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Should I Take Glucosamine If I'm Allergic to Shellfish?

By Diane Marks

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, your doctor may recommend taking a glucosamine supplement to reduce inflammation in your joints. However, if you have a known shellfish allergy, you should discuss the use of glucosamine with your doctor because it may trigger an allergic reaction. Do not use glucosamine without the observation and direction of a medical doctor. Research is limited on the effectiveness of glucosamine to treat any medical condition.


Glucosamine is a dietary supplement that may be used to treat certain muscle and joint-related conditions. It is a naturally occurring compound found in cartilage of humans and animals. Some forms of the supplement may be made from the shells of various shellfish, such as crab and shrimp, and thus may trigger an allergic reaction. Although the proteins found in the flesh of the shellfish cause shellfish allergies, minimal amounts of the proteins from the flesh may be present in the shell. If you have a severe allergy to shellfish, your doctor will most likely advise against the use of glucosamine.

Shellfish Allergy

Shellfish are a common food allergen that can cause mild to severe reactions after ingestion. You may have an allergy to one kind of shellfish, such as lobster, or you may be allergic to more than one type of shellfish. During an allergic reaction, your immune system begins to attack the proteins found in the flesh of the shellfish because of hypersensitivity. The body responds by creating immunoglobulin E antibodies, histamine and other chemicals. The presence of these chemicals cause allergy symptoms.


If you take glucosamine and you develop any common allergy symptoms, call your doctor right away. Allergy symptoms typically develop within the first hour of ingesting the supplement, but it could develop in a matter of seconds. Minor to moderate symptoms include sinus congestion, sinus headaches, hives, skin irritation, itchiness, tingling in the mouth, lips or tongue, stomach pain, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, gas, bloating, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. More severe symptoms include lightheadedness, the inability to breathe, throat swelling and facial swelling. Severe symptoms may require emergency medical attention.


You can develop an allergic reaction to glucosamine without having a shellfish allergy. If you’re diagnosed with a glucosamine allergy, you do not need to avoid consuming shellfish if you do not have an allergy to it. Some side effects from taking glucosamine may be unrelated to an allergy.

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