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INFLAMMATION

A research study recently published in the online version of British Medical Journal revealed that painkillers, which are so commonly used they may even already be a permanent fixture inside your medicine cabinet, poses adverse side effects to the human body. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as lumiracoxib and rofecoxib are said to cause an increase in a person’s risk for a heart attack by up to two times, while ibuprofen which can be bought over the counter has been associated with an increased risk of stroke by approximately three times.

NSAIDS have been frequently prescribed as a part of the pharmacologic treatment plan for patients with inflammation in the body, especially for those diagnosed with bursitis, tendinitis and arthritis.

Understanding Inflammation

The inflammatory process is often marked by four classic symptoms:  swelling of the affected area, heat or fever, redness and pain.  While these symptoms may be uncomfortable and disturbing, inflammation is actually a good thing.  Why? Because this means that your immune system is doing its job of fighting it out with ‘foreign’ bodies who are trying to invade our bodies. The inflammatory process helps repair and heal anything that is wrong in our body system.

The white blood cells (WBCs) are the immune system’s first line of defense against foreign invaders.  When these cells sense something that is foreign, a battle will ensue.  WBCs will release chemicals, known as prostaglandins, in an attempt to neutralize the enemies; they do this either directly into the blood stream or by converging into the affected site. Once prostaglandin is released, blood flow will immediately increase in the area of affectation.  This explains why, in the case of arthritis, the knee becomes red and warm. Prostaglandin also causes fluid to leak into the tissues.  Excess fluid, occupying a space that is not normally theirs, will result to swelling.  A swollen tissue may irritate nerves that surround it and would therefore cause pain.

What does Painkillers do?

Many people turn to painkillers for relief of common pain-inducing conditions such as a simple headache or a disturbing back pain. For some, popping a tablet is second nature – they have become dependent on over the counter medications that they do not leave home without it. NSAIDs such as lumiracoxib (Prexige), rofecoxib (Vioxx) and ibuprofen (Nuprin, Motrin, Medipren, Advil) all act by blocking the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme which is responsible for making prostaglandins. Once these COX enzymes are blocked, prostaglandin production will be lessened.  Reduced prostaglandin levels would mean a reduction in the four classic symptoms of inflammation – less pain, less fever, less redness and less swelling.

The Danger of Using Painkillers

While most doctors prescribe the use of painkillers with only the best intentions in mind, stroke and cardiovascular risks should be taken into serious consideration.  In the study where scientists analyzed the results of previously conducted randomized controlled trials involving the use of NSAID and placebo, the group of scientists noted that:

  • the use of lumiracoxib and rofecoxib increased a person’s risk of heart attack by up to two times
  • using diclofenac (Rufenal) and etoricoxib (Arcoxia) increased the risk of heart-related death by up to four times
  • ibuprofen use increases a person’s risk of stroke by more than three times

The study’s Swiss authors stated that their study supplies the best available proof on just how safe these drugs are.  While they acknowledge that a hint of improbability remains, little evidence subsists for any of the drugs that were investigated to be considered safe when it comes to cardiovascular issues. All in all, 116,429 patients were involved in 31 clinical trials.

Other side and adverse effects associated with the chronic use of painkillers include gastrointestinal irritation, increased levels of blood sugar in the blood, high blood pressure, depression of the immune system and constipation.

Natural Ways to Relieve Inflammation

Know what, and what not, to eat

Just because you pain and fever does not mean you can just eat any fruit and vegetable that you want, thinking that ALL fruits and veggies are good for you. While there are a plethora of healthy foods to choose from, berries and green leafy vegetables contain mighty doses of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help bust out inflammation because of its anti-inflammatory properties.  But you should watch out for plants belonging to the nightshade family such as eggplants, tomatoes and potatoes since these contain solanine, a chemical alkaloid that actually triggers pain and worsens the symptoms of inflammation.

Fat is Beautiful

So you think you should cut out the fat from your diet? Don’t. Fatty acids, especially Omega-3, boasts of powerful properties that help curb inflammation.  So include oily fish in your diet (like halibut, tuna and salmon).  You may also include sesame and pumpkin seeds, grapeseed, ground flaxseed and walnuts.

Spice it up!

There are a lot of spices containing antioxidants.  There are those that have anti-inflammatory properties, too.  Still, there are some which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics.  Ginger has zingerzone and vanillin.  Rosemary has rosmarinic acid.  Chilli peppers have capsaicin.  All these compounds help relieve inflammation.  Other excellent sources of anti-inflammatory properties include spirulina, green tea extracts, graviola, goji, thyme, sage, pepper, oregano, hyssop, garlic, fennel, dill, coriander, cumin, bay leaves and basil.

Go easy on the sugar

Simple carbohydrates found in your favourite pastries and pasta dishes not only results to weight gain, but it also worsens the inflammatory process by causing blood sugar surges which promote glycosylation in cells. In order to avoid this, it is advised that you consume complex carbohydrates instead.  Choose the ones with low glycemic index like strawberries, spinach, raspberries, pears, leafy greens, green beans, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, broccoli, asparagus and apples.

Very Vitamin

In order to keep inflammation at bay, your body needs all the help that it can get.  So make sure that you have sufficient intake of B vitamins, folic acid, as well as vitamins C, D and E. Antioxidants such as Grapeseed Extract, Resveratrol and Alpha Lipoic Acid can also helps.

 

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