usually a whopping molecule, seemingly too big to pass through the gut wall.  So the usual therapy used with patients involves injecting the hyaluronan directly into the joints. Some oral formulations now offer small molecule hyaluronan to overcome the absorption problem.  Recent reviews of the evidence, however, indicate that even large molecule hyaluronan taken by mouth does increase synovial fluid in joints (7). From this research, we recommend supplementation of hyaluronic acid for athletes.
  5. Methyl-sulphonyl-methane (MSM) – To make new cartilage, the body also needs a lot of sulfur, which is likely why the sulfate form of glucosamine is the most successful in creating cartilage. Combined with alliums in the everyday diet to increase availability of sulfur, we have had great success with runners, especially for knee pain. If you are not getting sufficient alliums, that is onions, garlic, or leeks every day, then we recommend daily supplements of basic sulfur as MSM. There is considerable evidence supporting MSM supplementation (11, 19). If you are going to be a champion resolve today to nurture perfect joints.