Wellness Wednesday - Tools for Choosing Joint Supplements

Photo: Shirley McQuillan
Photo: Shirley McQuillan

Equine joint and connective tissue stress can cause lameness, stiffness and swelling, ultimately affecting the horse’s cooperation, performance and general well being. In many cases, joint health can be supported with regular replenishment of the body’s joint protecting nutrients in oral form to help maintain healthy function. Supplementation is excellent for horses with existing joint problems and can also be implemented as a pre-emptive measure. However, not all nutritional joint products are created equal. Jack Grogan, Certified Nutritionist and Chief Science Officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition, has developed several formulas that work strategically for horses with joint issues specific to their ages and activity levels. He explains that joint supplements provide ingredients that have inherent, tissue protective and natural properties to support joint tissues, such as cartilage, synovial fluid, tendons and ligaments, “The grade of the raw ingredients, the potency and formula combination are important factors that will determine the product's effectiveness.”

Grogan notes important research regarding joint structure that has shown formulas containing Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, Hyaluronic Acid, Silica, Yucca and Devils Claw are significant to joint health, "These nutrients support equine joint health by reducing the potential for joint stress from everyday activities such as trail rides or more competitive, stressful equine endeavors. Knowing what these nutrients are and how they perform in the body will provide you with the tools you need to make educated choices when addressing your horse's joint issues.”

Grogan strongly feels that the most important of all the joint nutraceuticals is Glucosamine, "It is the key building block for tissue integrity, with studies showing that Glucosamine supplementation provides symptomatic relief for pain, more rapid recovery, and partial restoration of joint function. "The two forms of glucosamine in pure form, hydrochloride and sulfate, deliver equally effective amounts of glucosamine. However, the ideal form of glucosamine is hydrochloride, the advantage being that it contains approximately 25 - 30% more pure glucosamine for considerably less cost.”

"Chondroitin Sulfate is the primary substance found in cartilage," Grogan explains, "Its key functions include the ability to inhibit enzymes that degrade cartilage tissue, decrease water retention for synovial fluid production and the ability to utilize glucosamine in the formation of proteoglycans." Proteolglycans organize collegen and water binding to give cartilage its desired flexibility, resiliency and resistance. Chondroitin sulfate has also shown the ability to activate chondrocytes, which produce new collagen.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is found naturally in food and throughout the body. A bio-available source of sulfur, MSM is important for connective tissue production and repair and has been shown to reduce cartilage breakdown by protecting the cartilage tissue. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is also found throughout the body, with the highest concentration in soft connective tissue. HA gives elasticity to the joints and retains water in the cellular matrix. It is important for tissue hydration, lubrication, and proper cellular function.
For many horses, these simple foundation formulas work very well. However, there are times when a stronger, more complex formula is sought, either because of inherent weaknesses or the stress of competitive events.

Additional joint tissue support ingredients that Grogan suggests include:

•Olive Extract is a powerful antioxidant from olive oil and fruit.  It aids in stabilizing cell membranes and supports liver, brain, heart, joint and connective tissue health.  
•Cetylated Fatty Acids (CFA) are a combination of specific fatty acids that support joint and connective tissue health, as well as balanced immune response to stress.  
•Silica is a mineral involved in collagen production and calcium metabolism.  It supports joint, connective tissue, bone, heart and digestive health. Silica supports hair, skin and hoof health, as well as trace mineral metabolism.  
•The Vitamins B-6 and B-5 support the horse’s ability to manage the metabolic distress associated with joint issues.
•The powerful antioxidants, Vitamin C in the buffered form of calcium ascorbate and Grape Seed Extract, can reduce free radical load, as well as minimize the stress associated with greater physical activity.
•Bio-Active Whey Protein is a nutrient that has particular benefit in supporting joint health by balancing immune and gut function.

Grogan points out that many herbs and botanical extracts have shown great promise in supporting joint health, “Yucca and Boswellia extracts enhance the benefits of the foundation ingredients by reducing oxidative stress that can increase free radical formation and generate a greater stress on the joints. Devils Claw Extract, Turmeric Extract, Cat’s Claw, Fever Few, White Willow, Cayenne and other fruits, vegetables and their extracts have shown significant value as part of a well-balanced joint support formula. These plant-based phytonutrients have demonstrated natural antioxidant, anti-free radical activity, tissue fluid balancing effects, as well as discomfort modulating properties.”

Jack Grogan possesses extensive experience in the fields of biology, biochemistry and nutrition, is an expert in tissue mineral balancing, and has demonstrated considerable success in balancing equine mineral chemistry to strengthen the basic metabolism and improve efficiency in horses. Jack is a consultant to numerous veterinarians, chiropractors, trainers, naturopaths and nutritionists.

Uckele Health & Nutrition has been a trusted leader in the formulation, development and manufacture of quality nutritional supplements for fifty years. With leading edge experience in nutritional research and science, the Uckele team provides private label and custom manufacturing from concept to shelf, formulating a vast array of high potency, balanced nutritional supplements to support optimal health and performance at the highest level.