What is glucosamine used for?
Glucosamine is an amino-sugar or amino-monosaccharide, and everybody has some in their body. We need it to make synovial fluid, which lubricates joints and keeps cartilage healthy. Lack of glucosamine is a factor in developing osteoarthritis, with associated pain and movement limitation.
The basis of glucosamine’s action is that it provides more of the building blocks to repair cartilage. It keeps more moisture in, reduces inflammation, and may inhibit the enzymes involved in cartilage breakdown. The problem is that research has failed to prove that taking it as a supplement allows the body to utilise it effectively.
What’s the best way to take glucosamine?
Glucosamine products are often sold along with chondroitin. The idea is that the two substances work together to produce a better effect. Research does suggest that taking the two together shows more benefit than taking either alone, although there isn’t a great deal of conclusive evidence as to how much is needed or for how long to see significant effects. If, however, you don’t see any change after three or four months, it might be best to stop, especially if what you are taking is expensive.
In studies, a typical dose of glucosamine is 1,500mg per day. These supplements come in the form of tablets, capsules, soluble tablets and liquid. Liquid is thought to be absorbed more readily but there is no research to prove this.
Many glucosamine products may also contain omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, aloe vera, vitamins C, A, and E, MSM (methyl-sulphonyl-methane) and various herbs, all of which are intended to help improve joint pain.
Does glucosamine really work?
While there isn’t solid scientific evidence that glucosamine has a great beneficial effect on joints, there is some evidence that it might improve symptoms a little. In research published in American Family Physician, looking at available studies on dietary supplements and osteoarthritis, the results show that there is inconsistent or limited-quality evidence. However, they do advise taking the supplement for the goal of ‘modestly reducing osteoarthritis symptoms and possibly slowing disease progression.
Where can I get glucosamine?
Glucosamine supplements are available at healthfood shops, some supermarkets and online.
What are the side effects of taking glucosamine?
Glucosamine is well tolerated. However, side effects may include intestinal gas and softened stools; high doses may cause nausea, diarrhoea, indigestion and heartburn. Taking glucosamine with meals seems to help overcome such problems.
Are there any contraindications when taking glucosamine?
As the source of supplemental glucosamine is often shellfish, you should avoid the supplements if you have an allergy. There are plant-based versions available. There might also be interactions between acetaminophen, warfarin and glucosamine. Also, if you have diabetes, you should see your GP before taking it as it can affect your blood sugar levels.
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