Cartilage - Knee Joint X-Ray


Glucosamine is a natural compound found in the body, primarily in cartilage. It plays a vital role in maintaining the health and integrity of cartilage, the flexible tissue that cushions joints and helps them move smoothly.

Our bodies naturally make Glucosamine as part of its way of keeping our joints lubricated and flexible for maximum mobility. In addition, Glucosamine supplements are one of the most popular in the Western World, vastly outselling Vitamin C.

Glucosamine Defined

Glucosamine is a natural compound. It is a combination of glucose (a sugar) and an amine (a nitrogen-containing compound). It is a naturally occurring amino sugar in the body that plays a vital role in keeping cartilage and other body tissues healthy. Cartilage is the tissue that cushions joints and helps them move smoothly.

Glucosamine is needed to react with hydrochloric acid in the stomach to eventually produce Hyaluronic Acid, which is a glycosaminoglycan. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in cartilage, tendons, ligaments and synovial fluid around the joints. It helps with elasticity.

Hyaluronic acid is unique among glycosaminoglycans in that it is non-sulfated (does not contain Sulphur) and can be very large, with its molecular weight often reaching the millions. It is one of the main components of the extracellular matrix. The extracellular matrix provides structural support to animal cells. The extracellular matrix is the most important feature of connective tissue in animals.

Health Benefits of Glucosamine

One of the main uses of Glucosamine is to help with joint pain. We will explore this in more detail below:

Osteoarthritis Explained

As some people get older they develop a degenerative condition known as Osteoarthritis which is characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling of the joints and a general inability to move about easily. The condition, which is irreversible, is caused by the deterioration and eventual loss of bone cartilage, the soft connective tissue that protects joints and keeps bones from directly rubbing against each other.

Arthritis affects nearly 70 million Americans. Some studies suggest that most people over 60 have osteoarthritis, though the severity of the symptoms can vary greatly among individuals.

Relieving Arthritis with Glucosamine

Numerous natural remedies are touted as treatments for the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Among them are nutritional supplements based on a substance called Glucosamine. As people get older their bodies start producing less Glucosamine. This gradual diminishing of Glucosamine causes the bone cartilage to lose some of its elasticity and become stiff and inflexible, eventually resulting in osteoarthritis. Glucosamine supplements are designed to slow this process by compensating for the loss of the amino sugar that occurs with age.

Glucosamine supplements are believed to help in the production of Glycosaminoglycan, a molecule that helps repair and rebuild damaged cartilage.

Glucosamine is commonly used as a dietary supplement for managing arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of cartilage. Research suggests that glucosamine supplements may help reduce pain, improve joint function, and slow the progression of osteoarthritis by providing the building blocks needed for cartilage repair and maintenance.

Mechanism of Action: Glucosamine is believed to work by stimulating the production of proteoglycans and collagen, the essential components of cartilage. It may also have anti-inflammatory effects, helping to reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints.

Efficacy: While some studies have shown positive effects of glucosamine supplements on osteoarthritis symptoms, the evidence is mixed, and results vary among individuals. Some people may experience significant pain relief and improvement in joint function, while others may not see noticeable benefits.

Glucosamine Research

Though glucosamine along with chondroitin supplements have been fairly widely used for some time now, there is still considerable discussion about the extent of their effectiveness in treating osteoarthiritis. Previous clinical studies have suggested for instance that the effectiveness of a glucosamine supplement is dependent on whether it is a Glucosamine Hydrochloride or Glucosamine Sulfate.

Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT)

Sufferers of osteoarthritis who are looking for some clarity on the subject unfortunately have little to go by. The most solid research to date on the effectiveness of Glucosamine was conducted by the University of Utah, School of Medicine on behalf of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study, which was called Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), was designed to test the short-term effectiveness of Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in reducing pain associated with osteoarthritis.

The study of 1583 patients suggested that patients with moderate to severe pain did indeed obtain statistically significant pain relief when they took Glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate. The results were somewhat less clear in the case of osteoarthritis suffers with only moderate pain. The NIH study however looked only at the effectiveness of Glucosamine hydrochloride supplements and not Glucosamine Sulfate based ones.

Meanwhile, a much earlier three-year clinical study conducted in the Prague Institute of Rheumatology, showed Glucosamine Sulfate to be effective in slowing the progression of knee osteoarthritis. The results of this study were very similar to those from a previous clinical study investigating the effectiveness of Glucosamine sulfate. What appears less clear though is the effectiveness of Glucosamine when it is taken by itself. The GAIT study for instance, showed that Glucosamine alone fared little better than a placebo in relieving osteoarthritis symptoms.

Glucosamine for Temporomandibular Joint Pain

The pain of Temporomandibular Joint pain (TMJ) is termed an arthritic condition and sufferers can attest to the enormous amount of pain the condition causes. Glucosamine has been labelled as “possibly effective” for this condition.

The Mayo Clinic’s Findings on Glucosamine

In connection with glucosamine sulfate which is found in cartilage fluid, The Mayo Clinic’s opinion is that available evidence does support the use of glucosamine sulfate to strengthen cartilage and that only this form of the supplement is helpful, not non-sulfated glucosamine.

