Your Scientific Source of Sports Nutrition and Supplementation

What to Take for Pain: Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

what to take for pain paleoedge

Whether you have a headache, sore muscles or painful joints, anti-inflammatory drugs have become a staple for many people experiencing any discomfort. It is hard to find anything out there that works as well for an awful headache. But there is a difference between using it for an occasional headache and using it for chronic pain. Unfortunately, the harmful effects are not emphasized enough to the general public. Athletes and chronic pain sufferers are in danger of abusing these drugs and are in the high-risk category for doing excessive damage to their body.

The Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

1. Destroys Cartilage: NSAIDs inhibit the action of enzymes that are needed to create healthy cartilage. One study of people with knee arthritis found that 47 percent of those taking the NSAID indomethacin got worse, as opposed to only 22 percent of those on a placebo. Another study of 635 people with knee osteoarthritis found that the NAID diclofenac –  compared with a placebo –  more than doubled their risk of developing arthritis in the hip, and more than tripled their risk of getting OA in the other knee. Bottom-line: although they relieve pain, NAIDs inhibit the creation of new cartilage and speed up its destruction.

2. Liver Damage: Tylenol is implicated in tens of thousands of cases of liver damage, including 450 deaths per year, and is the single largest contributing factor to liver failure that requires liver transplants. Taking slightly more than the recommended dose can cause extensive damage to the liver, especially when combined with alcohol. Aspirin and other related pain killers including Celebrex carry a significant risk of gastrointestinal erosion that can lead to ulcers and or stomach bleeding.

3. Depletes Folate: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) work by blocking hormone-like substances in the body that produce inflammation and pain, but carry heavy consequences. Aspirin and other NSAID’s -including COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex- deplete folate. People are often low in folate and a further depletion can lead to anemia, cervical dysplasia, and high homocysteine levels (highly inflammatory).

4. Depletes Vitamin C:  Many NSAIDs also deplete vitamin C. Low vitamin C levels have been linked with higher incidences of joint pain, and people with the highest levels of vitamin C have been found to be three times less likely to get arthritis.

5. Diverticulitis: A strong link to diverticulitis comes from the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin). Researchers examined 22 years worth of data on 47,275 men (ages 40-75) and found that men who took NSAIDs two or more times weekly were significantly more likely to develop diverticulitis than men who did not take NAIDs. The same is believed to be true for women. The hypothesis is that NSAIDs allow an influx of bacteria and other toxins along with internal ruptures.

Top 5 Diet-Related Reasons for Pain

What about your diet? If your diet is high in sugar, modern wheat, grain-fed meat and alcohol and low in vegetables and fruits, then your body will be acidic and more prone to pain. But what some people don’t realize is that certain vegetables and fruits can actually be culprits as well. I know, you’re probably thinking “great, even when I’m eating whole foods I could be doing something wrong!” Not to worry! I’ll make it easy. Here is a checklist to use when going over your diet.

1. Modern Wheat and Alcohol: According to the author of Wheat Belly, “Joint pain and swelling are common accompaniments of wheat consumption. The most common form involves the wrist and fingers. Others experience relief from back pain and hip and knee pain with eliminating wheat, especially if weight loss from the abdomen develops since this belly fat serves as a repository for inflammation; lose the wheat belly, inflammation subsides.” Even more dangerous than the modern wheat is the breeding of GMO wheat, which may silence hundreds of human genes including impaired carbohydrate metabolism.

Alcohol depletes folate and other b-vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C. Folate and vitamin C are exactly what NSAID’s deplete. So while a few beers or glasses of wine might help dull the pain and make you feel happier at that moment, chronic arthritic pain may be coming from that same glass.

2. Sugar and refined carbohydrates: A diet high in sugar and refined grains will lead to basically every health disorder under the sun. Both of these will rapidly deplete b-vitamins, pull calcium from the bones, deplete magnesium and competes with vitamin C while creating toxicity and inflammation. The stamp Caution: Will Cause Chronic inflammation should be on everything that is high in sugar or refined carbohydrates.

3. Calcium’s Wrong Turn: Too much calcium in the form of supplementation or from a high intake of coffee (caffeine pulls calcium from the bones), vegetable oils, while being low in magnesium, vitamin D, and K2 will lead to calcification. Calcium should be in a 1:1 ratio with magnesium, NOT 2:1 which many supplement companies use. It should be citrate, malate, glycinate or taurate instead of oxide or carbonate.

Lack of calcium or too much phosphorus can activate the parathyroid gland, which pulls calcium from your bones and deposits it around the joints. The highest phosphorus foods are sodas, feedlot meat, and non-organic plants. Calcium is also bound up by foods high in oxalic acid (asparagus, raw spinach, and raw chard), and should be limited if you are experiencing pain or cooked to reduce the oxalic acid.

