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Glucosamine – A natural remedy against joint pain

Arthrosis happens when a joint cartilage is damaged. The function of the cartilage is to produce a buffering effect between the joints. However, when it is damaged, one bone may rub against another one which triggers discomfort, inflammation and difficulty to move. This is when glucosamine comes into play.

Up until now, the only relief was a treatment with anti-inflammatory medicines (for example, Brufen or Orudis) or steroid injections (such as cortisone). However, this just hides the symptoms and relieves the pain momentarily, while the deterioration of the connective tissue continues.

Moreover, the dose of the medicine must be increased as the pain increases, which leads to a vicious cycle with no way out. This causes further problems because the medicines have harmful side effects that can even lead to a faster development of the arthrosis.

Over the years, the only solution is an artificial joint implant through surgery, but this does not solve the problem either, since their lifespan is limited and they need to be replaced again after a period of time.

A new approach to glucosamine and chondroitin

Natural dietary supplements have provided excellent results in recent years, to the point that, in many cases, they can prevent the deterioration caused by osteoarthrosis and even favor the regeneration of the cartilage.

These natural supplements include a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which are substances that our body naturally produces in small quantities from the food we eat.

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There are several studies that have proven the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate both in humans and animals.

It is one of the main constituents of tendons, cartilages and ligaments, and it ensures their regeneration and repair.

Moreover, glucosamine regulates the synovial fluid that the body needs to move the joints freely. This is why it is specially important for athletes, whose joints undergo a particularly high level of tension.

As we grow old, the production of glucosamine in the body drops, which is why it is necessary to take an additional glucosamine supplement to keep the joints healthy.

What is glucosamine?

  • Glucosamine is an amino-sugar that is produced in our own organism. Our body produces it from the food we eat.
  • This amino sugar is present in the synovial fluid from the connective tissue and cartilages.
  • It is very important so that the joints can move painlessly.
  • It also regulates the cartilage structure in combination with chondroitin.

How does glucosamine work?

In order to preserve a healthy cartilage tissue, these three premises must be met:

  • Plenty of water for its hydration and conservation
  • Proteoglycans to bind it to water
  • Collagen, to keep the proteoglycans in a correct position

Proteoglycans act like a string that wraps around collagen. They are very important due to their ability to store their own weight in water several times, lubricating the collagen.

The importance of glucosamine for the cartilages

If the cartilage is damaged, the strands of the string weaken, causing a “leakage” towards the outside. Collagen starts to lose its strength and the proteoglycans float since they are unable to attach themselves to the water. Thus, the cartilaginous tissue cannot buffer any impact and it cracks completely.

Glucosamine is an important component of proteoglycans, which are hydrophilic (affinity to water). Apart from its role in promoting the synthesis of proteoglycans, its mere presence is an important stimulus for the cells that produce them. In fact, glucosamine is a key factor to determine the amount of proteoglycans that a cell produces.

It has been proven that glucosamine accelerates the production of proteoglycans and collagen and it regulates the metabolism of cartilaginous tissue, preventing its deterioration.

The effects of glucosamine on the cartilage can help to repair the damaged cartilage and enhance the natural healing mechanisms.

Apart from stimulating the regeneration of cartilage, glucosamine also contributes to reducing the soreness and inflammation.

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Chondroitin sulfate

While glucosamine helps to form those proteoglycans that are found in the cartilaginous tissue, chondroitin sulfate acts as a “liquid magnet”.

Chondroitin grants liquid properties to the proteoglycan molecules. This is important for two reasons:

  • The liquid acts as a spongy buffer
  • Liquid nutrients surround the cartilage

The joint cartilage has no blood so its only lubrication comes from the synovial fluid that surrounds it. The pressure that it exerts stimulates the production of synovial fluid. Without this fluid, the cartilage would be malnourished, dry, thin, and fragile.

The effect of chondroitin

Chondroitin is a long-chain molecule that is negatively charged. As this chain surrounds the proteoglycans, they repel themselves, producing gaps between each one of them. This space is known as the cartilage matrix, in which the liquid flows.

We can find up to 10.000 of these chains surrounding a single proteoglycan molecule. Therefore, we have a great water reserve, since these chains make sure that the molecules are separated from one another and that they do not come together.

Chondroitin has the following beneficial properties:

  • It protects the cartilaginous tissue, preventing its deterioration and inhibiting certain enzymes that break down the cartilage.
  • It affects the metabolism of other enzymes to prevent the loss of cartilage fluid.
  • It stimulates the production of proteoglycans, glucosamine, and collagen.

