The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Since glucosamine can be made from the shells of shrimp, crab, and other shellfish, people with shellfish allergy or iodine hypersensitivity may have an allergic reaction to glucosamine products. However, some research suggests that there is not enough shrimp allergen in glucosamine supplements to trigger reactions in patients who are allergic to shrimp. Nevertheless, caution is warranted. A serious hypersensitivity reaction including throat swelling has been reported with glucosamine sulfate. There are reported cases suggesting a link between glucosamine/chondroitin products and asthma exacerbations.
Side Effects and Warnings
In most human studies, glucosamine sulfate has been well tolerated for 30 to 90 days.
Side effects may include upset stomach, drowsiness, insomnia, headache, skin reactions, sun sensitivity, and nail toughening. There are rare reports of abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, flatulence (gas), constipation, heartburn, and diarrhea. Based on several human cases, temporary increases in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as palpitations, may occur with glucosamine/chondroitin products. Based on animal research, glucosamine theoretically may increase the risk for eye cataract formation.
It remains unclear if glucosamine alters blood sugar levels. Several human studies suggest that glucosamine taken by mouth has no effects on blood sugar, while other research reports mixed effects on insulin. When glucosamine is injected, it appears to cause insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction. Preliminary studies show no effect on mean hemoglobin A1c concentrations in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider and medication adjustments may be necessary.
In theory glucosamine may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
In several human cases, abnormally high amounts of protein were found in the urine of patients receiving glucosamine/chondroitin products. The clinical meaning of this is unclear. Glucosamine is removed from the body mainly in the urine, and elimination of glucosamine from the body is delayed in people with reduced kidney function. Acute interstitial nephritis, a condition that causes the kidneys to become swollen and possibly dysfunctional, has been reported in a patient taking glucosamine. Increased blood levels of creatine phosphokinase may occur with glucosamine/chondroitin, which may be due to impurities in some products. This may alter certain laboratory tests measured by healthcare providers.
Early data suggest that glucosamine may modulate the immune system, although the clinical relevance of this is not clear.
One patient developed liver inflammation (acute cholestatic hepatitis) after taking glucosamine forte.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Glucosamine is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to lack of scientific evidence.