Glucosamine and Chondroitin Supplements for Arthritis Benefits
Glucosamine is an amino sugar that occurs naturally in the body. It is taken as a supplement most commonly for the treatment of osteoarthritis. However, glucosamine can also be beneficial in the treatment of a number of other diseases such as bursitis, candidiasis, food allergies, osteoporosis, tendinitis, vaginitis and skin problems. It also plays a role in the mucous secretion of the digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts. In that way glucosamine can be helpful against asthma.
Glucosamine is made in the body by the simple carbohydrate glucose and the amino acid glutamine. Most forms of sugar are used by the body as a source of energy; however, the amino sugars, such as glucosamine, are different. They are components of carbohydrates that get incorporated into the structure of body tissues. Thus, glucosamine is involved with the production of nails, tendons, skin, eyes, bones ligaments and heart valves. That being the case, the importance of taking care to maintain healthy levels of glucosamine in the body becomes apparent.
Glucosamine is available in many forms, including glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl) and N-acetylglucosamine. There seems to be little evidence that any one of these forms of glucosamine are any more effective than the other. Glucosamine sulfate is a common form of glucosamine for use as a supplement. The glucosamine that is used in supplements is usually derived from shellfish shells or from a corn source.
How is glucosamine effective in the treatment of such ailments as osteoarthritis? First it is important to understand what osteoarthritis is and also how surprisingly widespread that condition is. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is a condition that usually results from wear and tear on joints. The substance known as cartilage cushions one's joints but it eventually wears away. When that happens the result in one's body is pain, swelling and a loss of movement in one's joints. Glucosamine is a major component of cartilage; thus, taken as a supplement it can help to prevent further cartilage deterioration. On top of that, in over 300 studies and 20 clinical trials, glucosamine has been shown to actually build joint cartilage. When glucosamine is combined with chondroitin sulfate, another substance often used in the treatment of arthritic ailments, its therapeutic effect on osteoarthritis is even greater. In fact, a study by the National Institutes of Health, the NIH, showed that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin were effective in patients with osteoarthritis.
Most people over 60 have osteoarthritis to some extent and up to 16 million individuals require medical care for it. That's a staggering figure and one that points out the tremendous importance of glucosamine or glucosamine/chondroitin supplements.
What is glucosamine's involvement with other ailments such as skin disorders? Glucosamine must be present in the blood stream in high amounts in order for the body to produce hyaluronic acid, an important substance in the healing of skin injuries. It has been shown that patients who took glucosamine after surgery had their incisions heal faster and with less scarring. The levels of hyaluronic acid in one's body tend to decrease as one gets older. Thus taking Glucosamine may help to keep the skin resilient and may even help to reduce wrinkles.
There are many different types of glucosamine and combination glucosamine/chondroitin products available. Phyllis and James Balch, in their book "Prescription for Nutritional Healing," recommend a number of glucosamine only products: Glucosamend from Source Naturals, Glucosamine Plus from Food Science Laboratories and Glucosamine sulfate complex from Phytopharmica. Consumer reports has advised trying the least expensive combination products; such products include Puritan's Pride Maximum Strength Glucosamine/Chondroitin or Spring Valley Glucosamine/Chondroitin Double Strength
Thus far, no study has uncovered any serious side effects from the long-term use of either glucosamine or chondroitin. Likewise, there have been no reports of allergic reactions to glucosamine. However, people who are allergic to seafood should use it cautiously or avoid it entirely because glucosamine supplements are often derived from shellfish shells.
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