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Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Foods are better alternatives to managing chronic pain compared to NSAIDs.

If you have chronic pain, chances are you’ve turned to NSAIDs for pain relief at least once in a while. But is long-term use of NSAIDs safe? Is there a better alternative?

Chronic pain is highly linked to chronic inflammation. First, let’s understand what inflammation is. Inflammation, five cardinal signs characterize the condition: pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation is a host defense mechanism of the body, and it’s an essential immune response that enables the body to survive during infection or injury and maintains tissue homeostasis in noxious conditions.[6,7] Inflammation is considered a pathological process that can be beneficial in combating noxious infection or injury.[8,9], it has a role in healing and restorative processes.

Moreover, the inflammatory process could be silent and not cause noticeable symptoms. Other than the five cardinal signs associated with inflammation, it can also manifest as aches and pains, arthritis, weight gain, skin issues – especially rashes and itchy skin, fatigue, bloating, digestive problems, constipation, migraines, allergies, bags under the eyes, high blood sugar, mental health and mood disorders, and more.

Better-known inflammatory diseases or health conditions include arthritis, diabetes, dermatitis, bursitis, gout, conjunctivitis, eczema, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, Chron’s Disease, etc. Many of chronic pain people have these associated conditions or symptoms in their GI systems.

Many individuals with persistent/chronic pain have elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines in blood and tissues. CRP level can be tested via lab tests. Remember, the cause of Chronic inflammation is multiple factors like lack of sleep, high level of stress, lack of exercise, deficiency of minerals, and vitamins, poor diet, etc.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications: (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs tend to be inexpensive and easily accessible, so they’re often the first medications prescribed to people with arthritis, inflammation, and pain.  These drugs do help to reduce inflammation, which often helps relieve pain but only for a very short duration. More commonly available over-the-counter NSAIDs for chronic pain include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen.[1] These pain medications are sold in different non-prescription strengths and may be combined with other ingredients, such as caffeine or acetaminophen.  Prescription-strength versions for chronic pain include meloxicam and celecoxib. Nearly all NSAIDs, both prescription and over-the-counter, are taken orally.

When NSAIDs are used regularly over an extended period, as is often the case with chronic pain, the potential for side effects increases. Evidence suggests that the potential for NSAID-associated complications increases as you get older.

Some more common side effects include

But persistent long-term use safety concerns must be considered when taking these medications for chronic and degenerative pain conditions. The therapy of inflammation is not a one-dimensional therapeutic approach wherein medicinal herbs may play a pivotal role.[6,9, 10,11,12] There are many anti-inflammatory herbs that are clinically studied as a natural alternatives and can be taken as anti-inflammatory supplements. Although nonsteroidal medications can be effective, herbs and dietary supplements may offer a safer and more effective alternative treatment for pain relief, especially for long-term use. (1,2)

Anti-Inflammatory Food and Herbs:

Plant-based nutraceutical preparations have been used to obtain adequate pain relief for hundreds and even thousands of years. Herbal medications are becoming increasingly popular because of their relatively few side effects.

For anyone wanting to eliminate or reduce inflammation in the body, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is a great place to start. The food we eat can help us thrive in wellness, and it also can deplete our health. Some foods contribute to inflammation, and some foods help reduce it. By adjusting the diet to support keeping inflammation at bay, all other treatments and therapies will become more effective. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The following is a list of the foods known to reduce or eliminate inflammation. These are foods to include in your diet frequently if you are experiencing inflammation. Be sure to choose organic whenever possible. Remember: the goal is to be easy when it comes to changing the diet. It is a lifestyle change, and very important that you enjoy the food you eat. Only implement two changes every week; one is to get rid of one of the inflammatory food from the list and add one anti-inflammatory herb and food to your routine recipes.

Leafy GreensCoconut Oil and MilkExtra Virgin Olive Oil
Wild BlueberriesPineappleApples
CherriesGrapefruitBeets
CelerySweet Potatoes &YamsLemons and Limes
Seaweeds (nori, dulse, kelp, hijiki, wakame, kombu)
Omega 3 Fats (avocado, chia, flax, hemp seeds and oils, pumpkin seeds,  walnuts)
Cruciferous Vegetables (kale, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts)
Raw Fermented Foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, plant-based yogurt, coconut kefir, kvass)
Sprouts (especially radish and broccoli sprouts)
Mushrooms(Lion’s Maine, Almond Mushrooms, Rishi, Maitake, Bamboo Fungus, Caterpillar fungus)

Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Supplements:  The following is a list of several herbs and supplements that can help reduce inflammation. You can find these herbs in many forms, including tinctures, capsules, teas, and topicals.

