by Ben Fuchs
Connective tissue (CT) is one of the four types of tissues that form the human body. (The others are the nervous, muscle and covering or “epithelial” tissue.) The connective tissue supports all the other tissues by binding them together. The connective tissue also nourishes, oxygenates, electrifies and detoxifies all the cells of the body. The connective tissue includes bones and the internal material within which the various organs of the body are embedded. The skin gets its resilience from supportive connective tissue, that is located in the dermis. The heart sits on a framework of connective tissue. The strength and elasticity of the arteries, veins, capillaries and lymphatic vessels depends on connective tissue, while even the blood itself is a type of liquid (actually gel) connective tissue.
Interestingly, the cells that compose the connective tissue are NOT connected to each other. They come close but they don’t touch. Rather, the spaces between CT cells are filled in with “grout”, which is really a type of jelly or biological gel substance, that is secreted from connective tissue producing cells (fibroblasts). This gel plays a major determining factor in the health of the connective tissue.
This jelly-like material is a type of matrix and, because it is secreted outside of cells, it is called an extra-cellular matrix or ECM. This ECM is the prime determinant of the health of connective tissue and the body as whole. That’s because, the way the system works, the ECM is responsible for feeding, breathing and detoxifying cells. Once the ECM becomes defective or clogged up, with cell breakdown, death and disease begins. When we talk about connective tissue disease, when we talk about aging, when we talk about cancer, when we talk about ALL health challenges, what we are really talking about is some defect in the extracellular matrix. So, while all disease is cell disease, cell disease begins with a defective ECM.
Cartilage is a classic example of ECM. Collagen is a component of the ECM. Hyaluronic acid is a component of the ECM, as is chondroitin, bone, tendons, ligaments, muscle, and even blood (aside from the red and white cells). That means that pretty much all health issues that involve the structure of the body are at least partially issues with the extra-cellular matrix.
That makes working on producing a healthy ECM a critical element of health, wellness and anti-aging. Once the ECM is formed, there’s not much that can be done, but what we can do is work on tomorrows ECM. That means working with fibroblasts by ingesting nutrients that support the health of the fibroblasts and giving the body raw materials that the fibroblasts can use to make a healthy ECM.
One of the most important of these supportive nutrients is a glucose derivative called glucosamine, an abundant sugar molecule that is produced in the human body. It’s found in cartilaginous foods like pig snouts and chicken feet, as well as the shells of shrimp, crabs and lobsters. Mushrooms are also a good source of this important biological raw material. Of course, the most important source of glucosamine, for most folks, is in dietary supplements, where it is derived primarily from the chitin, that forms the exoskeleton of crustaceans (crabs, prawns, and lobsters), as well as the cells of fungi.
Once ingested, glucosamine enters into the blood stream and is delivered to the fibroblasts (the cells that form the connective tissue). There it plays a key role in the production of hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, as well as keratan sulfate, which, along with collagen, are the most important components of the extracellular matrix. In fact, glucosamine production is the rate-limiting step in GAG synthesis. Without it, the ECM could not be produced. By eating glucosamine rich foods and by using glucosamine as a nutritional supplement, the production of a healthy extracellular matrix can be supported.
9 Ways glucosamine can slow down the aging process and keep you healthy
1. Strengthens circulatory vessels
2. Liquifies Blood improving delivery of nutrients to extremities
3. Improves production of bone mass
4. Prevents fine lines and wrinkles
5. Supports skin moisturization and reduces dry skin
6. Facilitates electrical conduction in the heart
7. Supports intestines, improving symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome and bowel disease
8. Enhances the production of joint cartilage and reduces arthritis inflammation
9. Helps reduce receding gums and helps prevent gum disease.