Glucosamine is an amino sugar compound produced by the body. Though it is common in the liver and kidneys, it is most often found in cartilage. Glucosamine is derived from glucose molecules and is believed to aid in repairing damaged cartilage, building new cartilage, cushioning joints, relieving pain, and reducing inflammation.
Glucosamine is also the name given to the dietary supplement created through extracting amino sugars from the tissues of shellfish such as crab and lobster. There are also glucosamine sulfates, which are synthetically produced salts derived from naturally occurring glucosamine. These salts are sometimes combined with chondroitin sulfates to aid in the relief of arthritis and other painful conditions affecting the joints, ligaments, and tendons. Sulfates may not be as potent as extracted glucosamine.
Current data indicates that patients who take these supplements experience pain relief and reduced inflammation at about the same level as that which is achieved through taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDS, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. There is also a liquid form of this supplement available for those whom have difficulty swallowing pills.
Although glucosamine may have fewer side effects than NSAIDS for most patients, people who suffer from diabetes should be especially careful when taking this supplement since it is derived from glucose. It is wise to speak to a doctor before use and to check blood sugar more frequently during use.
People who are allergic to shellfish should take care when using this product, although shellfish allergies usually indicate that a person is allergic to the proteins found in shellfish. The substance is extracted from a carbohydrate rather than a protein, but allergy sufferers should still consult with a health care provider before taking it, as should pregnant and nursing women. This supplement is not recommended for children.
Glucosamine is labeled as a food supplement and therefore the amount and purity of glucosamine in such products is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Before choosing a supplement, compare the concentration in similar products or ask your pharmacist to assist you in selecting a supplement. Choose a well-known, well-established brand name that guarantees its products.
Always consult with your health care provider before beginning a supplement regimen, and make sure the supplement will not adversely interact with current medications.