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Glucosamine Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Specific soft tissue structures in the body, such as cartilage, tendon, ligament, joint fluid, heart valves, blood vessels and several structures in the eye, are all dependent upon a substance called "glucosamine" for normal maintenance. Glucosamine is an amine group (nitrogen surrounded by three atoms of hydrogen, i.e., -NH3) attached to a glucose molecule. The sulfate form is this mole cule balanced electrolytically by two sulfate radicals (a sulfate atom attached to four oxygen atoms (-SO4). Glucose itself is five carbons held together in a ring structure by an oxygen atom, with a hydroxylated carbon atom (-CH2OH) attached as a kind of tail.

The body makes a sufficient amount of glucosamine to handle normal repair needs. However, if there is an injury to the body combined with a degenerative process — for example, damage to the intervertebral discs from years of regular jogging; basketball, with all the vertical jumping (and landing) and many other sports along with arthritis — the normal production of glucosamine may be insufficient to allow complete healing. Many of these chronic injuries may never heal without nutritional help.

Medical students are taught in medical school that arthritis is irreversible. With great diligence, they are told, we might be able to slow down the progression of arthritis, but we can never stop or reverse it. A lot of being a good doc is unlearning what was taught in medical school.

Because glucosamine is the major component of the synovial fluid (the fluid which lubricates joints), its deficiency leads to a thin watery condition of the synovial fluid — thus predisposing the joints to injury through poor lubrication. Each set of adjacent vertebrae is cushioned by synovial fluid. As the body ages, it produces less glucosamine, predisposing all joints to injury and arthritis. Arthritis may be nothing more than an accumulation of small injuries.

The intervertebral discs, which serve as cushions between vertebrae, are made of cartilage. With aging (and thus lower levels of glucosamine) and accelerated by lifting and running, the intervertebral discs degenerate. When something "degenerates" in the body, that simply means that it cannot repair itself as fast as it is being injured. It needs help from the outside. In the case of the intervertebral discs, this causes the loss of a few inches of height over the years. If you are over thirty and go measure your height now, you will find that you are shorter than you once were.

In contrast to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) — some people say this stands for "new sorts of aspirin in disguise" — which suppress pain in the short run, and may accelerate joint destruction in the long run, glucosamine supplies what is most needed to help the body repair itself. Although there is no immediate pain relief (and we do live in a society addicted to instant results), the fact is that six to ten weeks after initiating therapy with glucosamine the pain does recede, and it stays gone without the need for synthetic drugs to suppress it. In addition, when taken in proper doses, glucosamine is free of side effects — which is to be expected since it is a substance natural to the body.

The treatment of osteoarthritis with pain and inflammation suppressors, including steroids (which cause further joint degeneration), is a classic example of societal addiction to instant results at any cost, an addiction all too willingly supported by allopathic medicine. The use of glucosamine sulfate, on the other hand, is an example of the application of modern nutritional medicine to handle a health problem at its root.

Glucosamine is an example of a class of substances known as conditional nutrients.


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The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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