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Glucosamine - Q&A

Q What is arthritis?

A Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is also known as degenerative joint disease because it is characterized by joint degeneration and loss of cartilage - the shock absorbing gel like material between joints.

The percentage of people with osteoarthritis increases dramatically with age. Surveys have indicated that over 40 million Americans have osteoarthritis, including 80% of persons over the age of 50. Under the age of 45, it is much more common in women.

Q What joints are affected in osteoarthritis?
A The weight bearing joints such as the knees, hips, and spine, as well as the hands, are the joints most often affected with the degenerative changes of osteoarthritis. These joints are under greater stress because of weight and use.

Q How does a person know if he or she has osteoarthritis?
A The onset of osteoarthritis can be subtle. Morning joint stiffness is often the first symptom. As the disease progresses, there is pain during motion of the involved joint, which is made worse by prolonged activity and relieved by rest

Osteoarthritis is usually quite easily distinguished from other types of arthritis. In more inflammatory forms of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and gout, the joints will appear red, spongy and warm. In osteoarthritis, however, the joint will generally be cooler and bony hard. If you think you have arthritis consult a physician for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnostic summary of osteoarthritis.
Symptoms: mild early morning stiffness, following periods of rest, pain that worsens on joint use, and loss of joint function.
Signs: local tenderness, soft tissue swelling, joint crepitus, bony swelling, restricted mobility, Heberedn’s nodes, and other sign of degenerative loss of articular cartilage.

Q What causes osteoarthritis?
A Osteoarthritis is divided into two categories, primary and secondary. In primary osteoarthritis, the degenerative “ wear and tear” process occurs after a person turns 40 years of age. The cumulative effects of decades of use leads to the degenerative changes by stressing the collagen matrix of the cartilage. Damage to the cartilage results in the release of enzymes that destroy cartilage components. With aging, the ability to restore and manufacture normal cartilage structures decreases. So, what I am saying is that aging is the primary cause of osteoarthritis. But, just because you may be getting older doesn’t mean that you have to suffer from the pain of osteoarthritis.

Secondary osteoarthritis is associated with some predisposing factor which is responsible for the degenerative changes. These predisposing factors include: inherited abnormalities in joint structure or function; trauma (fractures along joint surfaces, surgery, etc.); presence of abnormal cartilage; and previous inflammatory disease of the joint (rheumatoid arthritis, gout, etc.).

Q What is the conventional medical treatment for osteoarthritis?
A The primary drugs used in the treatment of osteoarthritis are the so-called “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs” which includes asprin. Although these drugs are extensively used in the united states, research indicates that they may actually accelerate the progression of joint destruction and cause more problems down the road. These drugs are also associated with side effects including gastrointestinal upset, headaches, and dizziness, and are therefore recommended for only short periods of time.

Q How do they accelerate joint destruction?
A NSAIDs work by inhibiting enzymes involved in the production of inflammatory compounds. Enzymes are molecules that speed up chemical reactions. They either join molecules or split them by making or breaking the chemical bonds that keep molecules together. NSAIDs not only suppress the enzymes that produce inflammatory compounds, but they also inhibit enzymes that manufacture cartilage components.

So, you see why the use of NSAIDs in the treatment of osteoarthritis is a classic example of a drug suppressing the symptom while promoting the progression of the disease process. A person may feel free from pain while on the NSAID, but his or her arthritis is silently getting worse as noted in several clinical studies that have shown that NSAID use is associated with acceleration or osteoarthritis and increased joint destruction.

Q What can be used instead of NSAIDs in the treatment of osteoarthritis?
A Glucosamine! Glucosamine is a simple molecule that can be naturally produced in the body. The main function of glucosamine on joints is to stimulate the manufacture of molecules known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) key structural components of cartilage. It Appears that as some people age, they lose the ability to manufacture sufficient levels of glucosamine. The result is that cartilage loses its ability to act as a shock absorber. The body’s inability to manufacture glucosamine has been suggested to be the major factor leading to osteoarthritis. That’s why supplementing your diet with stabilized glucosamine is so vitally important.

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Q Are there scientific studies that show Glucosamine is effective?
A Yes. Glucosamine has been the subject of more than 300 scientific investigations and over 20 double blind clinical studies.

The benefits of Glucosamine in the treatment of osteoarthritis are impressive. In one of the more recent studies comparing Glucosamine to a placebo, 252 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were given either a placebo or 500mg of Glucosamine three times daily for four weeks. Glucosamine was significantly effective in improving pain and movement after only four weeks of use. Previous studies have shown that the longer Glucosamine is used the more obvious the therapeutic benefit. These results are consistent with other double blind studies versus a placebo.

Q Have there been studies comparing Glucosamine to NSAIDS?
A Yes. In these head to head double blind studies Glucosamine was shown to produce better results than NSAIDs in relieving the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis despite the fact that Glucosamine exhibits very little direct anti inflammatory effect and no direct analgesic or pain relieving effects. While NSAIDs offer purely symptomatic relief and may actually promote the disease process, Glucosamine appears to address the cause of osteoarthritis. By treating the root of the problem through actually building joint cartilage, Glucosamine not only improves the symptoms, including pain, it also helps the body repair damaged joints. The clinical effect is impressive, especially when Glucosamine’s safety and lack of side effects is considered.

Q How long before results are seen with Glucosamine?
A With Glucosamine supplementation, most people will experience significant improvement within two to eight weeks. However, the longer it is used the more obvious the results. The effects are cumulative and long lasting.

Q Does Glucosamine interact with any drugs?
A There have been no reports of any adverse drug interactions with Glucosamine. The only caveat is that individuals taking diuretics may need to take higher dosages

Q I am a diabetic. Can I Take Glucosamine?
A Yes 98% of glucosamine is absorbed intact and has absolutely no effect on blood sugar levels.

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