Is your doctor still prescribing Voltaren to treat inflammation and pain? Omega 3 fish oils, along with many phytonutrients, bioflavonoids and enzymes, provide effective and safe natural options for treating pain and inflammation. Let’s look at some of these great health enhancing natural anti-inflammatories and consider using them instead of harmful drugs.
A recently published study of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use across 15 countries shows Diclofenac (Voltaren) is doctors’ most frequently prescribed NSAID, despite widespread publication of the increased risk of cardiovascular events with this drug.
Heart attack risk increases 40% with Voltaren
You may remember back in 2004 drug company Merck withdrew Vioxx from the worldwide market after a human study was stopped because it was so unsafe. There is clear evidence that Voltaren similarly increases the relative risk of heart attack or stroke by a significant 40%. In extensive studies, Diclofenac (Voltaren) and Rofecoxib (Vioxx) showed highest overall cardiovascular risk. Vioxx has been withdrawn but Voltaren has not.
Although it is against best practice, the habit of prescribing Voltaren is a difficult one to break for many doctors. The NZ government’s regulatory body Medsafe disingenuously says there is not enough evidence to warn against the use of Voltaren, let alone restrict it. Tell your doctor – there is plenty of evidence detailing its dangers.
NSAID drugs in general are well known to erode the stomach lining and intestines in up to 50% of long term users, often producing ulcers. They also accelerate osteoarthritic processes in joints, contributing to degeneration and erosion of the cartilage. In other words, long term use of NSAIDs causes inflammation rather than treating it. Adverse effects from NSAIDs are associated with tens of thousands of deaths every year across the western world.
Why does our body produce inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injury. In its acute stage inflammation is beneficial to your health. It is your mechanism of protection against potentially harmful bacteria, viruses and other toxins. In the acute stage of injury inflammation provides a protective layer around the injury site to prevent further harm. The pain of acute inflammation stops you using the injured part and subjecting it to further damage.
When we keep exposing our bodies to damaging toxins or repetitive strain injuries, the inflammatory response becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation is harmful to our bodies and needs to be treated. Left untreated it leads to auto immune disorders, adrenal fatigue and complex symptom pictures of imbalance and disease.
What effective natural anti-inflammatories can be used instead of NSAIDs?
Naturopaths and herbalists have a lot of options for treating pain and inflammation. These natural anti-inflammatories are not only safe to use, they bring other health benefits.
For acute injuries arnica montana is the herb of choice, as an ointment on the injury site (unless skin is broken), and orally in its homoeopathic form Arnica 30C, available in either liquid or tablets. Arnica supports the body’s natural response to physical trauma, speeding up the healing process. It helps release shock and reduces the inflammatory reaction that causes bruising and pain. Allowing adequate rest and repair time, full function can be restored.
For inflammatory pain in more chronic cases that occur from repeated stress, such as arthritis or recurring strain injuries, there are a number of good effective natural options. Let’s concentrate on one of them in detail – omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs).
- Omega 3 fatty acids
These are found in oily fish species and some plant sources. Salmon is an excellent example, having high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two omega 3 components that have a potent and proven anti-inflammatory effect.
Modern processed foods over-supply omega 6, upsetting the important balanced ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. This imbalance produces inflammatory states in the body! Eating wild-caught salmon twice a week will boost your omega 3 levels, helping prevent excessive inflammation. Adding organic flaxseed, olive or avocado oil to your food (without heating it) is another way to increase your omega 3 intake.
Treating chronic inflammation
Omega 3 fatty acids are ‘essential’ nutrients for good reason. Research shows they are among the most effective anti-inflammatory agents available to us. To treat chronic inflammation omega 3 fish oil supplements are needed, as dietary sources alone won’t be sufficient for therapeutic action.
As well as giving effective relief from inflammation, the combination of EPA and DHA in omega 3 oils improves the function of your endocrine, immune and nervous systems, skin health and importantly, supports heart and circulatory function. Remember Voltaren has a documented damaging effect on cardiovascular health.
Finding the correct dosage is important, and varies with each individual. A good baseline is a range of 1200-1600mg EPA and 600-800mg DHA per day. Pay attention to your body’s response to the amount you take and adjust your dosage according to what works best for you.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs
Because herbs work synergistically with the body’s natural processes, there are no adverse effects when used as prescribed. Aloe vera, kelp, white willow bark, boswellia and devil’s claw are a few excellent examples of anti-inflammatories. Two of my personal favourites are turmeric (Curcuma longa) and ginger (zinzibar officinale). These related plants not only have a scientifically proven anti-inflammatory action in joints, they also share a significant history as anti-inflammatory herbs in long-established cultures such as Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicines.
Scientific studies have shown turmeric is as effective as the steroidal drug hydrocortisone in treating inflammation, with none of the adverse effects common with steroid or NSAID use. Both turmeric and ginger inhibit production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body, and recent research found that ginger deactivates genes that encode chronic inflammation pathways.
Other potent natural anti-inflammatories include antioxidants (Vitamin C, resveratrol), bioflavonoids (green tea, pycnogenol, grape seed, quercetin) and enzymes (papain, bromelain). Let us know if you’d like more detail on any of these in future blogs.
By Carolyn Simon, Naturopath
Blackmores Omega Triple Concentrated Fish Oil capsules support joint comfort, mobility and flexibility. As they contain 3x the omega-3s of a standard 1000mg fish oil capsule, you can take less capsules.
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What do you use to treat pain and inflammation?
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http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001388 Meta-Analysis study findings
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21980265 Study details
http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/6/S1505.full mechanism of action