Living with chronic aches and pains is never fun. Pain-relieving medications may help dull the pain temporarily but come with a host of side effects and potential risks when taken long-term. The truth is, there are natural approaches to managing pain that are both safe and effective.
Diet changes can be a game-changer for dealing with chronic pain. Including more antioxidant foods like berries, fatty fish, and avocado while avoiding processed, sugary, fried foods can help fight inflammation. These foods contain potent antioxidants and essential fatty acids that are both anti-inflammatory and high in essential nutrients the body needs to function optimally and repair any damage. The spice turmeric is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods known to man. Its active constituent, curcumin, is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has a mild and earthy flavor that complements meat, veggies, and fish. It can be added to culinary dishes, including soups, stir fry, and even smoothies. Unfortunately, turmeric has limited bioavailability when added to food which means our bodies do not absorb it well without help. Adding a source of fat and a bit of black pepper helps the body absorb turmeric better. However, many people opt to take turmeric in its concentrated form as a supplement.
Since curcumin is the active constituent in turmeric, high-quality supplements will use a high concentration of curcumin. Therefore, the label should read 90% or more concentrated curcuminoids.
The Benefits of Curcumin
Curcumin is best known for its ability to fight inflammation. As an antioxidant, it prevents free radicals in the body from damaging DNA and the body’s muscles, skin, and other tissues. Free radicals are naturally formed from the body’s metabolic processes as well as from exposure to the sun, chemicals, and more.
Curcumin is also able to lower the production of cytokines, including TNF-alpha, NF-kB, and interleukins. These cytokines are signal molecules the body makes to increase inflammation and pain. When blocked, they can help to reduce pain perception and tissue damage. This process is the main reason why curcumin is so helpful for people living with chronic pain. The best part about curcumin is that it is safe for most people to use both short and long term. Plus, it affects pain at the source rather than simply managing symptoms. One factor to note is that curcumin may affect the metabolism of some medications. Always speak with your doctor before starting any new supplements, including curcumin.
In addition to inflammation-fighting, curcumin has several other health benefits. One benefit is in the realm of cancer.
Curcumin may have anti-cancer abilities. Animal studies have demonstrated that curcumin has the potential to reduce tumor size as well as stop cancer cell growth. This is from curcumin’s ability to promote apoptosis, which is programmed cell death.
Keep in mind that if you have been diagnosed with cancer, always follow your oncologist’s advice and never stop or start new medications or supplements without physician approval.
Curcumin has been shown to combat inflammatory damage in the liver, including inflammation caused by alcohol. Animal studies show that curcumin can prevent and reverse liver damage that leads to cirrhosis. Plus, curcumin upregulates phase 2 detoxification in the liver. This is the process that rids our bodies of metabolic wastes and toxic substances the body has been exposed to. This is also our bodies’ process to eliminate medications, which means curcumin can speed up medication metabolism. Always check with your doctor before adding curcumin to your routine if you take medications.
Memory and Cognition
In addition to quenching inflammation in the muscle and joints, curcumin can also decrease inflammatory stress in the brain. Since inflammation can damage blood vessels, DNA, and other tissues, reducing inflammation is important for brain health. Studies in animals have shown that curcumin may help to prevent memory loss by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus. This is a growth factor that signals the growth of new neurons in the brain.
In short, curcumin is a powerhouse for reducing inflammation all over the body, making it an ideal choice for chronic aches and pains. Plus, curcumin has a whole host of other health benefits, including protecting the liver and supporting memory and cognition.
Dr. Stephanie Nichols,
Co-Chief Medical Officer of THL