Whether you're trying to bone up on nutrients to help prevent osteoporosis, maintain healthy cartilage, or ease the discomfort of osteoarthritis, supplements may help. Consider taking one or more of the products described below, with your doctor's supervision. And be sure to eat an anti-inflammatory diet and get regular exercise, including weight-bearing routines and plenty of walking.
Calcium and vitamin D. Once believed to be the single most important nutrient for bone protection, calcium's effects on healthy bones have recently been overshadowed by those of vitamin D, which research suggests may be just as important for strong bones. Your best bet is to make sure that you get enough of both: People who don't get enough calcium may lose bone mass faster and fracture bones more easily. And at least one recent study found that vitamin D may be the key to efficiently absorbing and using calcium (Journal of the American Medical Association, November 9, 2005). Women should supplement with 500-700 mg of calcium citrate in two divided doses taken with meals for a total of 1,000-1,200 mg from all sources; men shouldn't exceed 600 mg daily, and probably do not need to supplement, since higher amounts are linked to prostate cancer risk. Both men and women should supplement with 2,000 IU of vitamin D (as D3, cholecalciferol) a day.
Glucosamine and chondroitin. These two supplements are from substances naturally found in healthy cartilage. Research suggests that glucosamine sulfate - alone or in combination with chondroitin sulfate - appears to relieve pain, improve joint mobility, and slow osteoarthritis-related damage to the joints. If you weigh between 120 and 200 pounds, take 1,500 mg of glucosamine and 1,200 mg of chondroitin daily and expect to wait up to two months to see results. These supplements may interact with drugs like diuretics and blood thinners, so let your doctor know that you're taking them.
Natural anti-inflammatory compounds, including turmeric, ginger, and boswellia, may work as well as aspirin and ibuprofen for treating osteoarthritis. Follow package directions and give it at least two months to fully work. Ginger may thin the blood, so consult your doctor before taking it with other blood thinning drugs such as aspirin and Coumadin or with herbs such as ginkgo.
SAMe. This naturally occurring molecule (S-adenosy-L-methioine) delivers sulfur to your cartilage, which helps build strong joints. Research suggests that SAMe may be as effective as drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen at relieving joint pain and improving function (Journal of Family Practice, May 2002). Take 400 mg twice a day for two weeks, then decrease to 200 mg twice a day thereafter. Choose enteric-coated products labeled "butanedisulfonate," which is the most stable form.
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