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Is Glucosamine sulphate useful for your joints?


April 2013

 

Glucosamine and Joint HealthAs we get older more and more of us will suffer from stiff joints.

Instead of leaping out of bed in the mornings we will ease ourselves more gently into activity. For many of us, the problem can become acute, turning into osteoarthritis when the breakdown of cartilage in the joints creates chronic pain, loss of mobility and disability.

With six million people in the UK already suffering from osteoarthritis, anything we can do to prevent the disease developing is of course of interest.

Recently many people, as they reach middle age, start taking glucosamine supplements. However, apart from reading the promotional literature in supplement adverts, few of us really understand what it is and what it does.

To start with, it is useful to know a little about our joints, or the flexible connections between our bones. Amazingly we have over 230 moveable and semi-moveable joints around our body.

Osteoarthritis and other problems can occur when the cartilage in a joint breaks down. Cartilage is a firm slippery tissue which acts as a cushion and shock absorber between the bones of joints. In healthy people the cartilage allows bones to glide around and over each other without any problems.

Once cartilage becomes damaged or begins to break down, the bones in joints can begin to rub together causing pain and numerous other problems.

Glucosamine sulfate is a natural amino acid and a key component found in the production of healthy cartilage. However, there are different types of cartilage in the body and glucosamine supplements are mostly considered by people developing knee and hip problems.

Glucosamine can’t be found in natural foods apart from in the shells of shellfish but it can be made in a laboratory and extracted from crab, lobsters and shrimp shells.

Then are now numerous reports from health supplement manufacturers and also sports professionals who say joint problems have been greatly helped by turning to glucosamine supplements.

However, there are still many conflicting thoughts; reports from NICE indicate they feel there is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of glucosamine in osteoarthritis. A report from the BMJ indicates that the use of glucosamine supplements do not result in relevant reductions of joint pain, nor affect the space between the joints.

The good news is that glucosamine appears safe with few side effects, even when taken for several years. Occasional side effects could include headaches, heartburn and constipation, but these do not appear common although there is ongoing research on whether glucosamine could contribute towards an increase in LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. It is definitely advised not to take glucosamine if you are on Coumadin (warfarin).

There are some recommendations that if you are looking at taking glucosamine supplements, then it can be of extra benefit to take them with turmeric and manganese. Turmeric has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties while manganese is also vital for the production of cartilage and works with glucosamine to help produce synovial fluid, helping to reduce friction between joints.

There is some useful information on the web such as: http://osteoarthritis.about.com/od/alternativetreatments/a/glucosamine.htm

However, as with all complex supplements, it is a good idea to talk to your trusted health practitioner about your individual situation before you invest in glucosamine supplements.


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