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What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a compound found naturally in the body, it provides a building block for the cartilage within the body containing sugar and protein, and is a form of amino sugar.

Glucosamine is used by the body to repair damaged tissues like cartilage, heart valves, mucous membranes and synovial fluid - the jelly like substance that fills the joints.

These compounds have also been known to stimulate the production of cartilage as well as repairing it, helping to re-build cartilage and can even produce more.

It is also present in your blood where it is necessary for the production of hyaluronic acid which is essential to heal skin injuries.


The history and origin of Glucosamine

Glucosamine, although found naturally in the body can be man made and obtained from natural sources as a supplement.

Naturally it is found in sea creatures such as exoskeletons or crab shells, lobsters, and other shell fish which live on the sea bed.

Glucosamine was been used in prize thoroughbreds, cats, dogs, and even exotic animals before it was studied in humans. There has now been over forty years studying taken place on humans with Glucosamine.

According to research Glucosamine was being used on humans in the 1960's by physicians to provide some relief for people suffering from osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine became very popular in the United States in the mid 1990's, and is now the most popular selling dietary supplement with sales of $200 million per year. It is now also a fast growing favourite supplement in the UK too.


What problems can Glucosamine help with?

Glucosamine can help with a variety of conditions, but is best known for its healing properties for osteoarthritis. Here are some of the conditions that can be helped by Glucosamine:

Osteoarthritis - A 'wear and tear' condition which affects the joints mobility and health. It can start in your teens or as you get older, leaving your joints sore, red and inflamed. Glucosamine helps repair and keep cartilage healthy, so can help the pain and swelling of the joints, as well as even producing new cartilage.

Arthritis (especially jaw arthritis) - A condition making the jaw stiff, painful and inflamed. Glucosamine helps repair and build cartilage so can be used to help this condition by relieving the jaw of pain and stiffness, making the joints more flexible and supple. " Blood disorders - blood clotting and thickness can be helped by this supplement. Glucosamine has properties which can help to thin blood, by relieving the blood of stickiness.

Chronic venous insufficiency - A condition which includes swelling of the legs, varicose veins, pain, itching and skin changes. Although not researched much, it is possible that Glucosamine could help with this syndrome.

In some cases Rheumatoid arthritis - An autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints, the tissues around the joints and the organs. Glucosamine has healing properties for arthritis and although not much research has been done on treatment with Glucosamine for this disease it is possible it could help to take away the pain and swelling.

In some cases inflammatory bowel disease - Two chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the intestine, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Some preliminary research has suggested that Glucosamine could help as an additive to medicine to help reduce the swelling of the intestines.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders - This disorder can have a variety of symptoms such as; headaches, earaches, dull aching facial pain and tenderness of the jaw muscles. Not much research has been done to provide sufficient evidence that Glucosamine can defiantly help ease these symptoms, but it is suggested that it may help in some people.

Some muscle and tendon injuries - Glucosamine helps to repair damaged cartilage including the muscle and tendon tissues so could help strains, swelling and pain on muscles and tendons although little research has been conducted to prove its effect.

Some skin conditions - Glucosamine has healing properties for skin, so may help with certain skin conditions, although little research has been done to prove this. Glucosamine is used in some bandages to help stop bleeding and help heal surgical incisions and scars.


What recent scientific tests that have been made on Glucosamine?

There has been many tests and research done on Glucosamine which provides results to show it has worked very well with particular conditions.

Many health professionals believe Glucosamine either by itself or combined with chondroitin sulphate can be effective to use as treatment for osteoarthritis. Two more recent studies have lent additional proof that Glucosamine can make a difference in helping osteoarthritis. The studies found positive results in hip and especially knee osteoarthritis. These studies had a 'positive' result where there was 25% more improvement in the treatment group compared with the placebo group.

