Your body has a natural supply of glucosamine; an important compound needed to build cartilage. Cartilage is the thick connective tissue that covers the ends of your bones and allows your joints to glide when you move.
Most people don't think about glucosamine unless they're athletic or over 50 years old. This is because cartilage breaks down and is lost from normal wear and tear, or injuries, as you age. Your joints then become stiff and sometimes painful.
Unfortunately, there are no food sources of glucosamine, so taking a supplement is the only way to get more.
There are different types of supplements: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-acetyl-glucosamine. Glucosamine sulfate is the most common type and has been shown in studies to be effective. The problem is, it's made with the outer skeletons of shellfish.
Thankfully, there are vegetarian alternatives that are made from fermented wheat or corn instead of shellfish. To make vegetarian glucosamine more effective it's suggested that you get enough vitamin C and manganese in your diet. Another option is to take a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement together.
Chondroitin is a major part of cartilage. It helps protect your cartilage and stimulates the production of new cartilage. Both glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are safe.
If you're thinking of taking any supplements, make sure to speak with your doctor first.
University of Maryland Medical: Chondroitin