Glucosamine Real Help for Arthritis

Glucosamine isn't exactly an amino acid. It's sometimes called an amino acid sugar, because it's made from glucose and an amine (one molecule of nitrogen and two of hydrogen). However you want to define it, glucosamine turns out to be very helpful for the treatment of arthritis.

Here's how we think it works. You make glucosamine in your body and use it to make cartilage in your joints. As you get older, you lose your ability to make glucosamine (we don't know why) and your cartilage starts to break down. You then get stiffness and pain—arthritis—in the joint. If you take supplemental glucosamine, it seems to stimulate your body into repairing the cartilage, which relieves the arthritis symptoms.

Glucosamine doesn't always work for everyone, and it can take a few weeks to start kicking in, but many arthritis sufferers call it a wonder drug. Their pain and stiffness improve markedly, and they can sometimes cut back on or even stop the powerful drugs they've been taking for pain and swelling. Best of all, glucosamine has no real side effects and you can't overdose, although some people may get very mild stomach upsets from it.

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No foods contain glucosamine, so if you want to try it you'll have to take supplements made from chitin, the processed shells of shrimp, crabs, and lobsters. We strongly recommend glucosamine sulfate over other forms, since the sulfur is important for building cartilage. The usual dose is 500 mg two or three times a day, preferably with meals to avoid digestive upsets or heartburn. Glucosamine is even more effective if you're getting enough Vitamin C and manganese (see Chapter 13 for Vitamin C and Chapter 21 for trace minerals).

What about all those cartilage products that are supposed to help arthritis? They contain chondroitin sulfate, which is just a cruder form of glucosamine sulfate. They do work for some people. If they don't for you, try glucosamine.

Food for Thought

M V Glucosamine works so well for arthritis that many manufacturers now offer it. It's best to take a good product that contains glucosamine sulfate, but glucosamine hydrochloride or N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) work well for many people. To be sure you're getting a good product, choose a reliable manufacturer such as Soigar, Fniymatic Therapy, or Twin Labs.

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