Glucosamine: Does this stuff really work?
What is it?
Glucosamine is found in the body in the form of a monosaccharide, or in other words, a simple sugar! It can also be made by fermentation of a grain, or by essentially using water to ring the molecules out of a shellfish’s, well, shell! Isn’t science pretty nifty?
It is sold as a dietary supplement since it is illegal in the USA to market supplements to be used to treat a condition, and most commonly glucosamine is used to treat mild to moderate cases of osteoarthritis in joints.
The theory behind its use is that since it appears in the body as a natural compound for joint health, supplementing it will promote better joint health overall for early stages of osteoarthritis. Scientists are divided on their results based off clinical studies. Overall it seems to reduce pain and improve function, but does little to actually ‘re-build’ lost cartilage. The Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) was the largest study done to determine its effectiveness, and in the end they determined that it was just as about as effective as Celebrex for knee osteoarthritis.
Many people find that using glucosamine with other treatments provides for better relief. Supplements, in addition to anit-inflammatories, gentle stretching, low impact exercises, and activity modification can all help to alleviate joint pain caused by osteoarthritis. Weight loss is also a key factor in protecting the joints from excessive wear and tear.
Risks associated with supplementation are relatively harmless. People with a shellfish allergy should take caution and speak with their doctor before beginning a regimen of glucosamine. Other things like upset stomach, heartburn, drowsiness, and headaches can occur with high doses. Diabetics may see a spike in blood glucose and people with glaucoma or intraocular hypertension (high pressure in the eyes) may experience increased eye pressure. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new medication or supplement.
By: By: Riki Duncan, MA. Ed, ATC, LAT