What is glucosamine for? Side effects, doses and uses

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Glucosamine is an amino-sugar compound and the most abundant monosaccharide in living organisms. It has been used extensively in the last two decades due to the fact that it is attributed to beneficial properties in joint pathologies.

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What is glucosamine for?

In humans, glucosamine has been shown to decrease the production of certain enzymes and inflammatory markers in the synovial cells of patients with Osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine is an essential part of the cartilage component and other joint elements. The endogenous or proper production of glucosamine seems to be no less in patients with Arthritis.

Nor has it been shown that orally administered glucosamine markedly improves pain or inflammation. The results of the studies have been very controversial.

What is chondroitin for?

Chondroitin is the largest component of the extracellular matrix of many tissues: ligaments, joints, tendons and bones. They have an anti-inflammatory effect in certain tissues and decrease the production of specific enzymes and specific cytokines in the joints that can intervene in the process of joint degeneration.

In such a way, that its use has been proposed in cases of Osteoarthritis and joint pain.

What is glucosamine – chondroitin for?

Since glucosamine and chondroitin are structural components of cartilage and tissues such as ligaments and tendons, the combination has been used commercially as a more effective alternative for osteoarthritis.

However, there are no studies that reveal that its action is potentiated jointly as it happens with other combinations of medicines available for other purposes.

Where is natural glucosamine?

Natural glucosamine is naturally generated in the liquid matter found around the joints of the osseous system of animals, including the bone marrow.

It is also abundant in the shell of the shellfish from where the glucosamine sulfate is extracted.

From there it is obtained for the preparation of dietary supplements and some fungi. It is also synthesized in pharmaceutical laboratories.

In what presentations is glucosamine?

Glucosamine is often consumed orally and comes in different forms, including:

  • Glucosamine sulfate.
  • Glucosamine hydrochloride.
  • N-acetyl-glucosamine.

Glucosamine can also be combined with other components such as chondroitin sulfate, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and shark cartilage.

What is chondroitin?

Chondroitin is a compound similar to glucosamine and is also found naturally in joints. MSM is another natural substance present in animals and plants that can also be synthesized.

As stated in the Clinical Protocols of the University of Western States, scientific research is not conclusive about the effectiveness of these combined supplements. Most recent studies have focused on the role of glucosamine sulfate

The effectiveness of the mixtures with MSM and chondroitin is demonstrated.  

How does glucosamine work?

Glucosamine is essential for the constitution of cartilage, resistant and elastic connective tissues that are part of the skeleton and other parts of the body.

The firm and rubbery cartilage tissues function as end connectors, in which the long bones join with the joints.

The cartilages will be less flexible over the years increasing the risk of breakage. There is evidence that glucosamine could delay this cartilaginous deterioration.

Other proposed mechanisms of action

Researchers believe that the sulfur contained in glucosamine is the agent that benefits the health of the cartilage, joining them to build and repair them. Glucosamine also plays a role in this incorporation of the non-metallic element into the connective tissues.  

The amount of glucosamine in the cartilage will decrease with aging, a deficiency that could be linked to the deterioration of the joints.

Why do people take glucosamine supplements?

The National Health Interview Survey established in 2007 that 17.7% of adults in the United States, regularly consume some kind of dietary supplement and of these, 19.9% ​​lean towards glucosamine, according to the Center National of Complementary and Alternative Therapies.  

According to this survey, glucosamine is the second dietary supplement most used by Americans, second only to those of the Omega 3 family (fish oil, DHA and Omega 3), with a preference of 37.4% of adults they are supplemented

Benefits of glucosamine

Among the classic benefits of glucosamine

  • Improvement of pain in degenerative osteoarthritis and arthritis
  • Improvement of joint stiffness.
  • Provides a component that has been delayed joint wear process
  • It reduces the symptoms of osteoporosis.

Although the use of glucosamine is currently questioned, it has been proposed for many other problems, with less scientific evidence.

Other unproven uses of glucosamine

The consultation also allowed us to know why Americans consume the supplement, despite not being scientifically proven its use for such effects. The following are the reasons:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA).
  • For weight loss.
  • Treat glaucoma
  • For interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition that causes pain or pressure in the bladder.
  • Treatment of pain in the jaw.
  • Treat pain in the knees and other joints.
  • To overcome back pain.
  • Multiple sclerosis

Can glucosamine help with osteoarthritis (OA)?

