There are two broad categories of pain and inflammation: acute/traumatic and chronic/systemic.
An example of acute/traumatic pain/inflammation would be hitting a finger with a hammer. Chronic/systemic inflammation tends to be associated with the aging process, certain health conditions, exposure to environmental toxins, eating an unhealthy diet etc. Typically one does not feel this inflammation in the early stages until such time as it progresses and it may potentially contribute to the development of chronic, degenerative conditions (all of these conditions have inflammation as a contributing factor).
The type of diet we eat can be pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory: typically unhealthy foods such as processed foods, sugar etc. can contribute to inflammation whereas healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables will tend to provide an anti-inflammatory effect. (your ND can provide you with more information on this topic as well as what type of diet would be appropriate for yourself).
Everyone from time to time experiences episodes of acute pain and inflammation, and when these episodes occur it is natural to try to seek some relief if the discomfort is significant.
Potential solutions for pain and inflammation are diverse and numerous depending on the cause. One common potential solution that individuals will try for these episodes is to consume compounds that target pain and inflammation.
We can divide these compounds into two broad categories: pharmaceutical/drug compounds and natural source compounds. Within the pharmaceutical category we would include prescription drugs as well as non-prescription/OTC (over the counter) drugs.
Within the OTC category we would find compounds such as aspirin, acetaminophen (the most common brand being Tylenol), ibuprofen and more recently naproxen: these compounds are typically referred to as NSAIDS – non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Within the natural source compounds category we would find such compounds as turmeric and its key extract component curcumin, ginger, boswellia, devil’s claw and many more.
For many years, OTC drugs for pain and inflammation were perceived to be relatively harmless with few side effects, however more recent published research has shown that this is not in fact true.
Let’s take ibuprofen as an example:
From the website Drugs.com(1) information on ibuprofen, here is a partial list of potential side effects:
- abdominal pain
- difficulty having a bowel movement (stool)
- excess air or gas in stomach or intestines
- passing gas
- shortness of breath
- swelling of face, fingers, hands, feet, lower legs, or ankles
- troubled breathing at rest
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- weight gain
Plus there is a long list of health conditions and drug interactions that one should be aware of which may indicate that consumption of ibuprofen is contraindicated.
Let us contrast this with one of the most popular natural source compounds consumed for pain and inflammation: turmeric and its key active ingredient curcumin.
If one does a search under the description of “turmeric and curcumin” in PUBMED,(2) which is the key source for published research, there are over 14,500 listed references.
In an article on the website GreenMedInfo,(3) it suggests that turmeric is as effective as 14 prescription drugs for such diverse health conditions as elevated cholesterol, antidepressants, inflammation (including ibuprofen), diabetes – and more.
Some of the diverse health issues that curcumin targets include the following:
The ones listed above plus:
- Enhancing brain function and lowering the potential of developing brain diseases
- Antioxidant properties
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Heart disease
- Cancer prevention and treatment
- Alzheimer’s disease
- And many more
Turmeric is a popular spice in many Indian and Asian dishes and a critical ingredient of curry.
Turmeric/curcumin possesses many properties which can help with healthy aging and it is often prescribed to patients by health care practitioners for a broad spectrum of health issues – or as a way to help individuals to stay healthy.
Some experts suggest that turmeric/curcumin is THE top anti-aging compound – and it can actually help to delay the visible signs of aging (such as protecting the skin from UV damage).
One of the challenges with turmeric/curcumin is the fact that it does not get absorbed well so it is beneficial to consume it with a source of fat and either some black pepper or a specific ingredient which can be found in turmeric/curcumin nutritional supplements: piperine (which is a black pepper extract).
Pain and inflammation is not always bad for us: it is important for our bodies to be able to initiate this process for healing the body such as in traumatic accidents, infections etc.
What is important is the balance as to when pain and inflammation is needed and when it should be kept low.
Sometimes the inflammation process can become overactive such as in autoimmune conditions.
Keeping systemic inflammation levels low can be an important healthy aging practice: your ND can advise you about how you can develop a lifestyle plan and potential treatment protocols to do this as well as further information on natural alternatives to pharmaceutical compounds for pain and inflammation.
(2) U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (2019, January 14 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=turmeric+OR+curcumin
(3) GreenMed Info (2018, December 20) Science Confirms Turmeric As Effective As 14 Drugs Retrieved from http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/science-confirms-turmeric-effective-14-drugs