This promising arthritis fighter helps to build cartilage – which provides cushioning at the tips of the bones – and protects and strengthens the joints as it relieves pain and stiffness. Although your body produces some glucosamine, a supplement is more effective.
What it is?
Scientists have long known that the body manufacturers a small amount of glucosamine (pronounced glue-KOSE-a-mean), a fairly simple molecule that contains glucose. It's found in relatively high concentrations in the joints and connective tissues, where the body uses it to form the larger molecules necessary for cartilage repair and maintenance. In recent years, glucosamine has become available as a nutritional supplement. Glucosamine sulphate is the preferred form for arthritis. It is readily used by the body (90-98% is absorbed through the intestine) and appears to be very effective for this condition.
What it does?
Some experts hail glucosamine as an arthritis cure, but no one supplement can claim that title. It does, however, provide significant relief from pain and inflammation for about half of arthritis sufferers – especially those with the common, age-related form known as osteoarthritis. It can also help people with rheumatoid arthritis and other types of joint injuries, and it offers additional benefits as well.
Approved for the treatment of arthritis in some 70 countries around the world, glucosamine can ease pain and inflammation, increase range of motion, and help to repair ageing and damaged joints in the knees, hips, spine and hands. Recent studies show that it may be even more effective for relieving pain and inflammation (without the harmful side effects) than the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, commonly taken by arthritis sufferers. What's more, while NSAIDs mask arthritis pain, they do little to combat the progression of the disease – and may even make it worse by impairing the body's ability to build cartilage. In contrast, glucosamine helps to make cartilage and may repair damaged joints. Even though it can't do much for people with advanced arthritis, in whom cartilage has completely worn away, it may benefit the millions of people with mild to moderately severe symptoms.
As a general joint strengthener, glucosamine may be useful for the prevention of arthritis and all forms of age-related degenerative joint disease. It may also speed up healing of acute joint injuries, such as a sprained ankle or finger.
In addition to aiding joints and connective tissues, glucosamine promotes a healthy lining in the digestive tract and may be beneficial in treating ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome. It is included in various 'intestinal health' preparations sold in health-food shops, usually in the form of glucosamine sulphate.
Relieves pain, stiffness and swelling of the knees, fingers and other joints due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Helps to reduce arthritic back and neck pain.
May speed the healing of sprains and strengthen joints, preventing future injury.
- Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
How to take it?
The usual dosage for arthritis and other conditions is 500 mg of glucosamine sulphate three times a day, or 1500 mg daily. This amount has been shown to be safe for everyone and effective for most. People weighing more than 90 kg or taking diuretics may need higher doses (about 900 mg per 45 kg of body weight); talk to your practitioner about an appropriate dosage.
Guidelines for use:
Take glucosamine with meals to minimize the chance of digestive upset. It is typically taken long term, and appears to be very safe. While it may not bring relief as quickly as pain relievers or anti-inflammatories (it usually works in two to eight weeks), its benefits are far greater and longer-lasting when it's used over a period of time.
The anti-arthritis effects of glucosamine may be enhanced by using it along with another supplement, such as chondroitin sulphate (a related cartilage-building compound), niacinamide (a form of the B-vitamin niacin), or New Zealand green-lipped mussel. Other supplements sometimes taken with glucosamine for the relief of arthritis include boswellia, a tree extract from India; sea cucumber, an ancient Chinese remedy; and the topical pain reliever cayenne cream. No adverse reactions have been reported when glucosamine is used with other supplements or with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Possible side effects
Because glucosamine is a natural substance produced in the body, it is virtually free of side effects, though no long-term studies have been done. Rarely, gastrointestinal effects, such as heartburn or nausea, may occur.
Facts and Tips
- Supplements are the best source of extra glucosamine because dietary sources of nutrient are quite obscure. Items that are relatively rich in glucosamine include the shells of prawns, crabs and oysters.
- A study conducted in China at the Beijing Union Medical College Hospital, involving 178 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, showed that 1500 mg of glucosamine sulphate taken daily was just as effective in reducing the symptoms of the disease as 1200 mg of ibuprofen – and was significantly better tolerated by the patients.
- Scientists in San Diego believe the oral administration of glucosamine for a few days immediately following surgery may help to speed healing. It may also reduce surgical scarring and the complications it can cause, suggesting another possible use for this supplement.
Did you know?
Older dogs that have trouble getting around may also benefit from glucosamine sulphate. It has been shown to be as safe and effective for canines as it is for their owners.