The substances which cause inflammation and pain are called ‘inflammatory mediators’ – body chemicals such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes and oxidants. Prostaglandins and leukotrienes are made from one of the omega-6 fats, arachidonic acid, which is abundant in meat and milk. Too much of these foods in your diet can lead to over production of the inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Although inflammation can be an important protective mechanism, too many inflammatory mediators create pain.
The most common medical treatment for inflammation is anti-inflammatory drugs which are effective symptom suppressors, providing pain relief, but do nothing to address the causes of the inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work by blocking the production of the body’s inflammatory mediators, and while they are mostly very effective, they are not without side-effects, especially in the gut. Prescriptions for NSAIDS cost the NHS about £250 million per year. Extraordinarily, this class of drug is responsible for more deaths than any other. When used long term, NSAIDS such as aspirin and ibruprofen can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and can put a strain on the liver.
Recent studies have also shown that new anti-inflammatory drugs which inhibit important enzymes can double, or in some cases quadruple, a person’s chance of a heart attack. Despite this danger, the average person takes in excess of 300 doses of these painkillers a year! That’s six a week.
Effective solutions without side effects
Luckily, there are a number of natural anti-inflammatory agents, some of which have been proven to be as effective as drugs, without the side-effects. One of the most popular is fish oils. Fish oils do not lubricate your joints, as is often believed. What they actually do is reduce pain and inflammation. They are converted in the body into beneficial anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, which counteract the inflammatory substances NSAID drugs are used to suppress.
Good research now shows conclusively that fish oil supplementation can reduce the inflammation of arthritis. A case in point is a study in 2002 which found that 86% of patients with arthritis who took cod liver oil prior to knee replacement surgery had no or reduced levels of enzymes which cause cartilage damage, compared to just 26 per cent of patients who took a placebo. An effective amount to take is the equivalent of 1000mg combined omega 3s EPA and DPA a ......
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