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What Is Glucosamine?

Aug 21, 2008
Glucosamine, also known as chitosamine or glucosamine sulfate, is a compound that occurs naturally in the body and is made up of glucose and the amino acid, glutamine.

The body needs glucosamine in order to produce glycosaminoglycan, which is a molecule employed in the repair and formation of body tissues, including cartilage. Glucosamine is very effective in alleviating pain caused by osteoarthritis, renewing synovial fluid, repairing joints and rehabilitating cartilage that has been damaged due to the onset of osteoarthritis.

Why Glucosamine supplements are necessary

Every individual produces a certain amount of glucosamine within their body. This production of glucosamine slows down as a person ages resulting in the hardening of the cartilage in weigh-bearing joints including the hips, wrists, elbows and knees. Progressive hardening of the cartilage causes bone spurs, which results in deformed joints accompanied by a lot of pain and limited movement of the joints.

Glucosamine, which is available as a nutritional supplement in drug stores and health food stores, is often combined with chondroitin sulfate, a molecule that occurs naturally in the cartilage. Chondroitin contributes towards the elasticity of the cartilage and prevents its destruction by enzymes.

Some of the benefits of glucosamine include:
  • Rehabilitation of damaged cartilage
  • Pain relief from osteoarthritis
  • Slowing down cartilage deterioration that is caused by osteoarthritis
  • Enhanced mobility of the joint
  • Boost in production of glucosaminoglycans, proteoglycans and synovial fluid
Other conditions for which glucosamine supplements are recommended include inflammatory bowel disease ( ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease), rheumatoid arthritis and chronic venous insufficiency.

How Glucosamine helps in Osteoarthritis

Glucosamine supplements are commonly taken to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis, particularly knee arthritis. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage loses its elasticity and stiffens, causing a lot of swelling, pain and loss of movement and making the joint more prone to damage. Glucosamine supplements augment the body's reduced levels of natural glucosamine, which is vital in repairing damaged cartilage and in producing new cartilage. Extensive studies have indicated that glucosamine supplements are highly effective in reducing symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and in retarding its progress.

Possible Side Effects Caused by Glucosamine

Most studies involving human beings have indicated that usage of glucosamine in the short-term is well-tolerated. Side effects are non-fatal and could include headaches, drowsiness and insomnia. Short term usage of glucosamine could also cause a range of mild and temporary digestive complaints including poor appetite, diarrhea, heartburn, abdominal pain, vomiting and constipation.

Since shellfish is one of the brands of several glucosamine supplement brands, it is vital that people who are allergic to shellfish should ensure that the glucosamine supplement they purchase has not been made from shellfish. It is important to keep in mind that printing the source of glucosamine on the label is not required by law, in which case you will have to call the manufacturer to confirm whether the glucosamine is or is not manufactured form shellfish.

In doses that are used to treat osteoarthritis, evidence seems to suggest that glucosamine had an adverse effect on the hemoglobin, insulin and blood sugar levels in individuals who were insulin resistant or those who had diabetes.
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