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Glucosamine for Joint Health and Repair

By Dr Jenny Tylee

Glucosamine is an amino acid and sugar (glucose) combination. It is essential for the maintenance and repair of joints and is naturally produced in the body. As we age the body's ability to produce glucosamine from glucose decreases because the quantity of the enzyme glucosamine synthetase, responsible for the process declines. After an injury to joints, cartilage or spinal discs the body is often unable to make sufficient glucosamine for healing to occur.

Glucosamine acts as a supportive building material and stimulates the production of other ingredients essential for cartilage and joints. Research has shown conclusively that glucosamine considerably alleviates painful, tender and swollen joints. There is also a marked improvement in joint mobility in arthritis sufferers. In some studies there was also a reversal of cartilage degeneration. Taking glucosamine as a supplement can effectively inhibit cartilage deterioration. Clinical studies have shown that glucosamine sulphate relieves the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis It is a safe alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs eg ibuprofen). Although NAISDs are able to provide quick relief they have been shown to inhibit repair and accelerate the degeneration of the cartilage. Glucosamine achieves very positive results but it takes several weeks- so you need to be patient!

Glucosamine sulphate is the first line of treatment for arthritis - taking precedence over conventional medication in several European countries. There are no known side effects and no contraindications for its use - diabetics need to be careful as glucosamine might have an effect on insulin resistance.

Although the exact mechanisms for alleviating osteoarthritis symptoms is not known research suggests that glucosamine encourages cartilage matrix formation, reduces enzymatic break-down of cartilage components and had an anti-inflammatory effect. It also stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid in joint fluid. Hyaluronic acid relieves pain and improves mobility by repairing damaged cartilage.

There are many research studies into the benefits of glucosamine in arthritis. In a double-blind study 178 osteoarthritis patiens reported the effectiveness of glucosamine sulphate in reducing pain. In another study 252 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee received 1,500 mg per day of glucosamine sulphate in three doses. After 4 weeks glucosamine sulphate was more effective than the placebo in reducing pain and increasing mobility.

As well as having a role in treating arthritis glucosamine can be used following sporting injuries. After trauma or tearing during strenuous activity, the body often cannot make enough glucosamine for optimal healing. In one study 68 athletes with knee cartilage damage were given 1,500mg glucosamine sulphate daily for 40 days, then 750mg for 90 - 100 days. 52 of the athletes had complete resolution of the symptoms and returned to full training. Follow up after 12 months the athletes showed no signs of cartilage damage.

As well as glucosamine there are other substances that can play a role in joint health. These include:

MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane) - a natural, safe and physiologically active sulphur compound. It has ano-inflammatory and antioxidant action. It is found in our bodies and in some foods such as raw seafood and fruit and vegetables. It plays a role in creating new cells and stimulating healing. It is used in the treatment of all forms of arthritis and joint infections.

Chondroitin - is another important component of cartilage. It acts as a shock absorber by providing structure, holding water and nutrients and allowing other molecules to move through the cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin work together to protect the cartilage against degeneration.

Vitamin C and manganese also work to strengthen the body's natural healing mechanisms.

Multivitamin and mineral supplements and essential fatty acids also have beneficial effects on joints and musculoskeletal problems.

There are many studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of glucosamine in the treatment of joint and cartilage problems. Glucosamine is a safe alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs eg ibuprofen). Although NAISDs are able to provide quick relief they have been shown to inhibit repair and accelerate the degeneration of the cartilage. Glucosamine and other joint and bone repair products take a little longer to be effective but it will actually benefit the cartilage and aid in repair.

Dr Jenny Tylee is an experienced health professional who is passionate about health and wellbeing. She believes that health is not just absence of disease and seeks to actively promote vitality and wellness through empowering others. She encourages people to improve their health by quit smoking, cleansing their body, taking essential vitamin and mineral supplement and many other methods, including herbal remedies.

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