Jun 25, 2012 Joint solutions: a look at four popular supplements that promise less soreness and faster healing for achy joints - Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, by Brian Rowley Hidden causes of weight gain: If you're doing everything right but still gaining weight, a medical problem could be to blame. Here, five frequently missed culprits behind excess pounds - Health The sour truth about apple cider vinegar - evaluation of therapeutic use 10 questions your gynecologist wants you to ask: don't be shy; speaking up could save your life Get Ripped in 12 weeks: is your lean bodybuilding physique hidden under a layer of fat? Don't waste another second—shred up for spring with this scientifically designed high-octane training, diet and supplementation program 12 tips for healthy hair: get the shine, movement and softness you desire—fast and easy—with our expert advice from top pros as good as weight training and cardio exercise are for your body, they can cause wear and tear on your joints, ligaments and tendons, preventing you from lifting weights and doing cardio as often as you'd like. Although your body can fix itself on the fly, damage accumulates if the rate of wear and tear is greater than the rate of repair. If your shoulders are popping, your hip joints are starting to grind, or you have other exercise-related aches and pains, you need to control inflammation and prevent further damage. Unfortunately, the nonsteroidal and-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that most people use, including Motrin IB and aspirin, can have side effects like stomach ulcers, kidney problems and ringing in the ears. These drugs also hamper joint healing and even the muscle-building process itself, which is why an increasing number of active women are choosing alternative approaches. Use this article as your guide to the best supplements for joints--you'll enjoy less soreness and faster healing after your workouts. Glucosamine & Chondroitin Sulfate These two great alternatives to NSAIDs belong to a class called glycosaminoglycans, which are natural building blocks used to build and repair joint cartilage and fascia, another type of connective tissue. (See "Joint Jargon" at left for a glossary of connective-tissue terms, and "Injury Aid" at right for how to deal with common injuries to connective tissue caused by sports.) Glucosamine and chondroitin are used to build the "ground substance" of joint cartilage, with collagen being the other major component. Because your body can make glucosamine only slowly, taking it as a supplement may effectively speed the healing of your joints after exercise. Studies have even shown glucosamine and chondroitin to be effective against arthritis in clinical settings, making these supplements first-line treatments for most people with joint complaints. Unlike fish oil extracts, which reduce inflammatory damage to joints, glucosamine and chondroitin primarily enhance the rebuilding process of cartilage and fascia. As a result, glucosamine and chondroitin are best added to a supplementation regimen that includes (at different times) fish oil extracts and anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and Motrin IB (glucosamine restores the rate of cartilage healing after aspirin has suppressed it). Chondroitin is made up of chains of galactosamine (made from glucosamine) and glucuronic acid (made from glucose), It's closer to being cartilage than glucosamine is, but some experts suggest that it isn't as well absorbed. Chondroitin is also a bit more expensive at about $1 per gram vs. approximately $0.66 per gram of glucosamine, and it's not as aggressively marketed. Still, evidence suggests it's about as good as glucosamine at supporting renewal of joint cartilage and reducing symptoms of arthritis. Buy chondroitin in particular from a large, reliable manufacturer. Neither supplement is a quick fix; they both generally rake about 2-4 months to work. Take 500 rag of glucosamine or 400 mg of chondroitin three times per day for several months for best results, not necessarily all the time but certainly at times when you're recovering from wear and tear on your joints or if you have arthritis. Side effects are rare but include stomach upset, skin rash, an increase in insulin levels in diabetics and possibly increased insulin resistance. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Unlike glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids don't assist in the rebuilding of joints but instead reduce wear and tear. For example, clinical trials have found omega-3s to be useful for arthritis if enough is taken for several months, and they're likely to reduce wear and tear caused by exercise as well. Of course, omega-3 fatty acids are also considered essential to good health. One of the best omega-3 supplements for joints is fish oil extract, which is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both fight joint-damaging enzymes called collagenases and reduce inflammation, factors believed to play a role in arthritis as well as other aches and pains. As a result, fish oil is a great supplement for reducing joint and tendon pain and preventing wear and tear. In fact, a number of top-notch clinical trials have found that about 6 grams per day of 30% omega-3 fish oil extract reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. That's why eating fish at least twice per week -- especially oily, cold-water varieties like salmon, trout and water-packed tuna -- or taking fish oil capsules is recommended. At first glance, fish oil has the drawback of being generally lower in omega-3 fatty acids than flaxseed oil: 30% omega-3s for most fish oil preparations vs. 55% omega-3s for flaxseed oil. Yet EPA and DHA are about 11 times more potent than alphalinolenic acid (ALA from flaxseed oil), and recent fish oil concentrates contain as much as 92% omega-3 fatty acids. Buying a more concentrated fish oil capsule reduces the pills you have to swallow to four 500 mg capsules per day. Tell your doctor if you're on blood-thinning medication or drugs for arthritis, as fish or flaxseed oils may increase risk of bruising or bleeding under these circumstances. SAMe SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine), often pronounced "Sammy," is a co-enzyme used by the body to make anything from natural mood elevators like dopamine in the brain to building blocks for joint repair like glucosamine. As a result, SAMe has been prescribed both for depression and arthritis alike. Although less proven than glucosamine as a joint remedy SAMe has both anti-inflammatory and joint-rebuilding effects, and shows promise as a second-rung supplement for aches and pains. Since inflammation and the free radicals that result from it are responsible for much of the joint damage post-exercise, SAMe appears to protect joints as well as help rebuild them. Studies suggest that the supplement reduces joint degeneration and arthritis, and SAMe has been recommended for people with fibromyalgia syndrome, a disorder characterized by muscle pain, stiffness, fatigue and other symptoms. SAMe's ability to protect the liver from certain poisons is also noteworthy and overall this supplement is worth a try in cases where glucosamine, fish oil and conventional medicine have failed to treat or prevent post-workout stiffness and soreness. Normally, 800-1,200 mg of SAMe per day is used for achy joints and/or inflammation. Take it on an empty stomach as two or three 400 tag doses (morning and noon) with a B-complex vitamin, This will help prevent the rare side effects of dry mouth, restlessness and tummy trouble. Since SAMe is destroyed by light, buy tablets that are individually wrapped in foil or housed in an opaque (not see-through) bottle. Avoid SAMe if you're taking antidepressants or suffering from bipolar syndrome or other psychiatric disorder SAMe is pricey so we've included it in our joint cocktail in the "optional" section. TMG Also called betaine or trimethylglycine, TMG is related to SAMe in that it helps build glucosamine while also having direct anti-inflammatory effects, TMG is made from beet sugar and, along with certain vitamins, it helps detoxify drugs and poisons and helps protect the liver in a fashion similar to SAMe. TMG regenerates SAMe and may help it work, as well as reduces blood homocysteine levels along with Vitamin [B.sub.6], folic acid and Vitamin [B.sub.12] (homocysteine is associated with heart attacks). TMG also reduces gut damage resulting from the use of aspirin, and presumably other anti-inflammatory drugs like Motrin. About 300-500 mg per day of betaine or TMG has often been taken in conjunction with SAMe. No side effects have been reported at the recommended doses. Don't take betaine during a urinary tract infection, as it may work against your doctor's prescribed medication for treating this condition.