Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories sometimes seem like a lifesaver, but there is evidence that long term use has negative effects. In fact, overuse has been seen to increase arthritic changes in joints, reduce tissue healing in tendons, and is contraindicated when bone healing is vital as in spinal fusion surgery. Also, some people have sensitive responses in the gastrointestinal tract.
There are alternative anti-inflammatory methods that are being discussed. Nobody has the magic cure yet, but if you want to try some natural alternatives here are some evidence-supported ideas. (special note: If you do decide to try some of the supplements I would always check with your physician, naturopath, pharmacist, etc….whoever knows your medical history and understands the medications you are taking.)
- Bromelain: from the pineapple plant, but you can’t eat enough pineapple to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Typical dosage is 250-500 mg 3x/day with meals. Even in large doses it has no side effects and is considered virtually non-toxic. Avoid bromelain if you are allergic in any way to pineapples.
- Capsaicin: often used as a topical cream up to 4x/day which might initially give a light burning sensation but fades quickly. It can also be found in cayenne pepper and can be used liberally in your diet, especially if you like spicy foods.
- Curcumin: a root in the ginger family and often called Tumeric which is found in curry. It has been shown to have positive effects in osteoarthritic knees. You can eat curry liberally but probably wouldn’t get quite enough. The typical dosage is 400-600 mg 3x/day and often formulated with bromelain.
- Anti-inflammatory foods (eat more): ginger, garlic, tumeric, cumin, fruits (bright colors best), vegetables (dark colors best), fish, soy protein, legumes, seaweed, red wine/grape seeds, olive and canola oil, green tea, lean meats, low-fat dairy.
- Inflammatory foods (eat less): soda, sugary juices, trans fats, white bread, white rice, sugar, alcohol (greater than moderate amounts), processed meats/foods, animal fats, most cheeses, fried foods, milk, chocolate.
Finally, here is some of the best advice I’ve heard:
- 80-20 Rule: 80% of the time eat a healthy diet for you, 20% of the time don’t worry about it too much.
- “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants” -Michael Pollan