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Glucosamine Side Effects

Glucosamine is a dietary supplement that lacks the damaging side effects and long term toxicity of COX-2 inhibitors or NSAIDS such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Great, you say. What else do I need to know about it? Does it have any other side effects that I need to be aware of?

So Just How Safe is Glucosamine?

Overall glucosamine is a very safe substance. It has been studied clinically since the very early 80’s – so people have been taking it safely for over 20 years. There are only a few things you need to watch out for when taking glucosamine.

Shellfish Allergies
Because most glucosamine is derived from shellfish, you should consult your doctor prior to starting glucosamine therapy. If the glucosamine is pure but derived from shellfish, it is still possible that people who are allergic to shellfish can take glucosamine. Because the allergic reaction is to the proteins in shellfish and glucosamine is derived from Chitin, a carbohydrate, it is generally ok to try glucosamine under the guidance of a doctor because the processing that takes place to extract the glucosamine destroys the proteins and the antigens that the body would normally react to. However, the official recommendation is that if you have an allergy to shellfish to avoid glucosamine.

Insulin levels with glucosamine (HCL or Sulfate) can be subject to fluctuations, particularly in diabetics. Glucosamine is technically a carbohydrate (a sugar), but the body is not able to convert glucosamine into glucose. Hence, glucosamine does not directly provide additional sources of glucose. In diabetic patients, many factors can lead to changing blood levels and as a result it is very important to check with your doctor prior to initiating glucosamine therapy and to be sure to be very careful about monitoring your blood sugar levels while on glucosamine. Read the latest update on Glucosamine for Diabetics.

Pregnant / Lactating Women
Pregnant women should avoid glucosamine. There have not been enough long term studies on the fetus to clearly say that glucosamine is 100% safe for the developing fetus. There is no evidence that it would be harmful but it would be best to be safe in a situation such as this.

Extremely high levels of glucosamine (many times the daily dose) can cause gastric fluctuations such as soft stools, diarrhea or nausea. Glucosamine does not have to be taken with meals but it would be convenient to mix with a drink when you take it, if so desired.

Except for those above advisements, glucosamine has a long track record of being very safe, unlike the NSAIDS or COX 2 drugs, which have a long and very well known (to scientists) history of being toxic in long term use. Notice on the box of aspirin how it states that it is for the temporary (not ongoing) relief of arthritis pain. NSAIDS and COX-2 inhibitors do nothing but cover up the pain. If you stop taking NSAIDS or COX-2 inhibitors, the pain quickly comes back. Its still there, but your brain is numb to the pain due to the effects of the drugs. With glucosamine, there is a residual effect. Even if you stop taking it, you will still be protected for a period of time. Maintaining a daily dose is the best way for maximum relief of joint discomfort and joint protection.

Be sure to visit the Glucosamine Product Guide for a review of commercially available glucosamine products.

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