Dangers of NSAIDs and Natural Alternatives
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to manage pain and inflammation. They work by blocking a specific enzyme called cyclooxygenase (or COX), which blocks hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are a major contributor to inflammation, pain and fever, hence the effectiveness of NSAIDs.
Sounds like a good thing, right? Unfortunately long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to serious health concerns. Even recommended dosages for short periods of time can be harmful. This should be of particular interest to athletes. With the abundance of over-training, repetitive-strain injuries, and general wear and tear, NSAID use is a typical go-to treatment option.
4 Major Reasons to Stay Away From NSAIDs:
1. Intestinal Damage
*gastrointestinal side effects, which include gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers.
*Insufficient blood flow causes trauma to the small intestine cellular lining
*Ibuprofen use increased levels of a protein, indicating intestinal leakage, *small amounts of bacteria and digestive enzymes to leak into the bloodstream and increase systemic inflammation (Leaky Gut Syndrome)
*absorption of nutrients, especially post exercise, can also be compromised and affect the ability of tired and sore muscles t}o fuel and regenerate
*increase inflammation, and prevent your muscles from absorbing the necessary nutrients for recovery
Of particular interest, athletes are at an increased risk when using NSAIDs including Ibuprofen (common brand name Advil) taken before a training session. With intense exercise, blood gets diverted away from your digestive tract toward your muscles.
2. Liver Damage
*Leading cause of acute liver failure in North America.
*Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is found in over 600 OTC medications, overdosing is very common. Even regular doses of acetaminophen over a short period of time may be enough to cause liver damage.
*Acetaminophen damages the liver by depleting glutathione, a powerful liver anti-oxidant that protect the cells from oxidative stress.
Endurance athletes already experience an increase in liver enzymes and oxidative stress post long distance activities. It is known that people with pre-existing liver damage are at a higher risk of hepatotoxicity with acetaminophen use.
3. Heart Damage
*Heavy NSAID use is a known risk factor for cardiovascular events
*ibuprofen was associated with more than three times the risk of stroke.
*NSAIDs inhibit the “bad” prostaglandins that cause inflammation and pain, but also inhibit the “good” prostaglandins that dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow. When the “good” prostaglandins are suppressed, the result is higher blood pressure and increased blood clotting
4. Kidney Damage
* An appreciated side effect of NSAID use is kidney toxicity. Long-term use can impair renal (kidney) blood flow.
* Increased risk of abnormally low sodium concentration in blood, due to altered kidney function
* Increase the effect of anti-diuretic hormone, causing the kidneys to retain water and thus diluting sodium levels. This complication is especially concerning if it is hot and humid
* Brain swelling, brain herniation, cardiopulmonary arrest, seizures, coma, and even death, are all potential side effects.
Alternative Sources to NSAIDs
1. Tumeric: Not only is it effective for pain management, it actually protects your liver and kidneys from oxidative damage. TURMERIC TEA FOR PAIN-RELIEF (Recipe Included)
2. Fish oil: Fish oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation plays a large role in pain.
In one study, researchers instructed patients with neck or back pain to take 1200 milligrams a day of fish oil supplements. After 2 1/2 months on fish oil, more than half of the 125 patients who reported back said they had stopped their prescription painkillers.
3. Bromelain: (proven effectiveness in athletic injuries and delayed onset muscle soreness.)
4. Health care team: Physio, chiropractic, acupuncture, Naturopath, and osteopathic therapies are all proven effective modalities to expedite injury recovery.
5. Anti-inflammatory diet: Eliminating or radically reducing most grains and sugars from your diet can significantly lower inflammation
6. Exercise: People who exercise and maintain a good aerobic condition will improve most pain conditions. When we work out the body produces its own version of painkillers, like endorphins, hormones that actually increase your pain threshold. Endorphins interact with brain receptors and can change our perception of pain.
When patients tell me they are in too much pain to exercise, I suggests they start slowly, and do even a little burst of walking or other activity — then build up.
7. Resveratrol: Found in red wine, grapes and Recently, researchers reported the substance works on a cellular level for pain regulation.
8. Hot/Cold Therapy: Using heat as well as cold therapy are time-honored ways to quell pain. Hot Epsom salt baths relax the mind and change the nervous input from the body to the brain. Using ice is a well-accepted modality that decreases inflammation locally.
