The last newsletter covered dietary recommendations for inflammation. This issue covers popular anti-inflammatory medications and their harmful side effects, as well as alternative natural anti-inflammatory supplements. I strongly recommend that you do not take this subject lightly especially since many of these medications are generally classified as “safe” and often taken like candy.
Before we delve into this topic, I want to clarify something about inflammation. Inflammation is actually the body’s normal response to an injury or other harmful triggers including infections and toxins. It is not due to a deficiency of anti-inflammatory medications! These medications can give temporary symptom relief, but they do not address the cause(s) of inflammation and long-term use of them actually inhibits healing. Nutritional support can help the body handle the cause(s) of inflammation and assist it in healing.
NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the most commonly used and prescribed anti-inflammatory medications. The most popular over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDS are aspirin and ibuprofen. They are generally safer than prescribed NSAIDS and steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, but they still have the potential for significant side effects.
Aspirin has other benefits as an analgesic (pain-killer) and blood thinner. Some studies have shown that it can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, but so can many wholesome foods and nutritional supplements. Other studies have shown that it can potentially prevent and slow down the progression of certain types of cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. The problem is that many people take aspirin blindly as if their life depended on it without even looking at clinically proven natural remedies that can do the same things. It’s questionable whether aspirin’s risks outweigh its rewards due to it’s many documented side effects including:
- Bleeding and ulcers of the stomach, intestines, esophagus
- Increased bruising
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Reye’s Syndrome – increased risk when given to children under 18 and especially after receiving varicella and MMR vaccines or while fighting a virus. It is a rare and potentially fatal disease that strikes quickly primarily affecting the brain and liver.
Ibuprofen, also known as Advil and Motrin, is also used as a painkiller and is effective for lowering high fevers (anti-pyretic). Of all the anti-inflammatory medications, ibuprofen has the lowest incidence of stomach and intestine complications such as bleeding and ulcers, but this is only true when it is taken in low dosages and like all other NSAIDS it should not be taken with alcohol. Common side effects include nausea, raised liver enzymes, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, and dizziness. Long term usage of ibuprofen has been linked to an increased risk for heart attacks and erectile dysfunction in males. A study published by the Canadian Medical Journal showed that pregnant women taking NSAIDS including ibuprofen were 2.4 times more likely to have a miscarriage.
Tylenol is not an anti-inflammatory medication, but is instead effective for relieving pain and lowering high fevers. I have included it here to give you some vital information on “the pain reliever hospitals use most” because it is far from the safest OTC painkiller that it is perceived to be. In fact, many experts agree that it is the most dangerous OTC in the U.S. The reason for that is that it is not only the No. 1 cause of acute liver failure in the U.S., but is also the No. 1 cause of pharmaceutical drug deaths. If you decide to use it, always make sure you take it with food and do not take it with alcohol because these combinations have been proven to significantly increase your risk of liver complications and/or overdose toxicity. You can read more about this at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainManagement/story?id=2739177&page=1.
The most commonly prescribed steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are cortisone and prednisone. They are synthetic versions of adrenal gland hormones called corticosteroids. Cortisone is typically injected into an inflamed joint to reduce inflammation quickly and can last up to a few weeks. It is very close to the natural adrenal hormone called cortisol, but it is more powerful and longer lasting than cortisol since it stays in the body for days instead of minutes. Common complications from cortisone shots include death of nearby bone (osteonecrosis), thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis), joint infection, nerve damage, temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint, skin and soft tissue thinning around injection site, and whitening or lightening of the skin around injection site. Repeated injections can cause deterioration of the cartilage as well as tendon weakening or rupture. Therefore, it is advisable to limit cortisone injections or find other alternatives that have limited or no side effects.
Prednisone is typically taken orally in pill form and has a more whole-body effect. Side effects from prednisone include increased blood sugar (especially in diabetics), fluid retention, insomnia, and reduced immune function. Long-term usage can lead to osteoporosis, glaucoma, cataracts, and depression. If taken for more than seven days, it will suppress the adrenal glands’ ability to produce corticosteroids. Therefore, in order to prevent complete dependence on this drug it must not be abruptly stopped, but rather gradually reduced over days or possibly weeks.
The best documented natural anti-inflammatory supplements available are fish oil, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, systemic enzymes and Vitamin C. Fish oil, in particular the omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA, is not only a terrific anti-inflammatory, but it also has heart-healthy benefits including lowering triglycerides and raising good cholesterol levels, lowering high blood pressure, reducing plaque build-up inside arteries, and lubricating blood cells to prevent blood clots making it a great alternative blood thinner to aspirin. It is also a good hormone precursor, protects your skin from the sun’s damaging rays, has anti-aging properties, helps prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, and improves vision while helping combat eye conditions like macular degeneration. In order to get an anti-inflammatory effect from fish oil, it is recommended that you take 3,000-5,000 mg of it daily.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are excellent for joint inflammation since they can help regenerate cartilage. In addition, the sulfur (sulfate) molecule is needed to help the liver detoxify chemicals. In fact, often times joint degeneration is caused by an excess of toxins in the body where the liver has to steal sulfur from the cartilage to handle them. Doing regular liver cleanses and supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can essentially kill two birds with one stone!
Systemic enzymes, also known as proteolytic enzymes, are believed to be by many experts the strongest natural anti-inflammatory supplements available. I have been using and recommending these for many years and have seen incredible results. The most popular systemic enzymes on the market are called Wobenzym, which comes from Germany and works very well. We carry an alternative supplement called Lyso-Lyph-Forte that is essentially identical and less expensive. I especially like recommending these with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to shrink and strengthen bulging and herniated spinal discs. Just remember to always take them on an empty stomach (one hour before eating and at least two hours after eating) because if taken with food they will work as digestive enzymes instead!
We all know that Vitamin C is excellent for the immune system as it helps fight colds. It is also an excellent anti-inflammatory supplement especially since it reduces a by-product of inflammation called histamine, which is also responsible for the symptoms of allergies. Your body does not make Vitamin C so it should be supplemented regularly. Taking 3,000-5,000 mg of Vitamin C daily is recommended when fighting inflammation. If you develop diarrhea, then simply lower the amount until your stools normalize. Vitamin C as well as zinc are also important for ligament repair and should be taken together after a sprained joint or a surgical joint repair.
The most important natural “supplement” that you can take to reduce inflammation in the body is water! Dehydration is a major cause of inflammation. When the radiator of your car is low in water it will overheat – the same goes for your body and it is called inflammation. The body is 70% water and the brain is 80% water. Take your body weight and multiply it X .55 and you will have the approximately amount of daily ounces of water you should drink.
If you have a condition that includes inflammation and have gotten into the vicious cycle of taking anti-inflammatory medications, then come in and let me help you address the cause(s) of your condition and utilize healthier solutions.