This promising arthritis fighter helps 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 Is It
Scientists have long known that the body manufactures a small amount of glucosamine (pronounced glue-KOSE-a-mean), a fairly simple molecule that contains the sugar 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. Various forms are sold, including glucosamine sulfate and N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG). Glucosamine sulfate is the preferred form for arthritis It is readily used by the body (90% to 98% is absorbed through the intestine) and appears to be very effective for this condition.
What Does It Do
Though some experts hail glucosamine as an arthritis cure, 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.
• Relieves pain, stiffness, and swelling of the knees, fingers, and other joints due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
• Helps reduce arthritic back and neck pain.
• May speed the healing of sprains and strengthen joints, preventing future injury.
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 repair aging 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 than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, commonly taken by arthritis sufferers (without their harmful side effects). 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 make cartilage and may repair damaged joints. Though it can't do much for people with advanced arthritis, when 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 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 stores, usually in the form of N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG), which tends to act specifically on the intestinal lining.
How To Take It
Dosage: The usual dosage for arthritis and other conditions is 500 mg glucosamine sulfate three times a day, or 1,500 mg daily. This amount has been shown to be safe for all individuals and effective for most. People weighing more than 200 pounds or taking diuretics may need higher daily doses (about 900 mg per 100 pounds of body weight); talk to your doctor about an appropriate dosage.
Guidelines For Use: Glucosamine is typically taken long term and appears to be very safe. It may not bring relief as quickly as pain relievers or anti-inflammatories (it usually works in two to eight weeks), but its benefits are far greater and longer-lasting when it's used over a period of time. Take glucosamine with meals to minimize the chance of digestive upset.
Glucosamine's anti-arthritis effects may be enhanced by using it along with another supplement, such as chondroitin sulfate (a related cartilage-building compound), niacinamide (a form of the B vitamin niacin), or S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), a form of the amino acid methionine. Other supplements that are sometimes taken along 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 it is a natural substance produced in the body, glucosamine is virtually free of side effects, though no long-term studies have been done. Gastrointestinal effects, such as heartburn or nausea, occur rarely in those who take glucosamine supplements.
Facts and Tips
Supplements are the best source of extra glucosamine because dietary sources of the nutrient are quite obscure. Items that are relatively rich in glucosamine include the shells of shrimp, 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 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate taken daily was just as effective in reducing the symptoms of the disease as 1,200 mg of ibuprofen, and was significantly better tolerated by the patients.
• Scientists in San Diego believe that oral administration of glucosamine for a few days immediately following surgery may help speed healing. It may also reduce surgical scarring and the complications it can cause, suggesting another possible use for this supplement.