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What are Glucosamine Supplements?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 December 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Glucosamine is a substance that is naturally found in healthy cartilage. Cartilage is a type of connective tissue in the body that cushions joints and provides structure and support. Glucosamine supplements are often taken to relieve joint pain due to damaged cartilage. These supplements often contain a mix of both glucosamine and chondroitin, which helps provide elasticity to the cartilage. Supplements are the only reliable way to provide the body with an external source of glucosamine, as it does not naturally occur in any major food sources.

Osteoarthritis is one condition that glucosamine supplements may improve. It appears to be particularly effective for osteoarthritis of the knee. Glucosamine may help relieve pain and inflammation, as well as improve the general function of the joint. Additionally, patients who suffer from general joint pain, but do not necessarily have osteoarthritis, may find relief with glucosamine supplements.

There is a lack of sufficient scientific evidence for other possible health benefits of glucosamine. It has been proposed that the compound may improve conditions like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and high cholesterol. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support this.

Glucosamine supplements may result in mild side effects in some people. These may include diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Other people have reported experiencing heartburn, an upset stomach, and indigestion. Taking glucosamine with food may alleviate these side effects. Patients who suffer from peptic ulcers should always take glucosamine with food.

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Rarely, these supplements may cause additional side effects, such as sensitivity to sunlight, insomnia, and skin reactions, as well as abdominal pain and loss of appetite. Other uncommon side effects include nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Patients who experience these reactions should discontinue glucosamine and contact a doctor.

It is possible to experience an allergic reaction to glucosamine. Glucosamine supplements are often made from shellfish, such as crabs. Patients with a shellfish allergy or an iodine hypersensitivity should not take these products. Facial and throat swelling, as well as breathing problems may occur.

Patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take glucosamine supplements, as the potential risks are unknown. Diabetic patients should seek the counsel of a doctor before taking supplements. Patients who undergo a urine test should inform the doctor that they are taking glucosamine, as it may alter the results.

Certain drugs may interact with these supplements. Patients who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or diabetes medications, including insulin, should ask a doctor for advice. Glucosamine may also interact with blood-thinning medications and diuretics.

Children should not take glucosamine supplements, due to a lack of scientific evidence supporting its safety. There are no standard dosing recommendations for adults. Most studies have used dosages of 500 milligrams (mg), taken three times daily. This dosage appears to be well tolerated for approximately 30 to 90 days.

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