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Highly respected research clinics, hospitals, universities, and labs say that
glucosamine (combined with chondroitin and MSM) restores joint health.
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What is glucosamine, and how does it repair joints? Veterinary medicine has been using glucosamine successfully for decades to replace lost cartilage in the joints of animals. The reason that doctors have not been doing this for human patients is yet another topic outside the scope of this article.

Essentially, the cushion in our joints (cartilage) continually wears down and regrows in healthy joints. In old, worn joints, the cartilage wears away faster than the body can replace it, causing a bone-on-bone condition, necessitating surgical joint replacement.

Glucosamine (combined with chondroitin and MSM) promotes faster regrowth of cartilage, thus restoring joint health.

Why do I need chondroitin and MSM along with glucosamine?
Chondroitin is believed to enhance the shock-absorbing properties of collagen and block enzymes that break down cartilage. Studies are being done to evaluate the ability of chondroitin to reverse cartilage loss. It generally takes two to four months to work completely.

Two large studies that evaluated data from about a dozen studies showed significant improvement in pain and inflammation and improved joint function. Some people taking chondroitin are able to decrease NSAID dosage.

MSM: Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring sulfur compound containing sulfur and methyl groups. It is found in the normal diets of humans and almost all other animals. MSM is made up of 34% sulfur, the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body.

MSM has shown benefits for a range of health problems including arthritis, muscle and joint pain. MSM has shown promise in the inhibition of pain impulses along nerve fibers, (analgesia), lessening of inflammation, increasing blood supply, reducing muscle spasms, and softening of scar tissue. MSM supports healthy, active lifestyles and benefits multiple structures and functions within the body, including connective tissues and the respiratory system while the methyl groups support energy production.

What is glucosamine made from? How do we know it really works?
Other names for glucosamine are: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine sulphate, glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl glucosamine, chitosamine.

Glucosamine is a compound found naturally in the body, 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. Production of glucosamine slows with age.

Glucosamine is available as a nutritional supplement in health food stores and many drug stores. Glucosamine supplements are manufactured from chitin, a substance found in the shells of shrimp, crab, lobster, and other sea creatures. In additional to nutritional supplements, glucosamine is also used in sports drinks and in cosmetics.

Since the body's natural glucosamine is used to make and repair joint cartilage, taking glucosamine as a nutritional supplement is thought to help repair damaged cartilage by augmenting the body's supply of glucosamine.

There is promising evidence that glucosamine may reduce pain symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and possibly slow the progression of osteoarthritis. For example, a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine examined people with osteoarthritis over three years. Researchers assessed pain and structural improvements seen on x-ray. They gave 202 people with mild to moderate osteoarthritis 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate a day or a placebo.

At the end of the study, researchers found that glucosamine slowed the progression of knee osteoarthritis compared to the placebo. People in the glucosamine group had a significant reduction in pain and stiffness. On x-ray, there was no average change or narrowing of joint spaces in the knees (a sign of deterioration) of the glucosamine group. In contrast, joint spaces of participants taking the placebo narrowed over the three years.

One of the largest studies on glucosamine for osteoarthritis was a 6-month study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Called GAIT, the study compared the effectiveness of glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL), chondroitin sulfate, a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, the drug celecoxib (Celebrex), or a placebo in people with knee osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine or chondroitin alone or in combination didn't reduce pain in the overall group, although people in the study with moderate-to-severe knee pain were more likely to respond to glucosamine.

One major drawback of the GAIT Trial was that glucosamine hydrochloride was used rather than the more widely used and researched glucosamine sulfate. A recent analysis of previous studies, including the GAIT Trial, concluded that glucosamine hydrochloride was not effective. The analysis also found that studies on glucosamine sulfate were too different from one another and were not as well-designed as they should be, so they could not properly draw a conclusion. More research is needed.

Still, health care providers often suggest a three month trial of glucosamine and discontinuing it if there is no improvement after three months. A typical dose for osteoarthritis is 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate each day.

Other Conditions Benefitting from Glucosamine:
Other conditions for which glucosamine is used include rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), chronic venous insufficiency, and skin conditions, although further evidence is needed.

Side Effects and Safety of Glucosamine:
Most studies involving humans have found that short-term use of glucosamine is well-tolerated. Side effects may include drowsiness, headache, insomnia, and mild and temporary digestive complaints such as abdominal pain, poor appetite, nausea, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. In rare human cases, the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin has been linked with temporarily elevated blood pressure and heart rate and palpitations.

Since glucosamine supplements may be made from shellfish, people with allergies to shellfish should avoid glucosamine unless it has been confirmed that it is from a non-shellfish source. The source of glucosamine is not required to be printed on the label, so it may require a phone call to the manufacturer.

There is some evidence suggesting that glucosamine, in doses used to treat osteoarthritis, may worsen blood sugar, insulin, and/or hemoglobin A1c (a test that measures how well blood sugar has been controlled during the previous three months) levels in people with diabetes or insulin resistance.

Theoretically, glucosamine may increase the risk of bleeding. People with bleeding disorders, those taking anti-clotting or anti-platelet medication, such as warfarin, clopidogrel, and Ticlid, or people taking supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding, such as garlic, ginkgo, vitamin E, or red clover, should not take glucosamine unless under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

The safety of glucosamine in pregnant or nursing women isn't known.

Related Articles:
Glucosamine
Side Effects of Glucosamine Sulfate
Glucosamine: Is It A Beneficial Arthritis Treatment?
Glucosamine and Chondroitin - Arthritis Treatment Joint...
Osteoarthritis Pain Relief Remedies
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Sources:
Clegg DO, Reda DJ, Harris CL, Klein MA, O'Dell JR, Hooper MM, Bradley JD, Bingham CO 3rd, Weisman MH, Jackson CG, Lane NE, Cush JJ, Moreland LW, Schumacher HR Jr, Oddis CV, Wolfe F, Molitor JA, Yocum DE, Schnitzer TJ, Furst DE, Sawitzke AD, Shi H, Brandt KD, Moskowitz RW, Williams HJ. Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis. N Engl J Med. (2006) 354.8: 795-808.

Pavelka K, Gatterova J, Olejarova M, Machacek S, Giacovelli G, Rovati LC. Glucosamine sulfate use and delay of progression of knee osteoarthritis: a 3-year, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Arch Intern Med. 2002 Oct 14;162(18):2113-23.

Vlad SC, LaValley MP, McAlindon TE, Felson DT. Glucosamine for pain in osteoarthritis: why do trial results differ? Arthritis Rheum.

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