Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAID’s are routinely recommended to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Pain, heat, swelling and redness are typical characteristics of most pain syndromes.
Last summer, the FDA had again issued a warning about the health hazards of NSAID’s. These include over the counter ibuprofen products such as Advil, Motrin and Aleve (naproxen), as well as prescription strength NSAID’s. NSAID’s work by blocking prostaglandins, which our bodies produce from arachidonic acid, a by product of certain inflammatory foods we eat. We produce both beneficial and inflammatory types of prostaglandins. NSAID’s can’t distinguish between the two and unfortunately suppress the beneficial anti-inflammatory type.
Well known side effects of NSAID include:
- Gastrointestinal issues such as abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea
- Ulcers & stomach bleeding, aspirin use is also implicated with GI bleeding; individuals with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis need to be especially cautious when taking NSAID
- Kidney damage, more likely to affect patients taking diuretics since they’re prescribed for heart failure and kidney and liver disease.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Liver toxicity, which will be seen as elevated liver enzymes in blood tests
- Congestive heart failure, NSAID’s were responsible for 19% of hospital admissions with CHF
- Hospitalizations and death, more than 100,000 patients are hospitalized annually for NSAID related gastrointestinal complications. The risk of complications are especially associated with patients with a history of existing heart disease or multiple factors for it
When taking NSAID’s, minimize your risks by taking a few precautions:
- Use only the lowest dose that’s effective, increasing only if it isn’t effective
- Ease off the NSAID’s as soon as you’re able to
Taking an occasional NSAID is unlikely to cause any long-term damage. It’s the continued use that has the potential to cause harm. For chronic pain, using herbs and dietary supplements can offer a safer and effective option.
Omega 3 fatty acids, tops my list of all the options to reduce inflammation simply because it’s also effective for multiple serious health concerns. Those include it’s ability to lower triglycerides, raised your HDL ( healthy cholesterol), helps with depression, improves brain health, lowers blood pressure, prevents plaque build up, prevents the formation of blood clots and reduces cardiac death. Impressive!
Curcumin, with it’s bright golden color is the active ingredient extracted from turmeric. Curcumin has become one of the most popular, powerful and extensively researched anti- inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and brain protectant herbs. Curcumin’s affects the same pathways of inflammation commonly seen with NSAID’s except without all of the side effects. These pathways involve NF-KappaB, inflammatory cytokines, Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) COX-2 and IL-12 . Curcumin is also proving to be beneficial as an adjunct treatment of many cancers including pancreatic and colon cancer. Since absorbability is an issue with Curcumin, it’s essential to choose a reputable brand to ensure efficacy. Look for manufactures who use the patented composition called C3 Curcumin, guaranteeing it’s bioavailability.
Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme found in pineapple stems; it has been shown to be effective for arthritis, joint pain and tendonitis. Bromelain reduces many of the same inflammatory pathways as Curcumin, but is unique in it’s effective as a “fibrinolytic agent” capable of dissolving fibrin or blood clots. Bromelain also helps allergies, IBS, cancer and sinus infections.
Devil’s Claw originally an herb from South Africa. Has been used for centuries to treat arthritis and muscle pain. Applied topically it helps heal sores, ulcers, boils and skin lesions.
Cat’s Claw, useful for arthritis, gout and other inflammatory disease. It specifically blocks the production of TNP-alpha. Cat’s Claw has the additional benefits of killing viruses, bacteria, and fungal infections. It strengthens your immune system and gastrointestinal health including: IBS, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, gastric ulcers and leaky gut.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin often formulated as glucosamine chondroitin; can lessen joint pain as well as increase better joint mobility and repair damaged tissue. At proper dosages, it takes 6 weeks to note a difference.
Magnesium would be most helpful for individuals who tend to hold excessive tension in their muscles, especially lower back, neck and shoulder. Epsom salt’s effectiveness is due to it’s active ingredients of magnesium sulfate. Can be taken orally or absorbed as epsom salt in a nice warm bath.
For more complex and chronic medical conditions, acupuncture is an effective and safe in treating virtually all syndromes of pain. As with almost any health condition, eliminating inflammatory foods such as excessive sugars, refined carbohydrates and trans-fats will always offer additional support to reduce inflammation.