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Quench Chronic Inflammation and Pain

With Natural herbs and Nutrients

Pain is fact of life.

Everyone experiences it at some point or another. As people age, the factor that affects activities of daily living the most is the ability to move and function without pain or discomfort. Unfortunately, the latest research suggests that up to 50% of the population may be suffering from some kind of chronic pain, with back pain being the most common1. In many cases, the pain signal originates from a vicious cycle of structural damage, tissue breakdown, and inflammation. While most people are familiar with the concept of losing cartilage as we age, which leads to more mechanical irritation and degeneration, we should also consider that inflammation is the process that is occurring under the surface of most pain processes. In fact, it is now well known that almost every chronic disease is fueled by inflammation at the tissue and cellular level. Therefore, to address both pain and chronic disease, a robust anti-inflammatory strategy would be very beneficial. With this knowledge we can shift our perspective to treating the root cause with innovative and targeted methods.

Conventional pharmaceutical medications for pain and inflammation relief are primarily from the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) class which includes drugs such as Ibuprofen, Advil, and naproxen. However, with these medications come a number of serious side effects.

Often, frustrated people turn to natural and complementary approaches when they no longer get adequate results from medications, or they want to avoid the long list of potential side effects. There are many different natural options making it very confusing to determine which approach is most beneficial for each specific condition. Let’s examine how a more natural approach to pain management is quickly becoming the new normal.

Try Supplementing with the Sunshine Vitamin and Magnesium?

There are many vitamins and minerals that a person may be deficient in but for chronic pain and inflammation patients, the two most important are vitamin D and magnesium. Both play an essential role in nerve function and pain signaling as well as reducing inflammation. A study published in November 2012 found that certain types of pain are related to vitamin D deficiency, and that replenishing vitamin D can improve symptoms. The researchers found that 95.4% of the subjects were vitamin D deficient, and 85.5% of the subjects had improvement in pain with vitamin D supplementation3. This study confirms the results of a number of other studies that have found the same connection between vitamin D and pain4,5,6. The studies found that vitamin D deficiency may be responsible for generalized, non-specific pain especially if it is resistant to manual and conventional treatments. Vitamin D can be a simple yet very effective treatment for chronic pain in those who are deficient. To determine if it may be contributing to their pain, patients should have a qualified healthcare practitioner assess their blood levels of vitamin D and supplement accordingly to restore optimal levels. Practitioners should recommend sufficiently high doses, and monitor the patient’s blood levels to ensure vitamin D levels do increase.

Another consideration is magnesium levels. Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the body. One of its most important functions is that it plays a key role in producing energy and maintaining muscle and nerve function. Specifically, in chronic pain, magnesium can be helpful for offsetting the effects of too much calcium, which can cause muscle spasms and tightness. Magnesium acts like a plug in nerve receptors that are over-stimulated, and magnesium deficiency has been connected to increased inflammation7. The problem with this essential mineral is that most people do not have sufficient levels for optimal health. People with chronic pain are especially deficient. Various forms of magnesium are available and can make a huge difference to how the mineral is absorbed. For example, magnesium oxide is not well absorbed and can have a laxative effect while magnesium glycinate or malate are much better tolerated and absorbed. Ask your integrative health care practitioner which form and dose is best for you.

Stop feeding your inflammation

Eating a diet high in refined fats and sugars encourages inflammation; while eating a balanced diet high in healthy unrefined fats (like omega-3), low in refined sugar, and high in nutrient rich, plant based foods reduces it8. Sugar is one of the biggest drivers of inflammation with a key source being refined grain products like bread, pastries and pasta. Sugar also promotes weight gain and is linked to diabetes8. Emerging research is showing that refined foods, for example, a breakfast sandwich, can rapidly increase inflammation immediately after consumption9. To break the cycle of inflammation and pain it is paramount to limit foods that promote this damage. On the flip side, culinary spices such as ginger and turmeric are now being intensely studied to quench inflammation at the cellular level.