Glucosamine is advised for the following cases:

  • Regular physical exercise
  • To prevent the onset of arthrosis
  • Lower or chronic back pain
  • Persistent joint discomfort
  • To prevent incipient or advanced osteoarthrosis

You can find more information about Sport Supplements for runners here.

The benefits of glucosamine for runners

Sources of Glucosamine

Currently, there are very few foods with glucosamine. The body can only produce glucosamine naturally by eating lobsters, shrimps, crabs or clams. This is the reason why taking glucosamine nutritional supplements is the best alternative.

Allergy to seafood

You should consult your doctor before starting a glucosamine treatment since most of it comes from seafood (although some manufacturers sell glucosamine from corn). If it comes from pure seafood it can produce an adverse reaction for those who are allergic to shellfish or seafood, which means that they cannot take glucosamine.

People who are allergic to seafood react to the proteins present in this type of food. Glucosamine is obtained from chitin, a seafood carbohydrate, which is the reason why consulting your doctor is advised before taking glucosamine for those who are allergic to seafood.

But the general advise is that those who are allergic to seafood must avoid taking glucosamine.

Glucosamine for arthrosis

At the beginning, conventional medicine had very few medicines to treat arthrosis.

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Then came the NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These new components became widely used and are currently among the most popular medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.

  • Although they are effective against the pain caused by arthrosis, they also have some serious side effects if they are taken for a longer period than what it is necessary.
  • Some of these side effects can involve stomach bleeding, lower digestive tract collapse, or liver failure.
  • At that time, nobody knew that the administration of NSAIDs could exacerbate arthrosis. NSAIDs acted as the first generation of COX-2 medicines by inhibiting an enzyme called COX-1.
  • This was partly the reason why the analgesic was used to slow down the pain receptors like COX-1. But, unfortunately, COX-1 is a non-specific molecule.
  • On the other hand, it also affects other systems, such as the blood coagulation and digestion. Therefore, those who take aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen daily are more likely to suffer from stomach discomfort or bruising due to the degree of dilution of the blood, since the body is being attacked in these aspects (along with the pain or the inflammation).
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COX-2 inhibitors came later on, which were medicines that were supposedly “more selective.” These are usually prescription medicines (and they cost much more than non-prescription NSAIDs). Brands like Vioxx and Celebrex gained a lot of fame among some of the most prescribed medications.

However, this has changed today due to the potentially dangerous side effects of COX-2, its high price and inability to produce any effects other than masking the pain of arthrosis. For this reason, for the past 20 years in the United States and most of Europe (Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) research has continued to study glucosamine and its effectiveness to fight against arthrosis in both humans and animals.

Glucosamine tablets

Glucosamine is different from NSAIDs or COX-2 drugs. It acts completely differently to NSAIDs or COX-2 because it is natural.

Glucosamine regenerates the cartilaginous tissue, tendons, and other connective tissues of the body and it builds these materials and inhibits the enzymes that destroy the cartilage, particularly fighting against arthrosis. The body can develop arthrosis when it does not receive and adequate glucosamine supply. This degenerative disease that affects millions of people around the world, is characterized by a collapse of the “buffers” in the joints, specially those that support the body weight, like the hips or knees.

It avoids the destruction of cartilaginous tissue and calms the pain, swelling and mobility loss in a completely natural way. On the other hand, glucosamine has no harmful side effects, like those produced by NSAID or COX-2 drugs. Not to mention the fact that glucosamine is much cheaper (about a dollar a day), and that it has a completely natural origin.

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Glucosamine cannot cure arthrosis, but it can soothe joint pain very efficiently. The effects of glucosamine are produced from the inside, hydrating and protecting the joints and healing them, instead of hiding the pain, like NSAIDs and COX-2 do. Thus, even though the effects of glucosamine are slower, they are much more effective and positive than those of the medicines.

Apart from relieving the discomfort, glucosamine also protects the joints against further damage, preventing future injuries. It has been proven that many NSAIDs can actually damage the joints and worsen the arthrosis due to the degeneration of the joints, unlike what happens with glucosamine, which protects them instead.

If you need immediate pain relief, you can take glucosamine along with the traditional NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.). This way the pain will be gone temporally. Glucosamine will also strengthen the cartilage, apart from reducing the discomfort. Keep in mind that 1500mg of glucosamine daily is enough, which is an amount that has been tested in most clinical trials.

Many people also benefit from the positive effects of chondroitin and MSM against arthritis.

If you are going to use a product, compare its ingredients carefully to see its real composition and its percentage of glucosamine.

Recommended dose of glucosamine and its administration

The daily recommended dose of glucosamine is approximately 1000 mg.

This dose can be taken through supplementation. It can be taken either at once or divided in three servings throughout the day. It should be taken with the meals and plenty of water.

If you want to take glucosamine with therapeutic purposes, you should take it for six months.

