Glucosamine is basically a compound of amino sugar – something made by our body. While glucosamine is commonly present in our kidneys and liver, a lot of times, it is also present in cartilage. Glucosamine is obtained from glucose molecules and it is thought to assist in mending the injured cartilage, generate new cartilage, act as a cushion for our joints, alleviate pain as well as diminish inflammation.
Glucosamine is also available in the form of a man-made dietary supplement by means of taking out amino sugars from the shellfish tissues, for instance lobster and crab. In addition, glucosamine sulfates – salts produced artificially that are obtained from glucosamine that occurs naturally. Occasionally, these salts are blended with chondroitin sulfates with a view to facilitate alleviating the symptoms related to arthritis as well as other excruciating conditions that affect the ligaments, joints and tendons. However, compared to the glucosamine that is extracted from the tissues of shellfish, the sulfates are less potent.
According to the latest available data, people taking dietary supplements containing glucosamine experience the same extent of relief from pain and decreased inflammation that is achieved by taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicaments), such as ibuprofen or aspirin. In addition, people who find it difficult to pop up pills may take the liquid form of glucosamine supplement.
Compared to using NSAIDs, glucosamine supplements have very few adverse side effects in the patients. However, people having diabetes ought to take special precautions while taking glucosamine supplement, because it is always obtained from glucose. Therefore, it is prudent for people with diabetes to check with a physician prior to using the supplement and also undergo frequent blood examinations while they are using glucosamine.
In addition, people who have allergic reactions to shellfish ought to be careful while taking glucosamine supplement. In effect, shellfish allergies generally hint that the person actually has allergic reactions when he/ she takes the proteins present in shellfish. Interestingly, glucosamine is drawn from a carbohydrate variety, instead of protein. Nevertheless, those who have allergic reactions to glucosamine ought to check with a medical practitioner prior to using it. Even pregnant women and nursing mothers should consult their physician before taking glucosamine. Here is a word of caution: glucosamine should never be given to children.
Since glucosamine is a food supplement, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States does not regulate the purity as well as the amount of glucosamine in products containing it and sold in the market. It is advisable that before you opt for any product containing glucosamine, you should compare all similar products available commercially and/ or seek the help of your pharmacist in helping you to select the supplement that is most appropriate for you. Always be careful to select a familiar and reputed brand name, which provides guarantee for its products.
Osteoarthritis, also known as ‘wear-and-tear arthritis’, and rheumatoid arthritis, caused by soreness of the joints are the most widespread forms of arthritis. While the two conditions are extremely dissimilar, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are distinguished by their nature to destroy the connective tissues, especially the cartilage – the soft and flexible bone-like material that develops on the periphery of the joints enabling their smooth movement. The bone endings are left bare when the cartilage wears out and this leads to pain, rigidity as well as swelling around the joints. Recently, medicos have been advocating the use of a substance called glucosamine for curing arthritis. In fact, glucosamine is a normal component of cartilage that invigorates the manufacture of connective tissues in human’s body.
It has been found that the production of glucosamine in the body declines significantly as people age. Owing to the deficiency of glucosamine, the cartilage becomes incapable of holding on to water and function as a shock absorber. Different researches on the subject have demonstrated that taking glucosamine enhancement diets helps in alleviating pain caused by arthritis and also thwart the progress of the ailment in patients. Regular usage of glucosamine supplements helps in dealing with the primary cause of arthritis by reinstating and repairing the worn out cartilage. It has been found that anti-inflammatory or placatory medications provide faster relief than glucosamine, but the fact remains that glucosamine is ultimately more effectual over a period of time. This primarily owing to the fact that while the consequences of the anti-inflammatory drugs abates soon, glucosamine continues to function effectively inside the body for a longer period. At the same time, use of glucosamine is safe, almost without any adverse side affects, while the anti-inflammatory drugs often leads to minor problems for the arthritis patient. In order to get the best from the use of glucosamine, it is advisable to take the substance with two other supplements – chondroitin that is also present in cartilage, and a natural hormone known as pregnenolone. The grouping of these three supplements has two advantages – relief from arthritis pain as well as stimulation of the process to manufacture new cartilage in the body.
Short-term controlled clinical trials with osteoarthritis patients have demonstrated that the use of glucosamine is effectual not only in alleviating pain, but also boosting the range of movement. A double-blind clinical trial conducted for four weeks on 252 osteoarthritis patients suffering from knee problems showed that administering them 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate thrice daily was more effectual than placebo or the normal medications used to treat the disorder in alleviating pain. During another double-blind clinical trial on 200 osteoarthritis patients suffering from knee problems for four weeks, researchers found that administering 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate to these patients was as helpful in alleviating pain as drugs like ibuprofen 400 mg taken three times daily from the second week of the trial on. Again, during another double-blind clinical trial conducted for eight weeks with 40 osteoarthritis patients, researchers administered 400 mg of glucosamine sulfate three times a day orally and found that the supplement dosage was as effectual in relieving pain as ibuprofen 400 mg taken thrice daily after the first two weeks of the study. Interestingly, by the end of the trial, glucosamine was found to be more useful compared to ibuprofen 400 mg. All these studies found that the usage of glucosamine sulfate was not only effective, but also well accepted by the osteoarthritis patients. In some cases, the patients who were administered glucosamine sulfate did complain of minor gastrointestinal distress and vomiting, but the frequency of this was not more than in the case with placebo.
Pharmacies and health food stores in the United States sell glucosamine in the form of sulfate, hydrochloride, chlorhydrate or n-acetyl salt and also as the destrorotatory isomer (chemically matching molecule with dissimilar formation). Occasionally, glucosamine is blended with chondroitin sulfate – a glycosaminoglycan that is said to be helpful in preserving the tackiness in the joints, invigorate the means to mend cartilage and hold back the enzymes that destroy the cartilage.
Prior to starting any type of supplement regimen, it is important to consult your physician or a competent heath care provider. At the same time, ensuring that taking the supplement will not have any adverse side effect or adversely react with any other medications you might be taking.
Side effects and cautions
Almost all researches that were undertaken with humans have detected that using glucosamine for a brief period is tolerable. However, its use may result in a number of side effects, including headache, sleeplessness and somewhat gentle and provisional digestive disorders like pain in the abdominal region, lack of appetite, heartburn, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea as well as constipation. Although rare, there have been some incidences of using glucosamine in combination with chondroitin that has been associated with provisional raise in blood pressure, palpitations as well as higher heart rhythms.
Dietary supplements containing glucosamine can also be prepared using shellfish. Hence, people who are allergic to shellfish need to avoid glucosamine supplements, provided they do not contain any element derived from shellfish. Since it is not mandatory for manufacturers of glucosamine supplements to mention the source of the product, it may often be necessary to call up the manufacturer and learn about its source.
Some proof exists hinting that when glucosamine is used in therapeutic doses to cure osteoarthritis, it may sometimes result in side effects like deteriorating the blood sugar levels, hemoglobin and insulin. In the instance of hemoglobin it is hemoglobin A 1c – a blood examination that calculates the manner in which blood sugar levels were regulated during the earlier three months, particularly in those who are suffering from diabetes or are insulin resistant.
Hypothetically speaking, glucosamine has the potential to enhance the chances of hemorrhage. Hence, people who have been suffering from bleeding problems and using anti-coagulant or anti-platelet drugs like warfarin, Ticlid and clopidogrel or those taking dietary supplements that are likely to enhance the chances of bleeding, for instance, vitamin E, ginkgo, garlic or red clover, ought not to take glucosamine, provided it is not being taken under the direct guidance of an expert and qualified medical practitioner.