Block Inflammation with Herbal Extracts

There are many evidence-based herbal extracts that can reduce inflammation. The following are some of the most well-researched and effective options. It is always best to check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking a new health product to avoid interactions with other medications.

Curcuma longa

Turmeric is a spice derived from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family. Curcumin is the component of turmeric that is responsible for its medicinal benefits. Curcumin has many studies showing its anti-inflammatory effects, but what makes it stand out is that it blocks inflammation at multiple levels including right at the DNA, preventing the creation of more inflammatory signals. The trouble is that curcumin is very poorly absorbed, so to address this issue, an innovative fat-soluble extract was developed to maximize absorption. Optimized Curcumin is a specific curcumin extract with proven superior absorption compared to standard curcumin extracts. What makes Optimized Curcumin so superior in absorption and bioavailability is that it delivers free curcumin to the target sites of inflammation. This not only increases curcumin levels in the blood stream by 170x compared to standard curcumin extracts but also allows the anti-inflammatory action to occur quickly10.

Boswellia serrata

Boswellia is a resin extract from the herb frankincense which also reduces multiple inflammatory pathways without causing cartilage damage. A number of human clinical trials have found an extract from boswellia was able to improve joint range of motion and function with the same effectiveness as specific NSAID medications11,12. What makes boswellia unique is that it also has an affinity for inflammatory pathways in the digestive system and lungs, which can improve conditions like asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Just like curcumin, boswellia is a fat soluble substance that is best absorbed in combination with fat so look for an oil-based formulation to enhance its absorption.

Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese Skullcap) and heartwood extract of Acacia catechu (Black Catechu) are two powerful anti-inflammatory herbs used in Asian medicine. This combination has been studied together in the patented extract called UnivestinTM, which is found in the AOR product, ArthritEase. This natural anti-inflammatory blend has been proven to provide relief from osteoarthritic pain, stiffness and immobility. Over 10 clinical studies show that Univestin is as good as or better than the NSAIDs Celebrex and Naproxen in providing pain relief, improved mobility and reduced stiffness in individuals with osteoarthritis, and is safe for long term use13,14. Unlike other natural or pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories, ArthritEase is a “dual COX/LOX inhibitor”, meaning that it halts both pathways of inflammation making it more effective, but also safe.

Green Tea

Green tea extract is another widely studied natural product. The active components in green tea are a group of polyphenols called catechins, the most well known being epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg). Catechins and other polyphenols have been shown to act at multiple sites in the inflammatory cascade to reduce inflammation. For example, they quench oxygen and nitrogen free radicals, inhibit COX-2 enzymes, and prevent a cellular inflammatory molecule called NF- κB from becoming activated15. More recent research suggests that green tea polyphenols help reduce inflammation through over two dozen different mechanisms, much like the curcumin molecule. The extremely broad spectrum of applications of green tea and EGCg for many chronic diseases shows how powerful its anti-inflammatory benefits really are. It has benefits for weight loss, cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease, gum inflammation, and viral infections. A potent green tea extract that contains the full spectrum of catechins found in the tea may be one of the most effective and well-studied anti-inflammatory substances that exists in the botanical world.