If you are taking glucosamine for the first time on a daily basis, you can start to notice its positive effects after one or three months.

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Side effects of glucosamine

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Glucosamine is a dietary supplement that does not produce any side effects nor the harmful effects of the COX-2 and NSAIDs medicines, like ibuprofen or aspirin. What else do we need to know? Does it have other side effects that we should know about?

Is glucosamine completely safe?

Glucosamine is a very safe substance in general. It has been clinically studied since the 80s. Therefore, people have been taking it safely for more than 30 years. If you are taking glucosamine you should keep some things in mind though.

Glucosamine and diabetes

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The insulin levels can fluctuate with glucosamine (hydrochloric acid or sulfate), specially in the case of diabetic people. Glucosamine is technically a carbohydrate (a sugar), but the body cannot transform glucosamine into glucose. Therefore, glucosamine does not provide any additional direct source of glucose.

There are many factors for diabetic people that can produce changes in their blood values and, therefore, it is very important to consult a doctor before starting a glucosamine treatment. You must be very careful when monitoring your glucose levels in the blood while you are taking glucosamine. Try to read the latest information on glucosamine for diabetic people.

Training during pregnancy

Glucosamine for pregnant and lactating Women

Pregnant women should avoid glucosamine. There are not enough long-term studies in fetuses that can clearly prove that glucosamine is 100% safe for the development of the fetus. There is no evidence that suggests that it is harmful either, but it is better to avoid any risk.

Glucosamine overdose

Extremely high amounts of glucosamine (a multiple of the daily dose) can cause digestive problems that result in loose stool, diarrhea, or nausea. Glucosamine should not be taken with food, but it is advisable to combine it with a drink.

Glucosamine, a story of success

Except for the warnings that have been mentioned above, glucosamine has a long history and it is regarded as very safe element, unlike NSAIDs or COX-2 medicines, which have a long history of toxicity.

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Keep in mind that each aspirin leaflet contains the warning that it only provides temporary relief of arthrosis pain. Also, COX-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex, Vioxx, NSAIDs, and COX-2 have harmful side effects and only hide the pain. In contrast, glucosamine is not a foreign substance to the body, but a totally natural one that is found in the joints.

The pain will come back quickly as soon as you stop taking NSAIDs or COX-2 inhibitors. The explanation is that the pain has always been there, but your brain does not perceive it because of the effects of the medication.

On the contrary, glucosamine provides long-lasting effects. Even if you stop taking it, you will remain protected for a certain period of time. Taking a daily dose of glucosamine is the best way to reduce joint problems as much as possible, and to keep them protected. Glucosamine is much more effective if you take it continuously over a long period of time.

Make sure you read the glucosamine product guide, where you can find a review of the glucosamine products available in the market, divided into 9 different categories regarding the price, quality and format. You will be able to see the best products available and the way that they are classified.

Glucosamine clinical research

The results of the most recent clinical trials have concluded that glucosamine and chondroitin are better than analgesics.

There is an increasing interest in discovering how to overcome the limitations of living with arthrosis, specially since two of the most important medicines prescribed for its treatment (Vioxx and Bextra) were withdrawn from the market. Two important clinical studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are more effective than conventional analgesics.

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After five years of studies, tests and analysis, the “GAIT” (Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial) research reported that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin is more effective than medications in the treatment of moderate to severe knee discomfort due to osteoarthrosis.

Under the guidelines of the NIH (National Institutes of Health), one of the leading medical research centers, 13 universities conducted a number of double-blind, placebo-controlled, efficacy trials on more than 1500 patients with osteoarthritis.

During 24 weeks, each participant received a daily dose of:

  • A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin
  • 200mg of celecoxib, an analgesic with prescription
  • COX-2 medication (Celebrex)
  • or a placebo

The discomfort levels of the patients were assessed at the beginning of the study and upon its completion, four weeks later.

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The results showed that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin [both major components of Flexicose] significantly reduced the pain when compared to the placebo and Celebrex (celecoxib) group. The WOMAC index (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthrosis Index) was used to evaluate the pain.

Research on glucosamine

The study was funded by individuals with no link to the trade brands of glucosamine.

Approximately at the same time as the results of the United States University’s GAIT study were published, another independent European study, based on clinical studies, was published which also proved the extraordinary benefits of glucosamine for health.

In this European study it was reported that glucosamine sulfate might be the most effective treatment for the symptoms of knee arthrosis.

Dr. Herrero-Beaumont of the Jiménez Díaz Foundation in Madrid stated that glucosamine was much more effective than paracetamol for the treatment of joint damage, after carrying out a randomized controlled double-blind study.