The largest ever trial on Glucosamine is currently being studied in the USA by the National Institutes of Health within the USA. Thirteen research centres across the USA are involved, and the University of Utah is co-ordinating the research. There are 1,500 people taking part and the first results from the trial have just been finished. There were positive results and they showed that not only did Glucosamine help the pain and swelling, but it also in combination with chondroitin stopped the progression of the disease and helped to re-build damaged and new cartilage.

Other studies on humans have also shown benefits for treating general osteoarthritis, like pain relief, possible anti-inflammatory effects and improved joint function. There has also been some research to suggest that in some people Glucosamine can slow down cartilage damage in OA. Glucosamine is widely used for this disease and has helped relief the suffering of many people.

Many other recent studies published in Lancet (medical journal) have also been carried out on Glucosamine use in osteoarthritis and they noted a few key points about Glucosamine effects. The onset of reduced symptoms does not occur until around several weeks after first taking Glucosamine, and the benefits continue up to two months after stopping taking Glucosamine. They also found no evidence to suggest that continued use reduces the effects of Glucosamine.

Much research has been done to provide evidence that Glucosamine works effectively at treating osteoarthritis, but it also can be used as a treatment for other conditions and problems. Arthritis in the jaw has also had effectiveness from being treated with Glucosamine as well as rheumatoid arthritis in some people.

Some studies also show that Glucosamine had the same affects as the standard treatment that is used to treat mild to moderate arthritis which is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The same research has also suggested that Glucosamine can also help to slow down the onset of arthritis.

Glucosamine has also been used to help keep your skin healthy. It helps not only keeping the skin healthy but also for repairing skin, which is why Glucosamine plays a major role in the healing of surgical incisions and wounds. Some studies have shown that when people have taken Glucosamine before having surgery, their scars and skin have healed quicker then people who hadn't. A hemostatic bandage which has Glucosamine within it has also been introduced and used for the control of vascular bleeding.

In some small studies Chrohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis have shown promising effects as well from treatment with Glucosamine.


Is Glucosamine safe to take?

All herbal products are governed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Foods standards agency in the UK. There is no guarantee that Glucosamine will be safe to take for everyone as it is a natural supplement and can affect people in different ways.

Most trials have not had any safety problems with this supplement, and few side affects have been noted. You should always read the label of products, and if concerned should consult your doctor before taking this supplement. If you have a medical condition always consult your doctor before taking any supplement. If any side effects are felt then always stop taking the supplement and consult your doctor.


Who shouldn't take Glucosamine?

There are a few groups of people who shouldn't take Glucosamine these are:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, due to lack of safety evidence.
  • People with diabetes or sugar level conditions, because Glucosamine could effect the glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity.
  • There are also no known effects of long term use of Glucosamine, so long time users may want to be cautious of any unusual symptoms.
  • A patient with an allergy to shellfish, as Glucosamine is made from shellfish and may cause a reaction.
  • People who have a blood thinning condition, or are on blood thinning medicines. Glucosamine has a thinning effect on the blood, so people with thin blood should be careful when taking this supplement and always consult their doctor.
  • Children and babies should not take Glucosamine as no studies have been completed to show that it is safe for them to take.

Is it safe to take with other supplements and drugs?

Glucosamine although a natural remedy should be used with care. You should consult your doctor if you are taking any other medicines, or supplements before taking Glucosamine. A lot of people are afraid of consulting their doctor on this matter as they think that their doctor would not agree to alternative medicines. Most doctors are in favour of alternative medicines, and will help you anyway they can with medicine reactions and herbal reactions.

You should also consult your doctor of any other medicines you take apart from the ones they have prescribed you, and of any herbal, mineral, or vitamin supplement you intend to take. Some herbal supplements can react with some drugs so it is very important that your doctor knows. If you become aware of any side effects then make sure you consult your doctor as it could be a reaction between medicines. It is also important to tell your doctor or physician if you are allergic to any supplement or medicine before taking them.


