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Glucosamine is a health supplement that people commonly take for joint pain or osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis. Glucosamine is a natural compound that is produced by our body, responsible for promoting cartilage formation.
In addition, glucosamine helps to promote the production and increase the viscosity of synovial fluid, lubricant found in the joint space which acts as a cushion. This helps to maintain your joint health, thus relieving the pain and slows down the degenerative process.
However, as we age, the levels of glucosamine in our body drops, leading to the gradual breakdown of the cartilage and reduced synovial fluid production which causes osteoarthritis. Hence, glucosamine supplement is recommended to old-aged people or whoever is suffering from joint problems.
Before we discuss the evidence about glucosamine, it is useful to know the different salt forms of glucosamine:
Glucosamine sulphate/sulfate, the most common form
These supplements are not interchangeable. Some forms have better evidence in treating a certain condition than the other. Studies have shown that glucosamine sulphate is integral in cartilage formation and it is usually combined with other ingredients such as chondroitin sulphate.
Glucosamine is well-known for its use to ease joint. But just how true is that?
There is a mix of evidences in terms of the effectiveness of glucosamine in treating knee pain. It is common to hear that glucosamine may work well for some people but not everyone. Hence, if you have unbearable knee pain, and taking glucosamine for long-term does not work for you, do discuss with your doctors on other types of treatment options available for osteoarthritis which includes: steroid injections, NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitor (a type of painkiller) and hyaluronic acid injections.
The usual dosage of glucosamine is 1500 mg per day. It can either be taken in one dose as 1500mg or split into three doses, with 500 mg each dose, three times daily.
You are encouraged to take glucosamine with meals to reduce gastrointestinal irritation.
There are various dosages available in the market: pure powder, capsules and tablets. For powder form, dissolve it in a glass of water and drink it. As for capsules and tablets, take it with a full glass of water.
It is important to manage your expectations when taking glucosamine for joint pain. Glucosamine is not a painkiller, therefore you may only observe improvement after taking it for an extended period of time.
If your joints hurt and there’s no prior diagnosis from a doctor, please see a doctor first. It’s important to find out what’s causing your joint pain. Some diseases that cause joint pain—such as rheumatoid arthritis—may need immediate treatment. There is no evidence that glucosamine works for rheumatoid arthritis or any other conditions.
Some studies suggested that glucosamine may alter glucose tolerance and increase insulin resistance. In other words, glucosamine may reduce the effectiveness of treatment in some diabetic patients. While the connection is not fully established yet, it is encouraged that diabetic patient who takes glucosamine should monitor their blood sugar level carefully and adjust their dose of insulin accordingly, under the supervision of doctor or pharmacist.
If you are taking blood thinners such as warfarin, glucosamine may increase the anticoagulant effect, thereby raising the risk of bleeding. Therefore, you should notify your doctor or pharmacist about this before taking glucosamine.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s especially important to talk to your doctor before taking any medication or supplement, including glucosamine or chondroitin.
Medically reviewed by Ashwini Nair, MB BCh BAO.
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1. Norliza. Glucosamine. PORTAL MyHEALTH. Published January 27, 2014. Accessed May 13, 2022. http://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/glucosamine-2/
2. Fox BA, Schmitz ED, Wallace R, Fox BA, Schmitz ED. Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Osteoarthritis. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(7):1245.
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