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Glucosamine

Introduction

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 stiffiness. Although your body produces its own glucosamine, supplements can be helpful,

What it is

Glucosamine (pronounced glue-KOSE-a-mean) is a fairly simple molecule that contains the sugar glucose. It is found in relatively high concentrations in the joints and connective tissues, where the body uses it to form the larger molecules neccesary for cartilage repair and maintenance. I recent years glucosamine has become available as a nutritional supplement. Various forms are sold, including glucosamine sulphate and N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG). Glucosamine sulphate is the preffered form for arthritis: it is readily used by the body (90% to 98% is absorbed through the intestine) and appears to be very effective in relieving this condition.

What it does

Although some doctors hail glucosamine as an arthritis cure, no single supplement or combination of supplements can claim that title. Glucosamine 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 type of joint injuries.
Major benefits: Used to treat  arthiritis in about 70 countries around the world, glucosamine can eased pain and inflammation increse range of motion, and help repair ageing and damaged joints in the knees, hips, spine and hands. Recent studies sow that it may e even more effective for relieving pain and inflammation than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as asprin and ibuprofen, commonly taken by arthritis sufferers - without their harmfull side effects. Moreover, while NSAIDs mask arthritis pain, they do little to combat progression of the disease - and may even make it worse by impairing the body's ability to build cartilage. By contrast, glucosamine helps to make cartilage and repair damaged joints. Although it cannot 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.
Additional benefits: 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. Athletes and sportsmen and women often take glucosamine to help to prevent muscle injuries.

How to take it

Dosage: The usual dosage for arthritis and other conditions is 500 mg glucosamine sulphate three times a day, or 1500mg daily. This amount has been shown to be safe for all individuals and effective for most.
Guidelines for use: Glucosamine is typically taken long term and appears to be very safe. It may not bring relief as quickly as conventional pain relievers or anti-inflammatories do (it usually works in two to eight weeks), but its benefits are far greater and longer lasting when it is used over a period of time. Take glucosamine with meals to minimise the chance of digestive upset.
In addition to glucoamine, some supplements contain a related cartilage component called chondroitin sulphate and sometimes other nutrients, such as niacin or S-adenosylmethionine (SAM). These are purported to have enhanced cartilage-building properties, but research-based evidence for such benefits is lacking. Other supplements that are sometimes taken along with glucosamine for relief of arthritis include boswellia, a tree extract from India; devil's claw from Namibia; celery seed extract; and the topical pain reliever cayenne cream. No adverse reactions have been reported when glucosamine is uesd with other supplements or with prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Possible side effects

Supplements of glucosamine - a natural substance produced in the body - appear to be virtually free from side effects, although no long-term studies have been done. Gastrointestinal effects, such as indigestion or nausea, are rare in those who take glucosamine supplements. Should any of these symptoms occur, try taking glucosamine with meals.

Recent findings

A study 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 symptoms as 1200 mg of ibuprofen - and that it was significantly better tolerated by the patients.

An australian study involving 63 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee found that the direct application to the knee of a cream containing glucosamine and chondroitin was effective in relieving pain Improvement was evident with four weeks.

Did you know?

Older dogs that have trouble moving around may benefit from glucosamine sulphate. It has been shown to be as safe and effective for the canine species as it is for humans.

Facts & Tips

Supplements are the best source of extra glucosamine becuase dietary source of the nutrient are quite obscure. Foods that are relatively rich in glucosamine include crabs, oysters and the shells of prawns.

Common uses

  • Relieves pain, stiffness and swelling of the knees, fingers and other joints caused by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Help to reduce Arthritic back and neck pain
  • May speed up healing of sprains and strengthen joints, preventing future injury

Forms

  • Capsule
  • Cream and skin patches
  • Tablet

Caution

Reminder: if you have a medical condition, consult your doctor before taking supplements

 

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This article was published on Wednesday 31 March, 2010.
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