Doctor's feedback on Glucosamine

Many Doctor's have agreed that Glucosamine does work and that it is a beneficial supplement to take. Doctor's have been looking into the research that has been established about Glucosamine.

Some doctors and physicians have noted the effects that Glucosamine can have and have suggested it may even be safer to take for arthritis then the normal Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS). This is due to the fact that NSAIDS carry a large risk of side effects, and Glucosamine has shown very little side effects.

Some doctors also suggest more research to be done on how it helps to stop or even reverse the effect of cartilage degeneration. Although it is hard to find people with osteoarthritis who are not taking Glucosamine now to do the research, this suggests that beneficial effects must be present.

Many doctors are now open to looking at alternative medicines, so do not be afraid to talk to your doctor about it. The only downside that some doctors suggest for Glucosamine is that it can be very expensive to take. Not only this but also that it is unlikely that it will ever be registered as a medicine so it could not be prescribed and received on the NHS.


Dosage, how much should I take and who can take it?

These doses are based on scientific research, expert opinions, and publications, you should consult your doctor if you have any queries on dosage for this product.

Standardization is a process which measures different chemicals in products to try and make different preparations similar to one anther. This process is used to help make Glucosamine into a tablet. Most Glucosamine is in a tablet form to take orally, but you can also find Glucosamine crystals, which some people prefer.

Adults (18 years and older)

Most studies have used 500mg strength Glucosamine to take three times daily, but it is also available in 1000mg strength and 1500mg too. It is not recommended to take more then 1500mg per day. Some publications have recommended the dosage of 20mg per kilogram of body weight daily. One study did also use 2000mg per day for 12 weeks on its participants. Only limited research has used 1500mg of crystalline powder (Glucosamine crystals) for oral consumption before. Depending on the stage of your condition or disease, you could need different doses; it is always advisable to check with your doctor before deciding what strength you would like to take.

Children and young adults (younger than 18 years)

There has not been enough research that has been studied on children to prove that Glucosamine is safe to use on them. Some preliminary research was done on children who suffered from inflammatory bowel syndrome with small amounts between 3 and 6 grams daily. Some research has also shown that MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) has had a connection with autism in some children. MSM is sometimes marketed with Glucosamine and this should be avoided by children as studies have shown to be unclear to what effects it can have.


What are the side effects and warnings of taking Glucosamine?

Glucosamine has been known to have some side effects in certain people these are; upset stomach, drowsiness, insomnia, headache, skin reactions, nail toughening and sun sensitivity. There has also been rare reports of other symptoms such as; loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, and heartburn. In several people a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure has also occurred.

In human research a dosage of 500mg three times a day has been tolerated with no side effects for up to 90 days. In a three year trial and some short term trials the number of adverse events in the patients taking the Glucosamine was the same as those taking the placebo pills.

It is still unclear whether Glucosamine affects blood sugar levels, as some research shows no effect and several others have shown an effect. People with diabetes are advised to be cautious when taking Glucosamine and are always advised to consult their doctor first.

In some theories Glucosamine has been suggested to increase the risk of bleeding. Patients with certain blood disorders should consult a doctor before taking Glucosamine.

There have also been some reports which link Glucosamine with asthma exacerbations. With not much research conducted on this issue asthma patients might want to avoid, or consult their doctor before taking Glucosamine.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Glucosamine as there is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that it is safe for this group to take.

Adnominal amounts of proteins have also been reported in several cases, although the clinical meaning of this is unclear. The main way for the body to dispel of Glucosamine is through urine.

Some preliminary evidence suggests that Glucosamine could modulate the immune system although clinical research has not proved this.



This information (and any accompanying material) provided is not intended to replace the attention or advice of a physician or other health care professionals. Anyone wishing to embark on any dietary, drug, exercise, or other lifestyle change intended to prevent or treat a specific disease or condition, or for people who are pregnant should first consult and seek clearance from a qualified health care professionals. The information provided on this site is as accurate as possible. We not accept responsibilities or liability for any inaccuracies.

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