Glucosamine is a major component of joint cartilage. The body produces glucosamine. Glucosamine supplements made from the shells of shellfish are available for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Although articular cartilage has limited ability to rebuild itself (having no blood supply), glucosamine supplements may help slow the deterioration of cartilage.
It is believed that glucosamine may also help the cartilage absorb water and increase its elasticity. It may reduce inflammation. Glucosamine supplements can take a couple of months to be effective, but may offer as much pain relief as NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for osteoarthritis, without as many side effects. Results vary from person to person.
Side effects are generally mild and may include indigestion, nausea, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation. Glucosamine and chondroitin are often combined in one supplement.
Chrondroitin is also a component of cartilage and tendons. Chrondroitin supplements come from cow or shark cartilage. Chrondroitin supplements may reduce inflammation and pain of osteoarthritis. It may also protect the joints to slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. Like glucosamine, chrondroitin may take a couple of months to work.
As chrondroitin has mild blood-thinning properties patients taking blood-thinners should not take it. Like glucosamine, chondroitin may cause gastrointestinal side effects
Medications for pain and inflammation do produce results more quickly than glucosamine and chondroitin.
The body makes S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe supplements appear to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. It may be as effective as anti-inflammatory medications, without the side effects. It may also help fibromyalgia symptoms. SAMe may cause mild stomach upset but is generally considered a safe (though pricey) supplement. SAMe also has antidepressant effects and should not be taken with antidepressant medications unless recommended by a physician.
MSM is organic sulfur that is found in the majority of fresh foods. MSM supplements may help reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. Sometimes, glucosamine, chrondroitin, and MSM are combined in one supplement.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are usually derived from fish oil or flaxseed oil. Omega-3 fatty acids have some anti-inflammatory properties. In a study conducted at Cardiff University in Wales, people who took 1000 mg cod liver oil capsules twice daily for 3 months had significantly reduced levels of enzymes that are known to cause cartilage break down.