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Pain Relief: Natural Alternatives?

We all experience occasional pain and there are a number of widely used, over the counter medications that we’ve all reached for when suffering from back or joint pains or coming back from an injury. It’s estimated that more than 30 billion doses of Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs - ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) are consumed annually in the United States alone. Yikes! Considering the various health risks involved, including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and kidney issues, it’s surprising we all take these medications with little thought. While NSAIDs have been widely and successfully used to ease back and joint pain and injuries, it is important to be aware of potential drawbacks, including health risks of continual use of these drugs. Some of the more serious risks include cardiovascular events, gastrointestinal issues, low testosterone and even renal failure. Even worse, there are stats that 100k+ people are hospitalized annually from complications from taking these meds. Yikes!

Good news is there are several pain relief / anti-inflammatory options out there that won’t harm your health, including fish oils, marine algae, turmeric, ginger and boswellia. This range of phytonutrients offer innumerable health benefits as well as providing pain relief.

  • One of the best ways to combat both acute and chronic pain is to up your omega 3 fatty acids. The oils from fish contain EPA and DHA, the building blocks for the creation of anti-inflammatories in the body. Sadly, the Standard American Diet (SAD), ie, meat, trans fats, processed food is chock full of omega 6 and 9 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory. Taking fish oils can help to counter-balance this.

  • Next up is Astaxanthin, a phytonutrient from marine algae that is also rich in omega 3s and is what your salmon is eating (assuming it’s living in its natural environment).

  • Tumeric seems like all the range these days appearing in just about every new healthy packaged food and supplement. And with good reason. It’s an amazing spice and phytonutrient that contains powerful compounds called curcuminoids that are naturally anti-inflammatory. In Ayurvedic medicine and foods, it has been used in various ways. It’s best absorbed by the body when taken along with pepper and fat to make it more bioavailable.

  • Ginger has been a popular spice and herbal medicine for thousands of years and has a long history of use in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions to reduce inflammation, particularly for those with osteoarthritis.

  • Boswellia has been used as an incense in religious and cultural ceremonies and in folk medicine for centuries to treat various chronic inflammatory issues, particularly arthritis.

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