Glucosamine is produced naturally in the body and plays a key role in building cartilage, the strong connective tissue that cushions the joints. Glucosamine supplements are believed to help in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a type of inflammation of the joints due to cartilage break down and loss due to overuse and natural aging.
Glucosamine supplements have been found in a number of well-designed scientific studies to be an effective treatment for OA, particularly OA of the knee and hip. In general glucosamine helped reduce OA pain, improve function in people with hip or knee OA, reduce joint swelling and stiffness, and provided relief from OA symptoms for up to 3 months after treatment is stopped. In most studies glucosamine, and sometimes glucosamine mixed with other ingredients such as chondroitin, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and hyaluronic acid, was taken for 2 to 4 months. There have been some mixed results with recent glucosamine studies. For example one recent study showed pain improvement with moderate to severe OA of the knee but not in the overall relief of pain associated with OA. It is also believed that glucosamine can help slow the progression of OA, although there have been no studies to date to support this. More studies need to be done.
The current medical treatment for OA is acetaminophen (Tylenol), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen, (Aleve). These can cause abdominal pain, cramping, constipation and stomach ulcers if used chronically. Glucosamine supplements are a more natural alternative for the treatment of OA with less side effects than traditional treatments.
Glucosamine supplements should be taken as directed by the manufacturer. In studies it is usually taken 500 mg 3 times daily or 1,500 mg once daily dosing. Glucosamine supplementation is generally considered safe, although the most common side effect is stomach upset, indigestion and bloating. If you suffer from these effects, glucosamine should be taken with food. Glucosamine should not be given to children or pregnant or breast-feeding moms. All supplements should be discussed with your physician prior to use.
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