What You Need To Know About Glucosamine
Plus the 5 worst foods to eat if you have arthritis
Glucosamine is made by your body to lubricate your joints and other connective tissues. You can also take it as a supplement, but does it work?
Research shows what doses and types work best, but if you're not getting the right nutrients to support your body's glucosamine, you won't get all the benefits. Here we cover the evidence on glucosamine supplements and how to enhance the effectiveness of glucosamine.
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a lubricating protein your body makes to let connective tissues glide, particularly your joint cartilage. It is often found with other glycosaminoglycan proteins MSM (aka methylsulfonylmethane), chondroitin, lubricin, and a wealth of other proteins found in between your connective tissues.
This space is where the fascia connects your other connective tissues. This means you have to support healthy glucosamine function alongside the rest of your entire connective tissue system. If you have painful joints or tendons, just taking glucosamine is not enough.
What Does Taking Glucosamine Do For The Body?
Even though your body can make glucosamine by itself, people who have overuse injuries or inflammatory conditions like arthritis may feel a benefit when they supplement. When you take it as a supplement, the glucosamine that makes it past digestion gets used by your collagen-making cells. What you supplement can fill in the gap between what your body makes and the amount your body thrives on for pain-free mobility.
What Does Taking Glucosamine Do For The Body?
What is glucosamine used for?
Almost all research studies on glucosamine are on people with arthritis: over a dozen look at pain or injury recovery in the knee. One study looking at back pain showed no effect, suggesting that glucosamine may only work in damaged articular cartilage. On the other hand, plenty of pre-clinical research shows that it may be effective for tendon injuries. Unfortunately, we don't have great supportive data yet.
It is not just effective for knee osteoarthritis — anecdotally, it may work for a spectrum of connective tissue injuries or musculoskeletal inflammatory conditions. One study shows that it may even delay the progression of osteoarthritis. If you experience tendon or joint pain during activity or at rest, or during your rehab, you might consider taking glucosamine to see if it enhances the healing process.
When Is The Best Time To Take Glucosamine?
Glucosamine should be taken with a meal to help with absorption.Research studies typically use multiple doses per day. Take it at night to support the repair and restoration process during sleep, when you wake up so that you can meet the day with your best foot forward, and during periods of high strain, like before or after exercise, to help with the post-exercise inflammatory and remodeling process of your connective tissue.
How Much Glucosamine Should I Take?
Research studies often use 3 doses of 300–500 mg daily, equalling about 900 – 1500 mg. Some people don't seem to see a benefit unless taking higher doses in the range of 2000 – 3000 mg per day.
What Else Should You Take With Glucosamine?
Other supplements also target the same symptoms alleviated by glucosamine. For example, other lubricating proteins are often combined with glucosamine. The most common are chondroitin sulfate and MSM (aka. methylsulfonylmethane). These work in tandem to soothe the bone-on-bone feeling of damaged connective tissues.The one supplement to take with glucosamine that has the most research is hydrolyzed collagen. Numerous high-quality studies have shown Collagen supplements to reduce pain, prevent injury, accelerate recovery, and improve joint mobility. It only makes sense that since your joint cartilage is 70% collagen, and the hard part of your bone is 90%, that taking collagen alongside glucosamine has the potential to enhance the benefits of both.
Collagen peptides support your connective tissue system in two ways.
1. They provide the supportive building blocks that your body uses directly to make more healthy collagen.
2. They also send an anti-inflammatory signal to damaged and inflamed cells to tell them to stop breaking down and start building up your collagen tissue.
And collagen is the common building block of your soft and hard skeleton. But your body needs other nutrients to support healthy collagen and glucosamine function.
•Copper and other nutrients are all involved
If you want all the nutrients your body needs to support an optimized connective tissue, check out our free online course: Nutrition for Connective Tissue Health
What 5 Foods Are The Worst For Arthritis?
These five foods hurt your glucosamine, damage the collagen in your joints and other connective tissues. It might be in your best interest to get rid of these first:
1. Added Sugars
Added sugars are found almost everywhere in today's food (see our list of 51 Ways to Sugar-proof Your Kitchen. You really have to choose carefully in order to avoid it. Too many added sugars triggers can dysregulate your blood glucose, leading to elevated blood glucose and insulin resistance. Chronic high blood glucose also causes what are called advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), which permanently damage and stiffen your connective tissues.When combined with too many calories, fructose — a specific type of sugar that makes up half of the table sugar and about half of high-fructose corn syrup — leads to higher uric acid levels. This uric acid builds up in joints, causing painful gout attacks, a particular type of arthritis that affects about 4% percent of US adults. What's the best way to lower your uric acid level? Eat less fructose, typically found in table sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and some dried fruits.
2. Fried and Charred Food
Fried and charred food increase oxidative damage to your body. Beyond that, they also create those same advanced glycation endproducts, leading to stiff, rigid connective tissues that wear down in the test of time. Avoiding blackened foods, especially grilled processed meats, and opting for a side other than fries are great ways to lower your risk of age-related connective tissue issues.
3. Purines (In Red Meat)
Aside from fructose, some particularly savory foods like red meat also raise uric acid levels and lead to gout. Seafood, red meat, and organ meats provide high levels of purines, which can lead to painful joints for people with an increased risk of gout.Plus, red meat's high methionine content may contribute to glycine depletion. Low glycine, the most common amino acid in your joints and connective tissues, may lead to age-related wrinkles and poor skin, low bone mineral density, and an increased risk of connective tissue injuries.
4. Highly Processed And Prepackaged Foods
Refined grains, modified fats, fillers, additives, and sweeteners are all quite common in prepackaged foods and partly responsible for how bad they are for your health. Additionally, processed foods generally have higher levels of the dangerous combination of fat and sugar. They are usually low in nutrients and trick your brain into making you want to eat more, leading to weight gain.
Healthy, convenient options are a crux of eating healthier for many of us, so the Resync team made it easy in this science-based recipe ebook of healthy on-the-go options that optimize your energy, recovery and connective tissue at any time of the day! We dived into the research around different nutrients and made it easy to apply those science-backed tips with every meal.
5. Food Allergies (Dairy, Gluten, Nightshades, and Others)
Many people report that tomatoes, eggplant, and other nightshades can aggravate their symptoms. Additionally, dairy and gluten can elevate inflammation that causes pain in people who have a sensitivity or immune reaction. Talk to a qualified registered dietitian to consider an elimination diet to help you figure out what foods are triggering your symptoms. You may also consider doing a more elaborated allergens test.
What To Keep In Mind About Glucosamine
- Glucosamine is a critical piece of the broader picture when it comes to connective tissue health.
- You may find some benefit by taking a glucosamine supplement. Still, you'll find it even more helpful if you combine it with the support of nutrients like MSM, chondroitin sulfate, collagen, and the vitamins and antioxidants your body needs to make healthy collagen tissues.
- For joint pain relief, you should start with your diet before resorting to a supplement. Otherwise, it might not work as effectively.
- Cut out sugar (especially fructose), fried and charred foods, red meat, processed foods, and any food sensitivities for a diet that fights inflammation and lets you live pain-free.
- Glucosamine holds the potential to increase joint health, but only when you have a diet and lifestyle conducive to total connective tissue health!
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Written by Barbara Depta and registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN.
Updated on 8/23/2021.
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