You ask yourself, “What is happening to me?” Simple chores like mowing the lawn, playing golf or tennis, lifting and even walking are becoming more difficult and painful or even impossible. With the added stress of modern life, climbing more and more stairs, getting in and out of automobiles, lifting awkward and heavy objects, combined with the increased level of toxic substances in our environment, our bodies seem to be “falling apart” before our very eyes.
One recent discovery that is offering hope to weakened and damaged joints is Glucosamine Sulfate, a natural substance which is found in human cartilage. It is made up of a simple combination of Glucose (sugar) and Amine (nitrogen and hydrogen) molecules. It forms a padding where the bones are linked together to form a joint. It contains no nerves, nor does it have an independent blood supply, which, in the past, made it impossible for the cartilage to be restored once it had been destroyed. It is fed by the synovial fluid which surrounds the joint to supply nourishment to the cartilage and also provides lubrication.
Glucosamine Sulfate is not available to the human body in foods. It can be extracted from chitin which forms the skeleton surrounding shellfish such as lobster and crabs. Research in Germany in the 1960′s and in Italy in the 1990′s has shown that this source of Glucosamine when combined with Sulfur is very usable by the human body and can actually be used to repair and replace damaged cartilage, something that was considered impossible to do until recently. This was verified by combining the material with carbon 14, a radioactive material, and observing its pathway through the human body with an electron microscope. It is also helpful in providing more Sulfur, a necessary compound for the joints. Arthritis research in the 1930′s revealed that most sufferers were deficient in Sulfur.
When this “padding” and lubrication is restored to the joint area, pain begins to decrease. There is a “cushioning” effect, the joints are lubricated and walking, running, and all other forms of movement become more enjoyable and less painful.
In a study done in Portugal in 1982, Glucosamine Sulfate was compared with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Even though the relief from the NSAIDS was greater in the first two weeks, the effect began to wear off even though the benefits of the Glucosamine Sulfate increased until it surpassed the effect of the NSAIDS. While the NSAIDS at best may only suppress symptoms, the Glucosamine Sulfate was helping the body to actually rebuild the damaged area. Also there were virtually no side-effects from the Glucosamine Sulfate, except for some slight indigestion in a very few cases.
Some people have expressed concern over the Sulfate form of Glucosamine because they are allergic to Sulfur. Most people who have this type of allergy however, are actually allergic to the sulfa drugs that are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. The Sulfur used in Glucosamine Sulfate is the natural form that is found in foods like garlic and onions. Others have questioned whether those who are allergic to shellfish might react to this material. Even though it is extracted from the chitin in the hard outer shell of shellfish, there may not be any allergic reaction. People who are allergic to soybeans do not necessarily have any problem with Vitamin E when it is extracted from soy. Also, those who are allergic to corn can still utilize Vitamin C which is derived from corn. In every case however, individuals should be cautious if this sensitivity exists and test a small amount before consuming Glucosamine Sulfate, or if they fear a severe reaction avoid it altogether.
Other substances that have been tried to produce the same effect include n-acetyl Glucosamine, but early results have not been as successful. Chondroitan Sulfate has been helpful when used intravenously or injected directly into the joint, but since it is such a large molecule, its use in tablets and capsules is still in question. Also, Glucosamine Sulfate aids the body in naturally producing Chondroitans, which are needed for healthy cartilage as well. Glucosamine Hydrochloride has not been tested as thoroughly as Glucosamine Sulfate at the present time.
Glucosamine Sulfate appears to be a promising solution for those who suffer from cartilage breakdown and painful joint issues. It may take some time before the effect is noticed (2-4 months). Others see benefits in a short time.
Other forms of therapy which can complement the use of Glucosamine Sulfate include added Essential Fatty Acids in the diet (available in fish and plant extract products), additional minerals and herbal preparations, exercise, heat and cold therapy, and topical pain relief in addition to Glucosamine Sulfate may offer a “brighter future” to those suffering from painful, swollen joints.
Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Michael Murray, N.D. © 1996. Prima Publishing. Pp 336-342
Glucosamine – Nature’s Arthritis Remedy. Ray Sahelian, M.D. © 1997. Publisher, Longevity Research Center, Inc. Marina Del Ray, CA