There are many investigations with divergent results.

Based on scientific studies, glucosamine could:

  • Reduce stiffness, inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis of the joints.
  • Improve the functionality of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip.
  • Relieve symptoms of OA up to 3 months after stopping treatment.

Many patients use glucosamine supplements for osteoarthritis.  Particularly in the hip and knee, there is no evidence to prove its effectiveness

Controversial scientific studies

According to a meta-analysis, which collects information on numerous important works in Osteoarthritis. The evidence indicates that it may have benefits for joint pain. But there are no conclusive results of the improvement in the cartilage of people with arthritis.  

A review was made by the University of Tennessee on the use of glucosamine alone in patients with osteoarthritis. It was concluded that glucosamine provides a very discreet relief of symptoms in these cases.  

Although it is not ruled out that the combination or the single use of glucosamine could alleviate pain in people with osteoporosis. However, the results seem to point out that it is not very effective in reducing the loss of articular cartilage.

The National Health Interview Survey also points out that although many people use glucosamine-containing creams for arthritic pain, these products often include camphor among their ingredients.

What is glucosamine and contraindications for?

Glucosamine has been raised for joint wear problems, decrease joint pain and regenerate cartilage in some types of arthritis.

In turn, it has been seen that the consumption of glucosamine can be harmful in obese patients, with metabolic syndrome and diabetics.

Scientific studies around the world have not proven effective enough to recommend its use massively.

In such a way, we must weigh the use of the drug with unproven benefits with contraindications and possible adverse effects,

There is no guarantee on whether it is glucosamine or any of these other components which provides relief from the pain of arthritis. There is also no evidence that the amino-sugar compound is absorbed by the skin.

Does glucosamine have other uses?

Glucosamine has other benefits. At the experimental level, some effect of glucosamine was shown as a treatment in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases.

Scientists have documented, after the evidence of some experimental work done in mice with the supplementation of N-acetyl glucosamine (GlcNAc) for multiple sclerosis, that there is no statistical evidence of beneficial effects in humans on this disease.  

Glucosamine used with Ibuprofen helps reduce pain in people with temporomandibular joint disorders, according to another scientific study.  

Despite not having conclusive scientific basis, this supplement has been recommended in the treatment of diseases and medical conditions. The following are conditions for which this natural remedy is ineffective:

  • Allergies
  • Sports injuries.
  • Chronic lumbar pain.
  • Venous insufficiency that affects the circulation of blood through the legs.

The American Association of Family Physicians suggests that asthmatics should use glucosamine with caution, since it has been linked to the respiratory condition.  

Benefits of glucosamine in the gym

It has been shown that sports and high impact exercises can contribute to the appearance of Osteoarthritis, particularly in knees. In turn, moderate or mild exercise in healthy individuals does not seem to predispose to any degenerative disease.

In the case of athletes and athletes with stronger and more durable training, it has been tried to seek help in supplements that allow delaying or avoiding joint wear with greater movement and impact.

So far it has not been shown that glucosamine can have that benefit.  

How is glucosamine used?

Glucosamine is an over-the-counter product. It is found in glucosamine tablets with chondroitin and with some vitamins such as D3. Your dosages will vary depending on the reason for consumption, so it will be necessary to respect the doctor’s instructions.

The most common dose of glucosamine is a 500 mg pill 3 times a day, both for osteoarthritis and for temporomandibular joint disorder.

What are the side effects of glucosamine?

Although it is well tolerated by the body, glucosamine may cause mild side effects. Among them stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, burning in the stomach and constipation. They are added:

  • Skin reactions
  • Irritations of the skin

Taking the supplement with meals may alleviate some of these unwanted responses.

Does glucosamine make you fat?

Glucosamine does not make you fat or cause any significant change in body weight.

Glucosamine: contraindications for hypertensive

Glucosamine sulfate by itself is not a problem for high blood pressure. The difficulty lies in the fact that almost all oral glucosamine and glucosamine preparations with chondroitin have a high salt content, even greater than 20% of the established daily salt dose.

