April 21, 2010

Glucosamine Health Benefits & Side Effects

Posted in Category : General Health

Health Benefits

Glucosamine is a compound, naturally occurring in the human body and is essential for maintaining healthy joints and preventing damage. In the body, glycosaminoglycan is needed for the creation and repair of cartilage and body tissue. This component could be made only in the presence of glucosamine. However, the production of glucosamine ceases with advancing age and that is when the need for glucosamine supplements comes into play. Glucosamine sulphate can be obtained through chicken marrow and the shells of animals like lobsters and shrimps and most supplements are made using shells.

Glucosamine prevents deterioration of cartilage and connective tissues, joint pain, inflammation and loss of flexibility especially in the weight bearing joints such as the hip, ankle or the knee. Being a component of healthy cartilage, glucosamine is believed to have the ability to restore damaged cartilage while preventing further harm that comes with wear and tear. It is also said to benefit tendons and other connective tissues in a similar way. Hence, it is widely used in the treatment of arthritic conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Glucosamine is not a cure for arthritis but it has the ability to reduce its symptoms while delaying further damage. Some studies indicate that unlike other supplements, glucosamine directly benefits the joints by tackling the pain and encouraging the production of proteins that are essential for building and healing connective tissue in the body. Glucosamine is usually taken along with chondroitin which helps in increasing the elasticity of cartilage. However, some say that these claims are yet to be proven.

Side Effects

Glucosamine does have its drawbacks. It is believed to contribute to diabetes by increasing blood sugar levels and hence cannot be used if an individual is already suffering from the same. People who are allergic to shellfish should also stay away from these supplements or should attempt to take them only after consulting a doctor. In spite of a lack of evidence that indicates fetal damage or long-term damage in babies; pregnant women and lactating mothers should stay away from glucosamine supplements as a precautionary measure. Any supplement taken in excess does have its disadvantage and with glucosamine, it results in gastric problems, drowsiness, headaches, poor appetite, constipation, diarrhea and nausea. A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin may also lead to a temporary increase in heart rate, blood pressure and cause palpitations. However, this is very rare. People who at a risk of bleeding uncontrollably should avoid the use of glucosamine as it may aggravate the condition. Consulting a doctor before starting any form of supplementation is recommended to prevent complications in the future.