Use Glucosamine in Treating Arthritis

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Filed Under: Bone & Joint Health
Last Reviewed 02/19/2014

Use Glucosamine in Treating Arthritis

Maybe it’s my competitive nature, but there’s nothing like being able to say, “I told you so.” And in the 20 years that I’ve been writing Health & Healing, I’ve had numerous opportunities to do just that.

In the example below, I told readers about how glucosamine is a safe, natural remedy for treating arthritis that stimulates new cartilage growth and is far safer than the arthritis medications taken by millions of people in the U.S. And I wrote this story several years before the mainstream press reported that glucosamine slows joint damage and eases arthritis symptoms.

Here is the copy that appeared in the June 1993 issue. (The core concept of this story remains unchanged; however, my recommendations have been updated to reflect the most recent science and what we’re currently recommending to patients here at the Whitaker Wellness Institute.)

Reversing Arthritis

Folks, the arthritis medications that are taken by millions in this country are frightfully dangerous. Even worse, they exacerbate arthritis. They are not effective in f treating, arthritis. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a completely safe, natural remedy that stimulates healing with new cartilage growth to cover the surfaces of the bone. It is called glucosamine sulfate, and it reverses arthritis, and is a natural way for treating arthritis pain.

In general, all forms of arthritis—rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis or arthritis due to trauma—become osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, the “end stage” arthritis, progresses with destruction of the cartilage that covers the articular surfaces of the bone, allowing bone to rub on bone. That is painful!

Almost all American physicians believe that osteoarthritis is progressive, and treatment is aimed only at pain relief. No attempt is made to slow down its progression.

Arthritis Drugs Actually Cause Cartilage Destruction!

The most common therapy for osteoarthritis are drugs such as aspirin, Motrin, Naprosyn, Feldene, Clinoril, Indocin, Vicodin and Meclomen, to mention only a few. These nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have similar mechanisms of action and are big business for the pharmaceutical companies. Every few months there is a newly minted NSAID on the market, announced with expensive ads on its ability in treating arthritis pain.

NSAIDs can be extremely dangerous. When used on a chronic basis—not occasionally for pain relief—they cause bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract in more than 100,000 people a year. Nonetheless, they are prescribed for virtually every painful condition, particularly treating arthritis pain.

Though these dangers are well known, what is not recognized is that NSAIDs block the body’s ability to produce cartilage and actually cause cartilage destruction. Thus, they accelerate the destructive nature of the disease.

Indocin is a powerful and very dangerous NSAID. Physicians in Oslo, Norway, followed the course of 186 patients with X-rays of 294 hips. Fifty-eight of the patients were taking Indocin; 128 weren’t. Those taking Indocin were found to have far more rapid destruction of the hip than the group that was not taking Indocin or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent.

Folks, we docs have been asleep at the switch. It is time to go back to square one and rethink what we are doing for treating arthritis.

Glucosamine Stimulates Your Body to Heal Arthritis

When osteoarthritis progresses, it causes a “loss of joint space,” and the cartilage covering the articular surfaces of bone shows up “lucent” on the X-ray, compared to the “opaque” whiteness of bone. However, if the mechanism of the body to make cartilage and other connective tissues is intact, osteoarthritis will sometimes stabilize and actually begin to reverse itself. This results in “joint space recovery,” which can happen even if the entire joint space has been lost.

In order to repair the ravages of arthritis, the body must be able to produce connective tissue, the fibrous network that holds everything together and is the primary substance of the cartilage. The first step for creating connective tissue, and treating arthritis, is the conversion of glucose to glucosamine.

Glucosamine is to connective tissue what wheat is to bread. Actually it is more than that. Found in high concentrations in the joint space, glucosamine stimulates connective tissue production and the repair of the arthritic joint.

Numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled trials conducted in Europe have shown that glucosamine is not only better than a placebo but also superior to the commonly prescribed drugs for treating arthritis.

Arthritis Drugs Are 1,000 to 4,000 Times More Toxic Than Glucosamine

Dr. Antonio Lopez Vaz from St. John Hospital in Oporto, Portugal, divided 48 patients, all with arthritis in only one knee, into two groups, one receiving 1.5 grams of glucosamine, the other receiving 1.2 grams of ibuprofen (Motrin) daily for eight weeks. The Motrin users had a rapid decrease in pain over the first two weeks, but at the end of eight weeks, their arthritis pain was on the rise again. The glucosamine users had less dramatic pain relief in the first two weeks, but at eight weeks they had significantly less pain than the Motrin group.

Italian doctors I. Setnikar, M. Pacini and L. Revel compared glucosamine to Indocin in three groups of rats induced with inflammation similar to rheumatic inflammation in humans. Glucosamine did alter the inflammatory response in the three groups, but Indocin was much more potent, requiring a dose 50 to 300 times lower. Indeed, the toxicity of Indocin is 1,000 to 4,000 times greater than glucosamine, which has no measured toxicity. Taking this into account, the researchers found that treatment of inflammatory disorders with glucosamine is 10 to 30 times better than treatment with Indocin. “Glucosamine sulfate can therefore be considered as a drug of choice for prolonged oral treatment of rheumatic disorders,” they concluded.

Osteoarthritis often requires long-term therapy. The effectiveness or potency of the long-term therapy should be weighed against its potential for toxicity. It makes little sense to me to dispense highly dangerous drugs when natural and nontoxic agents for treating arthritis are available. Glucosamine is only one of them. Arthritis patients should also receive a wide spectrum of nutritional support, including the vitamins and minerals outlined in the Whitaker Program. Only modern docs think in terms of “the cure” by using a single agent, yet when the body sets out to heal itself, it needs and uses everything.

Recommendations for Treating Arthritis

  • For my patients on NSAIDs, I start a program of glucosamine sulfate (1,500 mg/daily) and natural anti-inflammatories for pain relief, which enables them to reduce and, in most cases, eliminate their drugs. Over the years, I have changed some of my recommendations for treating arthritis as new research has been published and new nutritional products have been introduced. For example, I now use curcumin, Univestin and concentrated fish oil for pain and inflammation—none of which were available as nutritional supplements in 1993. However, after 18 years of clinical experience, my confidence in the benefits of glucosamine is stronger than ever.

  • If you are under a physician’s care for treating arthritis, discuss starting this approach as a therapeutic trial. Also, share this information with your friends who have arthritis.

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