17.7 percent of adults in the U.S. take a dietary supplement. Of those, 19.9 percent take Glucosamine, making it the second most popular dietary supplement behind fish oil.
Glucosamine is used by so many people because of the variety of conditions it can help treat. It’s a safe supplement that’s affordable and easy to take.
As an active adult, it’s important that you give your body everything it needs to stay in top shape as you get older. Keep reading to learn more about glucosamine supplements and how they can benefit you.
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance that plays an important role in the way our bodies build cartilage. It’s found in the fluid around our joints, in animal bones, bone marrow, fungi, and shellfish.
Glucosamine sulfate is extracted from shellfish, particularly their shells, for use in dietary supplements. It is most often used as a treatment for arthritis and osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is also made in a synthetic form in laboratories.
How Does it Work?
Glucosamine is a key factor in building cartilage, which is a flexible but tough connective tissue found in our bodies. It’s a firm but rubbery tissue that creates padding where long bones meet joints.
As we age, our cartilage loses flexibility and breaks down over time. Glucosamine may slow down this process. As we get older, our glucosamine levels fall, indicating that it does relate to joint deterioration.
It is believed that the sulfur in glucosamine is what is so important for our cartilage. Glucosamine helps our cartilage gain sulfur, which it needs to build and repair itself.
When taken as a supplement, Glucosamine is taken by mouth. It comes in three forms:
- Glucosamine sulfate
- Glucosamine hydrochloride
While all of these forms are similar, each variant has different effects when taken in the form of a supplement.
Glucosamine is often combined with other ingredients in dietary supplements like chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and shark cartilage. Chondroitin is a similar substance to glucosamine that is also found in joints and used to improve joint health.
Although the jury is still out, many people find that combination supplements that include glucosamine improve their joint health. Most of the studies that have been done thus far have focused on glucosamine in the form of glucosamine sulfate.
Here are some of the main reasons that people take glucosamine supplements:
- Back Pain
- Joint Pain
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Weight loss
- Jaw pain
- Interstitial Cystitis
- IBD/Ulcerative Colitis
Glucosamine for Osteoarthritis
One of the most common reasons that people take glucosamine supplements is for osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee or hip.
It is believed that glucosamine helps with osteoarthritis in 3 ways:
- Reduces pain, stiffness, and swelling in your joints caused by osteoarthritis
- Improves function in those with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip
- Provides continued symptom relief for up to 3 months even after treatment is stopped
Glucosamine supplements have also been found to relieve moderate to severe pain for people who suffer from osteoporosis.
Risk to Consider
While glucosamine is considered a safe supplement, not everyone should take it.
Obviously, those with an allergy can be harmed by consuming glucosamine. If you take glucosamine for allergies, be cautious that you are not also allergic to the supplement itself.
If you’re allergic to shellfish, you shouldn’t take glucosamine supplements that are derived from shellfish.
Glucosamine does not appear to be indicated in the treatment of chronic lower back pain or acute sports injuries. If you have asthma, you should talk to your doctor before taking glucosamine supplements.
It’s also unclear whether glucosamine benefits those who suffer from venous insufficiency. Glucosamine appears to be safe when used by those with type 2 diabetes as the supplement does not appear to raise blood glucose levels.
It is not known what effects glucosamine may have on pregnancy or breastfeeding.
As glucosamine is generally considered a safe supplement, side effects are mild and appear to occur infrequently.
Side effects to keep an eye out for include:
- Stomach upsets
- Skin reactions/rashes
Again, if these side effects do occur, they are usually very mild.
Purchasing Glucosamine Supplements
It’s important to be cautious when purchasing glucosamine products. While it’s highly unlikely that purchasing the wrong product will cause you harm, it’s possible that you might not get what you’re paying for.
Some sellers of glucosamine products inaccurately describe their products on the label. You want to be sure you’re getting a product that actually contains glucosamine.
Some manufacturers also claim that their product contains glucosamine hydrochloride but it really contains glucosamine sulfate.
Another thing you want to be sure of is the amount of glucosamine in the supplement. Glucosamine content in supplements can range from 0-100 percent. Purchasing from a trusted manufacturer can ensure you get the amount of product you need.
Start Taking Glucosamine Today
Now that you know more about glucosamine and the many benefits of glucosamine supplements, it’s time to get started strengthening your bones and cartilage.
If you’re an active adult, your body will naturally lose glucosamine as you age. Replacing that lost glucosamine by taking supplements is an easy way to keep your body at the top of its game and keep you active for many years to come.
Remember to contact your doctor if you have any medical concerns.