The Advantages of a Natural Approach to Minor Pain
When we experience minor pain and discomfort, we are feeling the outcome of a complex biochemical cascade. For example, an afternoon of working in the garden can leave your shoulders and back feeling sore and stiff. This occurs because tissues in your body may have literally broken down.
In order to repair these tissues, immune cells in the affected area release signaling agents called cytokines that prompt cells to produce the cyclooxygenase (COX) class of enzymes. These enzymes convert fats that make up the outer layer of cells into substances that can cause minor pain. A commonly produced substance that is associated with minor pain is called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2).
Although PGE2 production has utility within the body, increased or continual production can inhibit the body's ability to heal properly. By calming this biochemical cascade, we can support tissue health and reduce minor pain and discomfort.
The Problem with Conventional Approaches
Conventional approaches to managing minor pain almost invariably involve the use of chemicals that block the activity of COX enzymes. The downside to this approach is that many cells require a certain level of COX production in order to maintain health and proper function. COX activity that is required by the cell can be referred to as constitutive, whereas COX production that occurs during minor pain can be referred to as inducible because the signaling agents produced by cells after stress and strain "induce" the cell to produce COX enzymes.
The unwanted side effects that have been associated with conventional approaches to minor pain relief - such as stomach ulcers, kidney damage, and cardiac events - are due to their blocking of both inducible and constitutive COX enzyme production.
The goal of a healthy, natural approach to minor pain relief is to reduce the production of inducible COX activity, without affecting constitutive COX production. A natural strategy should attempt to support the production of substances in the body that protect tissue integrity and relieve minior pain.
This goal can be achieved by:
- Supplementing with select nutritional factors - such as certain hops extracts - that have a demonstrated ability to inhibit the production of COX by influencing signaling agents that normally prompt cells to increase COX production, rather than by blocking COX activity. (See Kaprex)
- Consuming adequate levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids. These healthy dietary oils have a profound ability to calm the cascade that leads to minor pain by displacing fats that are transformed into the pain causing substance PGE2, while simultaneously promoting the formation of substances that relieve minor pain. (See Omega-3's)
- Consuming herbs that have been shown to subtly reduce the activity of COX enzymes, as well as to help regulate the production of lipoxygenase (LOX) enzymes. These herbs include ginger, boswellia, curcumin, and quercetin among others. When considering herbs, it's important to choose a blend that has a high level of predicted safety and effectiveness.* Supplementing with select nutritional factors that have been shown to interrupt a cascade of biochemical events that can negatively impact tissue integrity and contribute to joint stiffness and minor pain. These factors include niacinamide and N- acetylcysteine (NAC). When taken together, they have complementary effects to improve outcomes.* Improving the diet by eliminating foods that can irritate minor pain, as well as by consuming foods that can help reduce minor pain. One element of dietary modification is avoiding foods that are known to cause allergic reactions.
- There are numerous other strategies that can help to relieve minor pain and discomfort. In certain situations, a Medical Food (see UltraInflamX) solution may be indicated.
- Medical Foods allow for the delivery of a special combination of macronutrients - such as protein and select fats - as well as micronutrients, herbs, and phytonutrients. Delivering macronutrients in combinations with other nutritional factors can provide support for conditions associated with inflammation, as well as a convenient and easy way to modify one's diet.Â
- The most effective natural approaches to minor pain relief will likely employ a combination of nutritional factors that are based on the specific needs of each individual. Remember, the goal of natural support for the relief of minor pain is to address the health of the individual, not simply to block the action of an enzyme produced in the body.