I have arthritis and wondered what you thought of glucosamine and chondroitin. As a diabetic, is it safe for me to take this supplement along with my insulin?”
–K.L., Lake City
Answer: Glucosamine is found in the body naturally, and is essential for the maintenance of tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, heart valves and other parts of the body. In the store you will find 2 forms of glucosamine supplements, glucosamine “hydrochloride” and glucosamine “sulfate.” The “sulfate” form is considered superior to the “hydrochloride” form because it provides sulfur to the joints which are already deficient in people with osteoarthritis. Also, sulfur is essential for removing toxins from the body.
Overall, glucosamine sulfate is faster acting and far more impressive than chondroitin in it’s ability to support the gel-like nature and shock-absorbing qualities of cartilage. It’s worth its weight in gold. Glucosamine is heavily promoted for osteoarthritis because research proves that over the long haul, it reduces inflammation and pain better than ibuprofen, naproxen and other non-steroidal medications frequently prescribed by physicians.
In head to head double blind studies, it was shown that glucosamine addressed the cause of pain, while non-steroidal medications only provide symptomatic relief and may actually promote further joint deterioration. The best thing about glucosamine is that it won’t ruin your stomach like the non-steroidals do.
The Arthritis Foundation issued a brand new statement and warned diabetics that taking glucosamine might increase blood sugar levels. The animal data strongly supports that warning, and human testing has begun. This doesn’t mean you have to stop taking your glucosamine, but you do need to monitor your blood sugar more frequently. Check with your doctor to see if you need more diabetic medication. And if you are severely allergic to shellfish, glucosamine might give you a reaction because it is derived from the chitin of marine sea shells.
Chondroitin is another story. Taking chondroitin sulfate along with insulin is fine, but this supplement isn’t very helpful because the chondroitin molecule is too large to get into cartilage cells. Some physicians feel that injecting chondroitin into the joints provides better penetration, however the results are not conclusive. People who experience relief with chondroitin sulfate might be improving because of the absorption of sulfur from this compound and not from the chondroitin itself.
Most products on the market contain glucosamine along with chondroitin. This combination isn’t going to hurt you but it’s not that much better than glucosamine alone.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.