How many times have you casually popped some and Advil to curb your pain? NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are commonly prescribed for inflammatory conditions or to reduce inflammation following an injury, but did you know that they come with risks?
NSAIDS have been a topic of debate over the last few years due to the elevated risk of cardiovascular disease associated with them. In fact, Vioxx and Bextra were taken off of the market because this risk was so high They are known to cause a ton of minor side effects such as nausea, upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, decreased appetite, rashes, dizziness, headaches, and drowsiness.
Other severe side effects include kidney failure, liver failure, ulcers and prolonged bleeding after surgery, and in rare cases, sudden death. Some individuals are allergic to NSAIDS and can develop shortness of breath. Asthmatics should avoid using them because NSAIDS increase their risk of developing allergic reactions. Individuals that use aspirin in conjunction with other NSAID run the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal liver disease.
Common over-the-counter NSAIDS such as Alleve, Ibuprofen, Advil, Nuprin, and Motrin run the same risks.
The Woes Of Being Swollen
Is inflammation bad for us? The answer is sometimes. Inflammation is necessary for survival. Without inflammation, your body would not repair itself. As an injured area swells, white blood cells deposit enzymes, nutrients, and other compounds to repair the damaged tissue. Inflammation is present until the area is repaired. NSAIDS interfere with the biochemical pathway that promotes inflammation, therefore decreasing the amount of swelling. This will allow for increased range of motion and decreased pain, but also will prolong recovery time.
Inflammation has also been speculated as a cause for many chronic diseases, such as atherosclerosis. In this case, reducing inflammation can decrease the potential for plaque to accumulate on artery walls,. However, you can achieve this effect with proper diet and healthy lifestyle, rather than a pill.
1. Nutrient Deficiencies
According to experts at the University of Maryland, NSAIDS deplete the body of some fundamental nutrients , such as iron, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin C. Low iron levels can cause anemia and a low functioning immune system. Low folic acid has been associated with anemia, birth defects, heart disease, and colon cancer. Vitamin C depletion and scurvy, is associated with slow healing wounds, anemia, fatigue, dry skin, and hair. Zinc deficiency leads to a weakened immune system, anemia, loss of appetite or taste, and slow growth. These nutritional deficiencies are not discussed with patients who are prescribed NSAIDS, and they are overlooked by mainstream medicine, despite the fact they may very well lead to irreversible damage.
2. Sleep and Mood
NSAIDS also deplete the body of melatonin, a hormone that is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for good quality sleep and elevated mood. When a deficiency of melatonin occurs, serotonin levels are subsequently reduced, resulting in poor quality sleep and depression. Ever wonder why people that are in pain are depressed? Well, sleep is essential for tissue healing as high amounts of growth hormones are released while you rest. If you are in so much pain that don’t get the right quality or quantity of sleep, your body will not heal quickly – and depression will come knocking on your door.
10 Amazing Whole Food Alternatives
Yes, there are a lot of natural alternatives to fight inflammation. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is on the top of the list. To start, eat seven to nine servings of organic fruit and vegetables and drink eight to ten glasses of pure alkaline water per day. Grains like spelt and quinoa and a small amount of nuts are acceptable, just avoid peanuts as they have the potential to cause inflammation.
Cook with spices, as many are anti-inflammatory. Avoid unhealthy foods and habits like alcohol and smoking. Sugary foods and beverages and food items containing artificial sweeteners should be restricted. Eliminate allergens, such as dairy and wheat. Avoid processed foods and red meat. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is extremely beneficial as the root of many health conditions is inflammation. Start slowly and incorporate or eliminate foods slowly. Inflammation will decrease even with small changes.
10 Foods That Reduce Inflammation:
1. Blueberries increase the level of heat-shock proteins, which decrease as we age. As these are increased, the level of inflammation is reduced, decreasing pain and preventing tissue damage. Blueberries also contain anthocyanins, which are believed to decrease exercise-induced muscle soreness.
2. Tart Cherries: Studies show that tart cherries are ten times more effective at relieving pain than aspirin. This is due in part to the anthocyanin content, the pigment that makes cherries red. A recent study shows that consuming cherries for 28 days cause a 25 percent decrease in C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker.
3. Garlic contains allicin, an anti-inflammatory phytochemical. As allicin is susceptible to heat, it is best to eat it raw.
4. Green Tea has recently been shown to decrease joint pain .( ) Its active ingredient is epigallocatechin-3-gallate or EGCG. EGCG inhibits the formation of inflammatory chemicals and decreases joint damage.
5. Holy Basil contains eugenol, which is an anti-inflammatory. It is very popular herb in Ayurveda and has been used to treat headaches in folk medicine. It can be grown easily at home or purchased as a supplement.
6. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, the compound that make peppers hot. The “heat’ from the peppers decreases the amount of Substance P, a neurotransmitter responsible for transmitting pain signals to the brain. Capsaicin also acts by de-sensitizing the sensory receptors on the skin. It is found in many topical preparations, usually in combination with other pain relievers.
7. Mint Tea: Studies show that mint tea, particularly Brazilian mint, is just as effective as over-the -counter painkillers. Its active ingredient has yet to be identified.
8. Pineapple contains bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme which reduces inflammation especially in the acute phase. It is most concentrated in the stem of the pineapple, but also found in the flesh. Bromelain is best consumed by drinking fresh pineapple juice.
9. Sage has been used for hundreds of years to treat arthritis pain. It can be consumed as a tea or by chewing fresh or dried leaves.
10. Turmeric, one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories. It contains the active ingredient curcumin. Turmeric’s mechanism of action involves depressing the COX-2 pathway, similar to NSAIDS.
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Dr. Scott Schreiber has been practicing in Newark, Delaware for over eleven years. He is a chiropractic physician that is double board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition. He is also a certified nutrition specialist and a licensed dietitian/nutritionist. He can be reached via his website, www.drscottschreiber.com
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