TurmericDigestive EnzymesAlpha Lipoic Acid
GingerMagnesiumLemon Balm 
GarlicVitamin D3Holy Basil
CinnamonChlorellaChamomile
Green teaCBD OilSpearmint
Fish OilsVitamin C Fresh Herbs (rosemary, basil, cilantro, fennel, oregano, thyme, parsley)
SpirulinaBoswellia Medicinal Mushrooms (Reishi, Chaga, lion’s mane, turkey tails, cordyceps, fomitopisis)
AshwagandhaCalendulaProteolytic Systemic Enzymes 
PassionflowerSt. John’s Wort Irish Sea Moss

Alkaline and Acidic Food:

Within these groups, there are alkaline foods and acidic foods. Acidic food increases the PH balance of the body and makes it more prone to diseases like cancer, infection, etc. Alkaline foods lower the PH level in the blood and bring more healing. Usually, Alkaline foods are water-rich, green vegetables.

One reason alkaline foods are so trendy is the cancer-fighting claim. Yes, alkaline foods often have cancer-fighting properties, and it’s not really because they’re alkaline. It’s because they are nutrient-dense foods loaded with vitamins + and minerals to help the body fight as well as heal. But definitely consult with your physician about adding these nutritious foods to your diet, yet make sure they are part of a balanced diet and not the only foods you’re eating. 

Before making a change in your diet, first, check what kind of food you are eating on a regular basis. Once you figure that out, the goal is to cut one acidic food out and add one alkaline food every week. This is a lifestyle change, and eat a lot of them if you like every day.

Probiotics:

When it comes to chronic pain, gut health plays a huge role. As 80-90% of your happy hormone, serotonin, is made in your gut. More serotonin helps to have more melatonin, so better sleep, and less cortisol, so less stress. The more than 400 different species of microorganisms that reside in the gut can profoundly influence overall health. You can introduce good bacteria or “probiotics” to reestablish a healthy microbiome. Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms found in the gut that are also called “friendly bacteria.” Probiotics serve many functions, but perhaps the most important is to compete with bad bacteria and pathogens. Probiotics in the form of supplements or food are required to reestablish a balanced gut microbiome.

Fermented foods, such as Kombucha, sourdough bread, coconut yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, are good sources of probiotics.  They are also available in many foods like artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion, chicory, tofu, and soy products. Grains are also good sources of prebiotics.

For centuries, natural anti-inflammatory compounds have been used to mediate the inflammatory process, often with fewer side effects. Anti-inflammatory foods and herbs, when taken in the proper dose and consistently, are far safer and more effective compared to the long-term use of pain medications, primarily NSAIDs for chronic pain.

For this reason, I designed THERAPEUTIC EATING PLAN TO REVERSE THE INFLAMMATION to guide you more about the wonderful healing properties of alkaline and anti-inflammatory food that enhance your healing from persistent/chronic pain conditions. This is a lifestyle plan based on five food-eating principles and a plant-based nutritious anti-inflammatory diet to boost immunity and restore health.

Learn more about THERAPEUTIC EATING PLAN TO REVERSE INFLAMMATION.

References:

(1) Kang, J. J., Samad, M. A., Kim, K. S., & Bae, S. (2014). Comparative anti-inflammatory effects of anti-arthritic herbal medicines and ibuprofen. Natural product communications, 9(9), 1351–1356.

(2) Yatoo, M. I., Gopalakrishnan, A., Saxena, A., Parray, O. R., Tufani, N. A., Chakraborty, S., Tiwari, R., Dhama, K., & Iqbal, H. (2018). Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Herbs with Special Emphasis on Herbal Medicines for Countering Inflammatory Diseases and Disorders – A Review. Recent patents on inflammation & allergy drug discovery, 12(1), 39–58. https://doi.org/10.2174/1872213X12666180115153635

(3) Banerjee, M., Tripathi, L. M., Srivastava, V. M., Puri, A., & Shukla, R. (2003). Modulation of inflammatory mediators by ibuprofen and curcumin treatment during chronic inflammation in the rat. Immunopharmacology and immunotoxicology, 25(2), 213–224. https://doi.org/10.1081/iph-120020471

(4) Maroon, J. C., Bost, J. W., & Maroon, A. (2010). Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Surgical neurology international, 1, 80. https://doi.org/10.4103/2152-7806.73804

(5) Herbal Medicine for Pain Management: Efficacy and Drug Interactions by Behdad Jahromi 1, Iulia Pirvulescu 1ORCID, Kenneth D. Candido 1,2,3 andNebojsa Nick Knezevic 1,2,3,*ORCID

(6) He Y, Yue Y, Zheng X, Zhang K, Chen S, Du Z. Curcumin, inflammation, and chronic diseases: how are they linked? Molecules. 2015 May 20;20(5):9183-213. doi: 10.3390/molecules20059183. PMID: 26007179; PMCID: PMC6272784.

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