N-acetylglucosamine, also known as NAG, is an amide or monosaccharide that derives from glucose. When two or more molecules are added to it along with a substance known as glucuronic acide, N-acetylglucosamine forms hyaluronan.
Medical Uses of N-acetylglucosamine
There are many potential medical uses for n-acetylglucosamine, of particular importance is the potential for its use as a treatment for many autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune cells and tissues begin to attack its own cells.
Typical examples include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and Addison’s Disease.
Many researchers have proposed theories as to why people develop autoimmune conditions. Some believe that T and/or B-cells in the body are not active or somehow become inactivated, and thus are not able to engage the normal immune response.
Still others suggest that normally self-reactive cells called lymph cells that typically react in an immune situation are destroyed during the normal development and maturation of the immune system.
Forms of N-acetylglucosamine
N-acetylglucosamine may come in its raw form or in a chemically modified form derived from shells. Chitosan is a form of N-acetylglocusamine that is metabolically changed. Some studies suggest that this form of glucosamine is ideally suited to individuals suffering from inflammatory conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and colitis. Other conditions that N-acetyl glucosamine may assist with include Crohn’s disease.
How N-acetylglucosamine Works
N-acetylglucosamine works somewhat differently than traditional glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride supplements. Unlike other glucosamine supplements that replenish joint cartilage and improve joint pain, N-acetyl glucosamine actually helps protect the lining of the intestines and stomach.
How this mechanism works is not entirely certain. Researchers believe that substances called the supplement may inhibit metalloprotease activity in the mucosal surfaces in the stomach and intestinal lining. Inflammation in the mucous surfaces causes chronic discomfort and may affect eating habits, leading to further inflammation and other digestive issues and upset.
For individuals suffering from long-term stomach pain and discomfort, this form of glucosamine may prove beneficial. More long-term studies are needed however, to assess the efficacy of this treatment and exact indications for its use for the systemic treatment of irritable bowel and related conditions.