4. Grain-Fed Feedlot Meat and Dairy: Grain-fed animals are dramatically higher in inflammation-promoting omega-6 fatty acids and up to 500 percent lower in the anti-inflammatory CLA found in grass-fed meat.The typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. Did you know that there are products to give to farm animals for joint and muscle aches due to their high grain diet? I suspect pork that is not cured or marinated presents possible problems and is perhaps why the various ways of curing it was established beyond preservation.

One interesting pilot study doing a live blood analysis showed that “The early blood coagulation and clotting observed after consuming cooked pork that has not been marinated are adverse changes in the blood. A shorter blood coagulation time is associated with increased systemic biochemical inflammation as well as the possible formation of blood clots in the body.” Choose grass-fed meat and if eating pork, choose pastured, cured (without chemical nitrites) or marinated pork.

5. Nightshades and Some Citrus: Plants in the nightshade family contain a chemical called solamine which is very irritating to the joints. Avoiding these foods brings some people tremendous relief. These plants are potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, and tobacco. Tobacco and tomatoes seem to be the worst; later, when you are feeling better, you can try eggplant, green peppers, and the inside of potatoes (not the skin). Note: when a potato sprouts, the solamine content in the entire potato rises. Citrus can cause problems – mainly oranges and grapefruits – but lemons and limes do not seem to cause as many issues.

What to Take for Pain without the Depletions and Side Effects 


1. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega and C-Salts Vitamin C

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most well-studied and effective anti-inflammatories. A 2006 human study found that omega-3 fatty acids (between 1200-2400 mg daily) mirror other controlled studies that compared ibuprofen and omega-3 EFAs demonstrated an equivalent effect in reducing arthritic pain. Fish oil should not be used at the same time as aspirin and blood thinning medications.

Low vitamin C levels have been linked with higher incidences of joint pain, and people with the highest levels of vitamin C have been found to be three times less likely to get arthritis.


1. MSM

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial looked at fifty men and women, 40-76 years of age with knee OA pain. The patients were given MSM 3g or placebo twice a day for 12 weeks (6g/day total). Compared to placebo, MSM produced significant decreases in pain and physical function impairment.

Menstrual Cramps

1. Progesterone Cream

Natural progesterone cream (not synthetic) is very effective when high estrogen and low progesterone is implicated in menstrual cramps. Talk with your health care practitioner about dosing.


1. Topricin Foot Therapy Cream

This is designed mainly for foot and ankle pain with arnica being the main ingredient. We have had great success with it in our office with a lot of positive feedback.

Muscular Injuries/Recovery/Headaches

1. Magnesium CitraMate

2. Magnesium Oil with MSM

3. Pain Reliever Cream

Alcohol, coffee, tea, sugar, high grain intake, stress and drinking water treated with chlorine and floruide all deplete magnesium. Combine that with a low amount in our water and soil, and you have a deficiency percentage that I would venture to guess is much higher than the 68% from government studies (which is high as is). Magnesium is nature’s tranquilizer and is crucial for releasing tight muscles, eliminating muscle spasms, headaches and tension. Calf cramps during the night are often the sign of a magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium is needed for 300 biochemical reactions that maintain muscle and nerve function, and both magnesium and malic acid have been found to provide support to individuals with muscle tenderness and fatigue. A study of 24 individuals found malic acid along with 300 mg magnesium taken two times daily provided significant support in measurements of tenderness and discomfort.

Magnesium spray with MSM allows you to apply magnesium directly to the injury. MSM may help increase magnesium absorption through the skin and also seems to act as an analgesic by lessening nerve impulses that transmit pain.

Pain Reliever Cream contains capsaicin, alpha lipoic acid, arnica, camphor, curcumin, DMSO, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, menthol, MSM and vitamin E.

Neck and Back Pain

1. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most well-studied and effective anti-inflammatories. From the previous 2006 human study, “omega-3 EFA fish oil supplements appear to be a safer alternative to NSAIDs for the treatment of nonsurgical neck or back pain in this selective group.” Fish oil should not be used at the same time as aspirin and blood thinning medications. If you are working out, vitamin A and D from cod liver oil play important roles.

2. C-Salts Vitamin C

According to this study, “it is clear that vitamin C has a major role to play in mitigating pain in a number of clinical conditions,” especially when combined with beta-carotene and methionine. Vitamin C is necessary for the correct synthesis of collagen, and it helps to maintain healthy collagen. Collagen is the glue that holds your body together, and without healthy collagen, you will begin to fall apart. Vitamin C strengthens the tendons through collagen synthesis and has been found to accelerate the healing process of the Achille’s tendon.

What is interesting about vitamin C, is that like magnesium it is easily depleted and actually challenging to get enough from our diet. This is because it depletes rapidly post-harvest and many of us do not have the luxury of eating fruits and vegetables freshly picked off the vine. We also do not eat the adrenal glands of wild animals anymore or the skin of Narwhal whales unless you live very far north, but that’s a tale for another time.


1. Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition

2. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain.

3. Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea

Leave a Reply