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Glucosamine: What is it? How does it help Arthritis?

Info Relinque - Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Can Glucosamine Relieve Your Arthritic Pain?

Glucosamine offers relief to many sufferers of osteoarthritis. Find out whether it may be able to help you! 

Osteorthritis is a condition the osteopaths and massage therapists commonly see at our clinic in Ivanhoe. Symptoms can range from mild joint stiffness, to debilitating pain and can make simple everyday tasks such as walking and opening doors difficult. Glucosamine offers relief to many sufferers of Osteoarthrits, it may help decrease your pain, and increase joint mobility.

What is glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a sugar found naturally in the body. It is made from glucose and the amino acid glutamine. Glucosamine is needed to produce glycosaminoglycan - a molecule used in the formation and repair of cartilage and other body tissues. Cartilage is the substance that covers the ends of bones, and allows smooth and pain free movement. The production of glucosamine slows with age.

What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints of the body. In a healthy joint, the ends of bones are covered by a layer of cartilage. Cartilage helps protect the bone, and allows smooth, pain free movement. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage degenerates and wears out, leaving the bones unprotected. In these joints movement is rough and irregular, and often painful.

How does glucosamine help arthritis?
Since the glucosamine that is made naturally within the body is used to make and repair damaged cartilage, taking glucosamine as a nutritional supplement is thought to help repair damaged joint cartilage by increasing the body’s supply of Glucosamine.

What does the research say?
Glucosamine sulfate:
-Cartilage: There is some evidence to suggest that glucosamine sulfate can slow the breakdown of cartilage within the knee.
-Pain: Opinion is divided on the effectiveness of glucosamine sulfate on pain levels in Osteoarthritis in the knee. Some studies have also showed that glucosamine sulfate can improve pain from Osteoarthritis in the knee. However other studies have found there is little or no improvement in pain levels.
Glucosamine hydrochloride:
-Studies have shown glucosamine hydrochloride may not be as effective in cartilage repair and pain control as glucosamine sulfate.

How long does glucosamine take to work?
Studies have shown glucosamine sulfate needs to be taken for at least three to eight weeks to have any significant effect. If there are no change in your symptoms by this time, it’s unlikely that you will gain any benefit by continued use.

What is the best way to take glucosamine?
There are two forms of glucosamine available - glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride, and they come in either tablet or liquid form.
-Liquid: It is well known that liquids are absorbed faster and more effectively than solids. This gives liquids a big advantage over pills and tablets. Liquids however, have a shorter shelf life, meaning you cannot store them for as long.
-Tablets: Last much longer than the liquid form, meaning you can buy them in bulk and leave them in the cupboard for longer. This is the main reason pills/ tablets are favoured by pharmaceutical stores. Tablets however, contain a filler material which has no benefit or use. In some cases the filler material can decrease the effectiveness of glucosamine.

The liquid form of glucosamine has obvious advantages over pills and tablets, and is considered by far, the better choice.

Does glucosamine have any side effects?
-Shellfish allergies: Glucosamine is often made from shellfish. Please consult your doctor before taking glucosamine if you have shellfish allergies.
-Diabetes: Because glucosamine is a sugar, you may need to consult your
doctor before taking glucosamine if you have diabetes.

In conclusion, the results from all the studies performed are still unclear. Not all studies support it's effectiveness, however, there have been a number of studies that have shown some positive results. It is for this reason the Osteopaths and Massage therapists at our clinic in Ivanhoe commonly recommend glucosamine for the treatment of arthritis. We have found our patients have had some positive results, leading to a reduction in pain after a couple of months.
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