For hypertensive people who are difficult to manage or people who are very sensitive to the salt content in food, they should be restricted.

You should check with your doctor if it is safe to take glucosamine with Hypertension and look for pharmacological presentations without salt content.

What contraindications does glucosamine have?

In the National Survey of Health Interviews of the United States it was concluded that a correct use of glucosamine is “probably safe”. Glucosamine, therefore, has few relative contraindications: Asthma, diabetes or glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinism, allergies to the product.

The scientific and medical community debates whether this supplement increases the blood glucose level in diabetics. Evidence suggests that this probably does not occur in patients with type 2 diabetes.

It is known that glucosamine supplements made from seafood can produce hypersensitivity in susceptible people. The most responsible will be to avoid this amino-sugar if you have or have suffered an allergy to these marine animals.

Interactions of Glucosamine

The doctor will be informed of over-the-counter and prescription medications, supplements, powdered proteins, vitamins, medicinal herbs and other consumed products, if a glucosamine supplement is to be ingested. The specialist will decide whether to modify the dosage or suspend the intake of any of these products, to avoid an interaction.  

The interactions could diminish or cancel the benefits expected from the use of one or several supplements and even favor the manifestation of known or new side effects.

The patient will ask the doctor how safe it will be to add glucosamine together with the use of the following medications or products:

Most common interactions

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen (Motrin, Relafen, Advil) and Naproxen (Anaprox, Aleve, Naprosyn).
  • Medications to prevent the adherence of platelets to each other such as Prasugrel (Effient) and Clopidogrel (Plavix).
  • Anticoagulants such as Heparin, Warfarin (Jantoven, Coumadin), Rivaroxaban (Xarelto), Apixaban (Eliquis), Fondaparinux (Arixtra), Enoxaparin (Lovenox) and Dabigatran (Pradaxa).
  • Antidepressants such as Venlafaxine (Effexor) and Citalopram (Celexa).
  • Drugs for anticancer chemotherapy treatments such as Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and Etoposide (Etopophos).
  • Medications for diabetes such as insulin, Rosiglitazone (Avandia) and Pioglitazone (Actos). Glucose that is part of glucosamine may increase blood sugar.

Interactions with natural medicines

  • Herbal supplements containing some species of the genus Scutellaria. The combination of glucosamine with this herbal supplement could have liver consequences.

What can happen if I do not use glucosamine according to the recommended dose?

If you interrupt the use of the supplement or do not take it at all

Not only will arthritic, osteoarthritic and other medical conditions not improve, they could also get worse.

If you forget a dose

The patient will take the missed dosage when remembering it, not if the next dose is within a few hours of being administered as planned. You should not take two simultaneous doses if you miss a dose.

If you take too much

Administering doses much higher than what is prescribed for glucosamine could cause harmful effects to health. The patient will immediately call the doctor, attend the poisoning center or go to the emergency service if he consumes an overdose of the amino-sugar.

It will also be necessary to contact the doctor if the side effects do not disappear in a short time, if more attempts are made or if others are not described in this article.

What other aspects of interest can you point to regarding glucosamine?

Consumption during pregnancy and lactation

With limited evidence, it seems that there are no serious effects in pregnancy, however, the patient in a state or with plans to become pregnant or breastfeeding consult with the doctor before consuming glucosamine.  

Glucosamine and some drinks

Interactions between glucosamine and alcohol are not ruled out, so consumption of the latter is not recommended during the intake of the supplement.

The medicine is not sure if grapefruit juice interferes with the breakdown process of glucosamine in the liver. The most responsible thing is not to eat grapefruit or drink its juice during the intake of the supplement.

Glucosamine and pets

Studies suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin may alleviate pain in cats, dogs and horses, especially by cartilage wear in the hip joint. The correct thing to do is to contact the veterinarian before supplementing a glucosamine-based compound to pets.


Glucosamine will be stored in a clean, dry place, without heat, out of direct light and without moisture.

Additional precaution

The patient will not offer or recommend the supplement to other people without medical supervision, or for presenting symptoms similar to yours.

Glucosamine is relatively safe as long as the guidelines recommended for adults without allergies and non-asthmatics are respected.

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Related Wiki Article: Glucosamine Benefits & Effects

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