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Glucosamine – Supplemental Therapy to Manage Osteoarthritis

osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that affects various joints in our body including knee, hips, back, and hand. The knee and hip joints are the most commonly affected joints. It is a degenerative condition that cannot be cured; however, its progression can be slowed down with the help of certain medicines and therapies. Around 80% people in the age group of 50 years and above are prone to this disease. Apart from age, gender is also a determining factor in osteoarthritis, as this condition is more common in females than males.

In osteoarthritis, a person suffers from slow degeneration of cartilage cells. Cartilage is a tough and rubbery connective tissue that provides padding and cushioning to the bones and joints. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes weak and thin leading to friction between joints resulting in joint pain and stiffness. Being overweight worsens this condition as it puts extra pressure on the already weak joints, causing more pain.

The right intake of dietary supplements can lessen your pain and one such supplement is glucosamine. Regular intake of glucosamine can help you get relief.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is an amino sugar, produced naturally within the body from glucose (a sugar) and glutamine (an amino acid). Glucosamine is required to produce glycosaminoglycans, which forms a major component of the cartilage. This compound helps the body build the cartilage tissue & hence proves useful for people suffering from osteoarthritis.

The cartilage tissue forms a cover for the ends of bones so that there is no painful friction between them also acts a shock absorber when the bones are in movement. Apart from this, glucosamine is also required to produce chemicals which help in the building of tendons, ligaments, thick fluid that surrounds our joints, scientifically known as synovial fluid, nails, skin, eyes and heart valves. Glucosamine plays a very important role in healthy growth and development of bones and cartilages in children. As we start growing older, it needs more antioxidants to help maintain healthy cell regeneration.

Glucosamine is not available in desirable quantities to humans through diet. It is typically found in animal bones, bone marrow, fungi, and the shell of the shellfish. A plant-based diet rich in glutamine and antioxidants might provide the body with material to stimulate glucosamine production and help prevent osteoarthritis.

Hence, the only way humans can get it is in form of dietary supplements. These supplements are available in 3 forms – N-acetyl glucosamine, glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate. Amongst these, glucosamine sulfate is the most commonly used form, as sulphur present in this compound helps in maintaining proper cartilage health.

How does glucosamine help in osteoarthritis?

In old age and conditions such as osteoarthritis, cartilage cells start degenerating gradually. Glucosamine supplements help by stimulating the cartilage cells to manufacture glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans. In addition, they are used to reduce inflammation and slow down the functioning of proteolytic enzymes that cause the breakdown of cartilage cells thereby, protecting and regenerating your cartilage to a certain extent.

Using glucosamine to reduce doses of drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs)

The use of Glucosamine as a pain relief supplement popularized in the early 1980s. Currently, researchers are trying to answer the question, whether Glucosamine is able to stop the deterioration of the cartilage in our body or not? Researchers are also working on the question whether Glucosamine can stimulate the growth of cartilage in osteoarthritis or not? Although these questions are still not answered, one thing has been proven that the side effects of Glucosamine are minimal as compared to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include indigestion, stomach ulcers, anemia, GI bleeding, causing high blood pressure and many more health issues. Therefore, if you are suffering from Arthritis or osteoarthritis, you can avoid taking NSAIDs by giving a chance to a good healthy diet, exercise and supplements. Putting it briefly, take good care of your health by choosing the healthiest method of curing.

Natural Sources of Glucosamine

Glutamine is found mainly in shells of sea animals and in animal cartilages and bone marrow. Hence, if looking for natural, glucosamine-rich foods, animal sources are the easiest – especially cartilage-rich foods and those with ample bone marrow.

There are particular foods that you can eat to support the natural production of glucosamine in the body. Good plant sources of glutamine include brown algae, parsley, and spinach. But it is also important to consider that cooking destroys the glutamine in vegetables.

Brown algae

  • Its high chlorophyll content helps in tissue repair.
  • Rich in phytoestrogens (e.g. isoflavonoids and lignans) for bone protection
  • Fucoxanthin, which gives brown algae their color, can promote bone health

Parsley

  • High in glutamine and vitamin C
  • Helpful for arthritis and rheumatism in removing uric acid wastes from tissues

Spinach

  • High in glutamine
  • Supports bone health with chlorophyll, magnesium, manganese, calcium and vitamin C
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

Some glucosamine supplements are derived from shellfish, so those with shellfish allergies must be cautious and determine the origin of the supplements. Glucosamine is not recommended during pregnancy due to a lack of research evidence establishing that the supplement is safe for either expectant mothers or the developing fetus.

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