The Mayo Clinic also reported that glucosamine is common in patients with osteoarthritis, and may be helpful in reducing the need for NSAID’s. (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents) This is of course good news for those trying to reduce the number of such pills ingested on a daily basis.

As a final grade, the Clinic gave glucosamine an “A” for good evidence to support its benefit for mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis. A “B” grade was issued for glucosame’s benefit when treating osteoarthritis in general.

The National Institute of Health’s Findings on Glucosamine

Perhaps the final words about glucosamine should come from the United States National Institute of Health (NIH):

• Likely effective for osteoarthritis
• Takes 4-8 weeks to reduce pain compared to 2 weeks with standard treatment.
• Glucosamine slows break down of joints, if taken long term.
• Knee replacement surgery is less likely with glucosamine users.

Natural health enthusiasts advocate its use and its advantages over prescribed pills as being:

• Less costly
• More natural and therefore gentler on the stomach so less side effects.
• Proven effective for treating gout, joint pain, and rheumatoid arthritis

As is often the case with natural supplements and natural remedies the best advice might be to do your research, weigh the pros and cons, and consult your doctor for his or her opinion.

The apparent fact that Glucosamine supplements have no side effects associated with their use has been one major factor driving growing adoption of the remedy. For the moment at least clinical studies have shown the use of Glucosamine to have no long term downsides. For many osteoarthritis sufferers, that alone may be benefit enough to choose Glucosamine.

The Glucosamine Market

Since Glucosamine is naturally occurring in the human body, many find it a viable alternative to take as a supplement rather than pharmaceuticals, as a lot of prescription medicines are known to erode the digestive tract and cause internal bleeding or liver problems in many people.

In most cases, Glucosamine supplements are taken along with supplements based on another naturally occurring substance in the body called chondroitin. Chondroitin is a complex carbohydrate that helps cartilage retain water. Supplements based on chondroitin are believed to slow down the production of certain enzymes that are known to destroy cartilage.

Glucosamine supplements are typically made from crab, lobster and shrimp shells, though some supplements are based on vegetables. Chondroitin supplements meanwhile are made from the cartilage of cows. Glucosamine is commercially available in either sulfate or in hydrochloride form each of which have very different chemical compositions.

Glucosamine is also known as glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine sulphate, glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl glucosamine and chitosamine.

Glucosamine Supplements

Glucosamine supplements may offer potential benefits for managing osteoarthritis symptoms, but individual responses can vary. It’s essential to discuss the use of glucosamine supplements with a healthcare provider to determine if they are appropriate for your specific condition and to ensure safe and effective use.

Glucosamine supplements are derived from shellfish shells, such as shrimp, crab, or lobster, or synthesized in the laboratory. These supplements are available in various forms, including glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-acetyl glucosamine.

The common dosage for the supplement is 1,000 mg. It is also available in 300, 500 or 750 mg. as well. It can be taken in one of three ways; as an injection, in solid or pill form, or in liquid form.

Glucosamine Hydrochloride vs Glucosamine Sulfate

Some research suggests that Glucosamine sulfate is more effective at alleviating osteoarthritis symptoms because it is more bio-available, or most easily absorbed by the body compared to hydrochloride supplements.

Other studies however suggest that Glucosamine hydrochloride supplements are more concentrated, and are absorbed more rapidly in the gastrointestinal tract than other Glucosamine supplements. A third school of thought holds that Glucosamine supplements are most effective only when they are taken along with chondroitin supplements.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Glucosamine Notes / Side Effects

Although it has only been tracked since the early 80’s, research shows that Glucosamine is generally safe for most people when taken as directed, but can cause some mild side effects including; stomach upset, nausea, heartburn, diarrhoea and constipation. 

Conflicting concerns arise over whether women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should take the supplement. Also whether or not people with asthma or who are diabetic should stay away from the supplement. Most importantly, those with a shellfish allergy are advised that certain glucosamine products can contain harmful particles that can cause an allergic reaction to occur. 

Additionally, glucosamine supplements may interact with certain medications, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting supplementation, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

Possible Drug Interactions:

Coumadin is used to slow blood clotting. Glucosamine may interact negatively with this medication preventing it from working properly. 

Medications for cancer (Antimitotic chemotherapy). Some scientists think that glucosamine might increase how fast tumor cells copy themselves. Anyone receiving chemotherapy should remember to talk with their doctor about taking the supplement along with the chemotherapy drugs.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol). While there is some concern about taking glucosamine and acetaminophen, more information is needed before determining if this interaction is a big concern. For now, most experts say it is okay to use both together.

Glucosamine and Diabetes Medications

Latest research now shows that glucosamine probably does not increase blood sugar in people with diabetes. Just to be on the safe side, however, a diabetic should discuss this with their health care provider and monitor your blood sugar closely.

Interactions with herbs and supplements – There are no known interactions between Glucosamine and other herbs and supplements.

Food Interactions – There are no known interactions with foods, except for those with shellfish allergies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *