Monday, February 5, 2018

Glucosamine to protect cartilage during influenza infection

I like to research many things that don't have clear answers. I have only been taking so much time to post about molybdenum because it's relatively unknown and quite effective for nausea/vomiting and migraines. But the headlines these days have some scary stories about influenza and its toll. A friend lost her uncle a few days ago to post-influenza pneumonia. So here's what I've dug up on an overlooked nutritional intervention that appears to help protect against dying from influenza-caused pneumonia:

1) The flu infects chondrocytes, the cells in cartilage. They are the only cells in hyaline cartilage, which type of cartilage is coincidentally found in places--joints, rib ends, nose, larynx, trachea, bronchi--that are among the hardest hit by influenza. (

2) Influenza-infected chondrocytes don't seem to actually experience obvious damage until the body's immune system goes on the attack. (; [Edited 2/17/2018: Someone pointed out to me that chondrocytes are within an extracellular matrix that has no blood vessels, so other cells, including attacking immune cells, can't reach them. I looked more into that issue and found a 2015 cartilage transplant study which found that cartilage isn't as immune-privileged as it used to be believed it was ( I suspect that chondroblasts--the immature chondrocytes next to the blood-vessel-containing perichondrium--are the first chondrocytes which the immune system cells attack, and then due to their destruction the cartilage matrix becomes compromised; if that compromised state becomes severe enough, immune cells can then gain access to the mature chondrocytes within, as well.]

3) Cytokines are part of the immune system's attack arsenal. The cytokine IL-1beta is a critical component of lung inflammation during infection with influenza type A H1N1. (

4) Glucosamine--a natural compound found in cartilage--happens to protect chondrocytes by being a potent inhibitor of IL-1beta. (

5) Damaged cartilage in the trachea/bronchi could allow for more penetrating infection by viruses/bacteria that normally would not be able to do much harm and in that way make flu sufferers much more susceptible to pneumonia. Most of the people who died from the 1918 flu died because "bacteria that normally inhabit the nose and throat invaded the lungs along a pathway created when the virus destroyed the cells that line the bronchial tubes and lungs." (

6) People who take glucosamine (it's a common supplement for arthritis) are much less likely to die of respiratory illnesses than their peers. (

So if you're worried about influenza, it might be worth it to buy some glucosamine and take it when you're exposed to influenza so you can protect your hyaline cartilage and thus make yourself less likely to develop pneumonia. I tried glucosamine myself last week (I teach part-time, and influenza has been going around my classroom), and I never coughed at all despite having slight nasal secretions and some very short episodes of mild chills. I bought the glucosamine in loose powder form, mixed it into water, and sipped or gargled it, for the point was to protect my respiratory tract, not my intestines.

At the very least, drink some animal broth--which should typically contain a little glucosamine--when sick with influenza. I don't think it's prudent to be a vegetarian when dealing with influenza. A few years ago, a China-Diet-following relative of mine got the flu, then pneumonia, then barely survived ARDS. Also, India's 1918 flu statistics could be read to support the existence of some sort of protective effect correlated with acceptance of beef consumption.

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