What you need to know about glucosamine

Community Pharmacist Gerald Quigley shares more about glucosamine, the well-known ‘food for joints’ as discussed on The House of Wellness Radio.

As we age, arthritis can be an all too familiar source of pain and discomfort.

It is estimated that nearly 17 per cent of the total Australian population suffer from this debilitating disease. While often associated with old age, arthritis also affects younger people, not uncommonly starting around 45 years of age.

There are many types of arthritis, each with distinctive symptoms and outcomes.

Osteoarthritis is the most common, often resulting from the wear-and-tear process of ageing. The first sign of osteoarthritis may be morning stiffness, cracking joints, and, at times, joint pain. As the condition gets worse it causes greater discomfort, greater pain, and may reduce your ability to do normal day-to-day activities.

In joints afflicted by arthritis, the joint cartilage (the connective tissue that cushions the ends of the bones) degenerates, resulting in the bones rubbing against each other. This can be extremely painful as inflammation is produced in and around the joint itself.

To overcome the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis, it may be necessary to take painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. However, long-term use of these medications may lead to highly undesirable side effects, such as stomach ulcers and further weakening of the joint tissue.

There is, however, another effective and safe answer.

The role of glucosamine in managing osteoarthritis

The use of naturally based anti-inflammatories and joint repair formulae has revolutionised the management of arthritis.

Natural substances such as glucosamine, chondroiton, bromelain, quercetin and MSM provide safe and highly effective alternatives for the treatment of arthritis.

Of the natural therapies used for osteoarthritis, glucosamine is the most well known.

Many studies confirm the efficacy and safety of this substance. Since the early 1980’s, research has demonstrated that osteoarthritis may be alleviated with glucosamine supplementation. When researchers compared glucosamine to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, glucosamine was found to be just as effective for pain relief, without any undesirable side effects.

Consistently impressive results show that quality of life improves dramatically when joints are supported nutritionally.

Glucosamine, a naturally occurring component of connective tissues, stimulates cartilage production by providing the required ‘building blocks’. Additionally, it inhibits certain enzymes, which can destroy cartilage. By blocking the mechanisms that can lead to joint damage and deterioration, glucosamine successfully slows the progression of arthritis and improves cartilage and joint function, relieving symptoms, even for weeks after stopping treatment.

Significant reductions in joint pain, stiffness, tenderness and swelling, as well as increased joint mobility are hallmarks of supplementation with glucosamine.

As with most natural remedies, the therapeutic effect of glucosamine does not appear immediately and usually takes a while to occur. This is why other ingredients are often added to glucosamine formulations.

Supporting glucosamine supplementation

Chondroiton is a major component of cartilage. Chondroiton acts like a ‘liquid magnet’ that draws water into the cartilage to maintain the shock absorbing effect required by the joint. It also has the ability to stimulate cartilage production and prevent enzymes from breaking down cartilage tissue.

Recent studies have shown very good results from long-term treatment with chondroiton in regards to reducing pain and increasing range of movement in the joint.

Methyl-sulfonyl methane (MSM) is another anti-inflammatory substance that has powerful pain relieving properties. It is a naturally occurring source of organic sulphur that is both safe and non-toxic. The concentration of sulphur in arthritic cartilage has been found to be considerably lower than in healthy tissue.

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By blocking pain signals along the nerve fibres, MSM is able to reduce the crippling pain associated with arthritic conditions. When combined with chondroiton and glucosamine, MSM supports healing and sharply reduces inflammation in and around the joints.

Interestingly, clinical trials comparing glucosamine and/or chondroiton in osteoarthritis often fail to show real benefits over NSAIDs like celecoxib (Celebrex).

In spite of these trials, consistently impressive results show that quality of life improves dramatically when joints are supported nutritionally.

Further to this, the properties of krill oil have been clinically shown to reduce the levels of inflammatory factors in the body. It is also a convenient and efficient way of increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake substantially without the challenge of a fishy aftertaste!

The unique phospholipid packaging of krill oil delivers high omega-3 levels in the blood stream, helping reduce inflammation (and bad cholesterol levels too).

The dosage range for joint support is 1000mg each night and morning. Unlike fish oil, krill oil does not cause reflux.

The common underlying factor in all issues of joint health is movement.

About half an hour a day, every day, is all that’s required to ensure that your joints stay flexible. Find a park, or beach path, that is handy and pop a reminder in your phone (like I do!) each day to make that commitment.

Have a question for Gerald that you would like answered? Use our contact form to Ask Gerald your health related question now.

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