Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers – Don’t Take Glucosamine

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“Dear Pharmacist,

In a recent column, you said that a person should NOT take
glucosamine if they have Rheumatoid Arthritis, but that it was
useful for people with osteoarthritis. I have just been diagnosed
with Rheumatoid Arthritis and my doctor started me on
glucosamine and chondroitin immediately. Why is this a problem?”
–C.P., Coral Springs, Florida

ANSWER: I can see why this is confusing for people with arthritis.
As you know, glucosamine and chondroitin are used to build cartilage
within the joints. And in osteoarthritis, there is a deficit of cartilage
in the joints, so these supplements are helpful.

Any supplement that improves the shock-absorbing
quality of the joints is useful to an osteoarthritic sufferer. But the
most important point here, is that osteoarthritis is limited to joint
degeneration. Now, people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) have
what’s called an auto-immune disorder. It’s an inflammatory process
affecting the entire person.
Essentially, something goes wrong and causes the immune
system to go berserk. The body suddenly views itself as a foreign
substance and launches attack on itself. In RA, the joints are
destroyed the most, even though the whole body is affected.
So if you give a person with rheumatoid arthritis any supplement
which builds up cartilage, you are fueling the fire because the body
can attack itself with more fury.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are definitely not for people
with uncontrolled RA, but there are other natural substances which
may benefit. For example, anything that calms down the immune
system or reduces inflammation would be great. Things like omega
3 fatty acids (fish oils), SAMe, Boswellia and Turmeric are just a
few of many options.