Resolve Inflammation by Improving Blood Flow

One of the hallmarks of chronic inflammation is the lack of adequate blood flow to deliver nutrients and healing chemicals to the area while reducing the removal of waste and inflammatory products. Think of a muscle knot (trigger point) that is a mass of muscle fibres that are so tight that no blood flow and oxygen can get to into the area. This in turn triggers sensitive nerve fibres to send pain signals back up to the brain. This illustrates how a lack of blood flow can trigger pain. We already discussed magnesium, which is one of the most important factors in dilating blood vessels, reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow. Nitric oxide is another key molecule that regulates the widening of blood vessels and increasing blood flow. It is a key signaling molecule that balances the immune system which in turn helps to reduce inflammation. Nitric oxide also accelerates wound healing due its role in the immune response. You can increase nitric oxide in your body by eating foods such as beets and greens that are rich in nitrate, a nitric oxide precursor16. In addition, you can further boost nitric oxide levels by taking supplemental nitrate, a safe and effective ingredient found in AOR’s exclusive NOx line of products. The added bonus of nitric oxide is that since it improves blood flow, it can increase the delivery of natural substances such as vitamin C to the tissues that need it the most, increasing their absorption and bioavailability.There are a wide variety of powerful natural herbs and molecules that have shown very promising results for the reduction and prevention of inflammation. The advantage of these natural anti-inflammatory agents is that they act through a variety of mechanisms and influence a wide range of targets and molecules involved in the body’s inflammatory response. These natural agents are safe and effective, and can be used in combination to help control and prevent chronic inflammation throughout the body. By preventing and treating chronic inflammation, it may be possible to reduce the risk and progression of chronic pain and many serious diseases that have been linked to inflammation.

References

1. Andersson HI, Ejlertsson G, Leden I, Rosenberg C. Chronic pain in a geographically defined general population: studies of differences in age, gender, social class, and pain localization. Clin J Pain. 1993;9(3):174-82

2. http://tmedweb.tulane.edu/pharmwiki/doku.php/nsaid_side_effects

3. Abbasi M, et al. Is vitamin D deficiency associated with non specific musculoskeletal pain? Glob J Health Sci. 2012;1:107-11.

4. Plotnikoff GA, Quigley JM. Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain.Mayo Clin Proc. 2003 Dec;78(12):1463-70.

5. Al Faraj S, Al Mutairi K. Vitamin D deficiency and chronic low back pain in Saudi Arabia. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2003 Jan 15;28(2):177-9.

6. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency: what a pain it is. Mayo Clin Proc. 2003 Dec;78(12):1457-9.

7. Fawcett, W. J., Haxby, E. J. & Male, D. A. Magnesium: physiology and pharmacology. Br. J. Anaesth. 83, 302–320 (1999).

8. Seaman DR. The diet-induced proinflammatory state: a cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases? J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002 Mar-Apr;25(3):168-79.

9. Aljada A, Mohanty P, Ghanim H, Abdo T, Tripathy D, Chaudhuri A, Dandona P Increase in intranuclear nuclear factor kappaB and decrease in inhibitor kappaB in mononuclear cells after a mixed meal: evidence for a proinflammatory effect. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):682-90.

10. Gota V et-al J Agri Food Chem 2010, 58: 2095-2099

11. Sengupta K, Alluri KV, Satish AR, et al. A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study of the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin(R) for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Res Ther, 2008;10:R85.

12. Sontakke S, Thawani V, Pimpalkhute S, et al. Open, randomized, controlled clinical trial of Boswellia serrata extract as compared to valdecoxib in osteoarthritis of knee. Indian J Pharmacol, 2007;39(1):27-9.

13. Yimam, M., Brownell, L., Hodges, M., & Jia, Q. (2012). Analgesic Effects of a Standardized Biofavonoid Composition from Scutellaria baicalensis and Acacia catechu . Journal of Dietary Supplements, 9(3), 155–165.

14. Arjmandi, B. H., Ormsbee, L. T., Elam, M. L., Campbell, S. C., Rahnama, N., Payton, M. E., … Daggy, B. P. (2014). A Combination of Scutellaria Baicalensis and Acacia Catechu Extracts for Short-Term Symptomatic Relief of Joint Discomfort Associated with Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Journal of Medicinal Food, 17(6), 707–713. http://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2013.0010

15. Riegsecker S, Wiczynski D, Kaplan MJ, Ahmed S. Potential benefits of green tea polyphenol EGCG in the prevention and treatment of vascular inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.Life Sci. 2013 Sep 3;93(8):307-121

16. Hord, Tang and Bryan. Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):1-10

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