The study was conducted at several randomly chosen hospitals, to avoid bias, both in the comparison of the placebo and the genuine medicines. The doctors themselves did not even know whether the patients were taking placebo or glucosamine. This was an exceptionally well planned study, in which a large budget was used and it provided excellent results.

The Efficacy (Guideline) study carried out a study on Glucosamine Unum in 13 different clinics in Europe and compared a daily dose of 1500mg of glucosamine sulfate; Another larger dose of 3000mg; A non-prescribed medication, acetaminophen (usually Tylenol, Excedrin); and placebo. The study was performed on 318 patients.

After 24 weeks, during which the patients were monitored to assess their arthrosis, the study clearly demonstrated the efficacy of glucosamine dietary supplements (even at their lowest dose) by improving the mobility and comfort of the patients.

The study confirmed that glucosamine is more effective (at the same daily dose of Flexicose) than the most commonly used analgesic, acetaminophen.

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The experts opinion about glucosamine

1. Glucosamine relieves the pain of arthrosis

Researchers of Creighton University in Nebraska used glucosamine to alleviate arthrosis symptoms. They also found that glucosamine has an inhibiting effect in this disease’s development.

2. Glucosamine stops the destruction of the cartilage

The Belgian professor Jean-Yves Regnister confirmed that taking glucosamine blocks cartilage cells damage. His study also confirmed the positive effects on the formation of new cartilage.

3. Glucosamine inhibits the inflammation

Laut Sven-David Mueller Nortmann proved how one of its effects is inhibiting the release of harmful enzymes that destroy the cartilage, apart from relieving the inflammation.

4. Remedy against joint and back pain

Other studies have proven that glucosamine can relieve joint and back pain. This amino-sugar was a really useful preventive measure for athletes and obese people in order to avoid tension increase in the joints.

Here you have more information about Supplements for the Joints

Facts about glucosamine

  • It has been used alone or combined with chondroitin to treat osteoarthrosis. Osteoarthrosis is the main cause of disability among the elderly. Osteoarthrosis is a disease that affects the joint cartilage, changing the structure of the joints.
  • It is an amino acid obtained from glucose and glutamine, which is produced by the organism in a natural way.
  • It is one of the main components of glycosaminoglycans, hyaluronic acid and proteoglycans, which are essential for the formation of cartilaginous tissue.
  • It is a dietary supplement that is used for the treatment of glaucoma, osteoarthritis, back and joint pain. Most studies on glucosamine have been performed on patients with knee osteoarthritis.
  • The main source of glucosamine in food is fish and shellfish, although there are glucosamine products available as well.

Glucosamine for joint pain

Effects of glucosamine

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  • It is used for the synthesis of glycoproteins, glycolipids and glycosaminoglycans (also called mucopolysaccharides.) These compounds, which contain carbohydrates, are present in the tendons, ligaments, cartilage, synovial fluid, mucous membranes; as well as in the eyes, blood vessels, and heart valves.
  • It can reduce the catabolic activity by inhibiting the synthesis of proteolytic enzymes and other substances that damage the inside of the cartilaginous tissue.
  • It inhibits the collagenase enzymes that destroy the cartilage. It can have a positive effect on the cartilage cells and it can prevent the breakdown of the structures of the cartilaginous tissue.
  • Glucosamine also has mild anti-inflammatory effects.

Side effects of glucosamine

  • It is very well tolerated. No serious side effects were reported in a study conducted for three years with a daily intake of 1000mg of glucosamine.
  • Glucosamine hydrochloride was safely used in studies carried out over 24 weeks, in which the most common side effect was mild digestive problems.
  • People who are allergic to seafood should avoid taking glucosamine supplements obtained from seafood and take vegetarian glucosamine supplements instead.
  • There was some concern about its effect on the insulin and sugar levels in the blood. Tests that were carried out on healthy, obese people with type 2 diabetes, showed no effects on hemoglobin A1C or glucose levels after taking glucosamine nutritional supplements for 3 months.
  • There was concern about the possibility of glucosamine increasing the cholesterol levels and blood pressure. However, no adverse effects on cholesterol or blood pressure have been observed in those people who have been taking glucosamine dietary supplements for three years.
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Arthrosis happens when a joint cartilage is damaged. The function of the cartilage is to produce a buffering effect between the joints. However, when it is damaged, one bone may rub against another one which triggers discomfort, inflammation and difficulty to move. This is when glucosamine comes into play. Up until now, the only relief was a treatment with anti-inflammatory medicines (for example, Brufen or Orudis) or steroid injections (such as cortisone). However, this just hides the symptoms and relieves the pain momentarily, while the deterioration of the connective tissue continues. Moreover, the dose of the medicine must be increased…
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