The key is to know when to use which.
When you have an acute injury, put ice on it right away. For instance, you twist your ankle and it’s painful and swollen. Using heat here will increase blood flow and increase the swelling. If you have lingering back spasms, heat would be best for that. I suggest taking a warm shower and massaging your neck or back (or whatever body part hurts) under the warm water.
9. Meditation: Meditation can quell pain. While some people get anxious, thinking they have to do meditation a certain way, that’s just not true. Meditation is not scripted. While you can get instruction, you can also look up approaches and follow instructions or get an app, such as Calm, Breethe, or Headspace: Meditation. Patients who meditate report more pain relief, as well as lower anxiety and depression and a better mental quality of life, than those who don’t meditate.
10. CBD Oil is a Natural pain relief and anti-inflammatory. People commonly use prescription or over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain and stiffness, including chronic pain, but CBD Oil offers a more natural way to lower your pain levels. Researchers believe the non-psychoactive compounds in marijuana, including CBD, could be a new treatment for chronic pain. CBD Oil Is it Legal? What is it? Will it Help Me?
11. Aloe Vera: Using aloe vera as a treatment for arthritis dates back centuries. Aloe vera is known to reduce inflammation and arthritis is an inflammatory disease. Taken orally, aloe vera may also help ward off stomach problems that other anti-inflammatory medications, like NSAID can cause.
12. Mustard Seed: Mustard seed is another herb that may provide some relief from joint pain. An easy way to use mustard seed for joint pain relief: Make a plaster with warm mustard seed oil and apply it to your swollen joints. The heat this salve produces may help improve blood flow to the area and provide you with some pain relief.
13. Olive Oil: Using heart-healthy olive oil in place of other fats like butter may help reduce pain symptoms. There’s a compound in extra virgin olive oil called oleocanthal that works the same way as NSAIDs. Olive oil is also good for your heart, and it’s rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants.
14. Frankincense: Frankincense is an extract from the resin of the Boswellia tree, grown in northern Africa. It was found to help ease knee pain caused by arthritis in a recent study. One way to include frankincense in your daily regimen is to try a nutritional supplement. People with arthritis who took supplements of boswellia extract reported greater improvement in their symptoms than those who did not take it. Frankincense supplements can be bought online from trusted vendors or found in most health stores.
15. Myrrh: For centuries, people with arthritis pain have reported that applying a salve of myrrh (from the Commiphora mukul tree) to swollen arthritic joints helps ease pain. Myrrh is found in abundance in the Middle East, where it is valued for its anti-inflammatory effects. Frankincense and myrrh were found to reduce inflammation in studies.
16. Cedar-wood Oil (Aromatherapy) Ayurvedic and Tibetan traditions have long used the essential oil extracted from the wood of cedar trees in their medicines. Cedar-wood oil can be used as aromatherapy to ease pain and can also be used during massage therapy to help relieve pain. Aromatherapy is considered an effective way to ease painful, stiff joints. Although researchers aren’t sure how aromatherapy helps, they suspect when you breathe in the pleasant aromas, it stimulates the part of your brain that allows you to relax, promoting healing. Aromatherapy what is it and what is it used for Part 1
17. Licorice: Licorice was found to be as effective, if not more so, than Advil (ibuprofen) against the inflammation that causes pain. It is among natural remedies that may help better manage symptoms of arthritis.
Caution: Don’t use licorice if you’re on blood pressure drugs or diuretics, the Arthritis Foundation warns. Licorice can block their effectiveness.
18. Tart Cherries: Cherries can block various types of pain. Tart or sour cherries contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants known as anthocyanins. All red and purple fruits, including raspberries and blueberries, have anthocyanins. But cherries — especially tart cherries — contain the highest levels. The extract was shown to block the pathways that signal inflammation. One serving of cherries daily — 1/2 cup of dried cherries, 1 cup of frozen cherries, or 8 ounces of cherry juice — should do the trick. 30 Days Of Superfoods for Pain Relief
Next week On the Grueling Truth Podcast: Quality Sleep (Foods that wreck it, Supplements and Strategies that help.)