Glucosamine and Chondroitin: The Side Effects, Research, and Effectiveness

Think of what the supplement aisles look like in your local pharmacy or health food store. There are aisles and aisles of supplements on display. When it comes to your joint health, arthritis, and mobility – the number of supplements on the shelves is downright overwhelming. How do you know which supplement is really going to support your joint health naturally and safely? How do you know which supplements are free of shellfish and other common allergens? How do you know which supplements have repeatedly shown to be effective in easing the discomfort of arthritis? The reality is, that unless you have hours and hours to spend researching supplements and the patience to read the backs of these supplement bottles – you really can’t know for sure what does work and is safe to take. This is why we want to look more closely at glucosamine chondroitin. If you have arthritis, osteoarthritis, or know someone who does, you’ve likely heard of this supplement. We wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that there is a lot of buzz and hype around the ability of glucosamine chondroitin to relieve your arthritis discomfort and mobility problems. But, how much do you know about glucosamine chondroitin? Have you thought about how this supplement is manufactured, regulated, tested, and its side effects? Do you know anything about the latest research into glucosamine chondroitin? Keep reading to learn the facts on glucosamine chondroitin. Our team is ready and available to answer any questions you have about the all-natural supplements proven to relieve joint discomfort and restore joint mobility.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a natural chemical compound that your body uses to support your cartilage health. As you age, the amount of glucosamine in your body begins to diminish, impacting your ability to maintain cartilage health and production. Cartilage is the tissue that cushions your joints. As you age, your cartilage can become worn-down, resulting in debilitating conditions including arthritis. There are two types of glucosamine: hydrochloride and sulfate. The most common glucosamine supplements are glucosamine sulfate supplements. It’s important to know that glucosamine sulfate is manufactured from the shells of shellfish and that there aren’t any natural sources for glucosamine sulfate.

What is Chondroitin?

Chondroitin occurs naturally in the body and is one of the key compounds in the connective tissues in your bones and cartilage. There is a belief that when taken in supplement form as chondroitin sulfate, this supplement can help improve the shock-absorbing abilities of your cartilage and block enzymes that cause cartilage break-down. Chondroitin sulfate supplements are made from animal cartilage or manufacture in a laboratory.

What is Glucosamine Chondroitin?

Glucosamine and chondroitin are combined and sold as one supplement in North America. When people talk about glucosamine chondroitin, they’re talking about the combined manufactured supplement that contains both glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate. Glucosamine chondroitin is not an all-natural supplement. It must be manufactured from shellfish, animal cartilage and bones, and in laboratory environments. Many people take glucosamine chondroitin to help manage their osteoarthritis and other arthritis discomfort. However, there is no definitive research that proves that glucosamine chondroitin is any more effective than taking a placebo (sugar pill) for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other arthritis symptoms. It’s important to think about this statement from the Arthritis Foundation: The American College of Rheumatology in their latest osteoarthritis treatment recommendations published in 2012 does not recommend chondroitin or glucosamine for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Just as our vision at SierraSil is to help one million or more people live healthier and more active lives, the American College of Rheumatology strongly recommends land-based exercises and weight loss as needed for the treatment of osteoarthritis. This is a sentiment that is supported by Dr. Sharon Kolasinski: “People with OA exercise less than the general population, yet exercise is critical for strength, flexibility and balance. There is good data showing that pain is reduced, functioning increased and surgery delayed with an exercise program,” says Sharon Kolasinski, MD, professor of medicine at Cooper Medical School in Camden, N.J., who was not involved in drafting the recommendations. “No intervention can halt the progression of OA, but exercise and weight loss are particularly important .”

What are the Risks Associated with Glucosamine and Chondroitin?

According to Arthritis Australia, the following side effects and risks are associated with glucosamine and chondroitin. Glucosamine risks and side effects:
  • Shellfish allergy: most glucosamine supplements are made from shellfish. If you’re allergic to shellfish, this supplement may be dangerous for you. It’s also important to think about how the shellfish is sourced and processed during the manufacture of glucosamine.
  • Bleeding: if you’re taking the common blood thinner warfarin, you must talk to your doctor before taking glucosamine. There is the risk that glucosamine can interact with the warfarin and reduce the ability of your blood to clot.
  • Diabetes: because glucosamine is a type of sugar, if you have diabetes or are at a risk for diabetes, you must talk to your doctor before taking this supplement.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: there are no long-term definitive studies or research confirming that glucosamine is safe for developing babies.
  • Additional side effects include: headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and skin reactions.
Chondroitin risks and side effects:
  • Bleeding: like glucosamine, chondroitin can be dangerous for people taking blood-thinners such as warfarin. Talk to your doctor before taking chondroitin.
  • Upset stomachs: some people experience upset stomachs after taking chondroitin.
As well, the Arthritis Foundation provides this warning about chondroitin: Some chondroitin tablets may contain high levels of manganese, which could be problematic with long-term use. Because chondroitin is made from bovine products, there is the remote possibility of contamination associated with mad cow disease. Chondroitin taken with blood-thinning medication like NSAIDs may increase the risk of bleeding. If you are allergic to sulfonamides, start with a low dose of chondroitin sulfate and watch for any side effects. Other side effects include diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.

What Does the Research Say about Glucosamine Chondroitin?

Like most manufactured supplements, the research on glucosamine chondroitin is mixed and not definitive. While we don’t want to get too scientific on you here, we do want to highlight some recent research and studies into the effectiveness of glucosamine chondroitin:
  • A Harvard Health article titled The latest on glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, highlights the following key points:
    • 2010 analysis of multiple studies (called a meta-analysis) found that among more than 3,800 people with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, treatment with glucosamine, chondroitin, or the combination was no better than placebo. The case for these supplements protecting joint health or preventing arthritis is similarly weak.
    • new study of glucosamine and chondroitin enrolled 164 patients with knee pain due to osteoarthritis and gave half of them a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin; the other half received an identical placebo pill. The study was stopped early for an unusual reason — those taking the supplement actually reported worse symptoms than those taking a placebo. This raises the possibility that taking glucosamine and chondroitin might make your joints feel worse than doing nothing.
  • Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) highlights the following 2010 findings:
    • New data from a long-term study of the dietary supplements glucosamine and chondroitin for knee osteoarthritis pain reveal that patients who took the supplements (alone or in combination) had outcomes similar to those experienced by patients who took celecoxib or placebo pills.
This recent research along with an understanding of the risk and side effects associated with glucosamine chondroitin, should be the information you need to think twice about taking this manufactured supplement. Remember, the SierraSil team wants you to live an active and healthy life – and this is why we want you to clearly understand the facts on glucosamine chondroitin.

How Can I Treat My Osteoarthritis and Other Joint Discomfort Naturally?

The best thing you can do to treat and manage your osteoarthritis and other joint discomfort naturally is to follow the guidelines and recommendations of the Arthritis Foundation and to learn the facts on the all-natural supplements available to you. This means we want you to read the following key information: Above all else, we want you to know what it is you’re taking. Don’t take a supplement because you saw an advertisement for it or because your friend is taking it. Take the supplement because there is proven clinical support that it can improve your joint health and mobility. Just because a supplement takes up a lot of space on the store shelves doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. Know what you’re taking and why you’re taking it. Remember, you can contact our customer service team with any of your questions about SierraSil.