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Fighting Inflammation with Aspirin, Food & Supplements

 

I am suffering from widespread inflammation in my body - I suspect largely through living in a leaky house. The most significant area is in my neck, which now shows a high degree of arthritis, well beyond that expected for my age and lifestyle.

Whilst there is no proven cause of arthritis, inflammation in general from high levels of stress, poor living conditions or poor nutrition all contribute.

So forgetting about the cause of inflammation [athritis or injury], what can we do to prevent inflammation or reduce it.

There are three main courses of action:

  1. Taking an anti-inflammatory drug, such as aspirin or NSAID
  2. Diet - avoiding inflammation promoting foods and building up your diet with anti-inflammatory foods
  3. Nutitional Supplements

Aspirin

I take 4000mg of Omega-3 a day, along with 150mg Co-Enzyme 10, but I still need something more, so aspirin seems a good choice. However, there is such a lot of controversy around taking aspirin on a regular basis.

According to Dr Oz, taking 2 baby [or low dose] aspirin a day reduces breast cancer by 30%, and reduces colon cancer by 50% in women. He adds that “anyone over the age of 40 should be taking aspirin”. [Obviously with medical contradictions in mind.]

Baby/Low dose aspirin is generally an 81 mg dose of acetylsalicylic acid, whereas an adult aspirin is 320 mg of acetylsalicylic acid. So the dose recommended by Dr Oz is 160mg a day, or half a normal adult aspirin.

For once the cheap version of aspirin is best - cheap aspirin crumbles faster and when taken with a big glass of warm water prevents the aspirin from contacting the stomach in a concentrated way, eroding the stomach lining.

The flip side ……

Taking aspirin on a continual basis may lead to bleeding in the intestinal tract - particularly the stomach.

So just why is aspirin heralded as the anti-inflammatory wonder drug, how real are the risks of taking it, and what alternatives are there? I explored this quandary in this article.

What is Aspirin?

Aspirin contains the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid, which is effective in relieving pain and lowering fevers. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, working to reduce the amount of prostaglandins - chemicals that are released by cells at sites of injury. Prostaglandins result in inflammation and swelling, and sensitise nerve endings, which is why you feel pain.

Anti-inflammatories work by blocking certain enzymes needed to make prostaglandins. Less prostaglandins = less inflammation = less pain.

With repeated doses, anti-inflammatories may further reduce pain and stiffness that occurs with inflammation-based conditions such as arthritis and muscle sprains. Expect it to take up to 1-3 weeks after starting a course of tablets to reach maximum effect.

Side Effects

There are two main side effects of taking long term doses of aspirin:

  1. Reduction in Mucus Production - the acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin can damage the mucous lining that protects the stomach. This causes a reduction in mucus production, which eventually causes the stomach to become susceptible to the gastric acid in the stomach, resulting in painful stomach irritation, intestinal bleeding and ulcers.
  2. Helicobacter Pylori - Scientists have also found a link between the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) and the use of aspirin. Many people have H.pylori lurking in their stomach lining without any symptoms. However, when it comes in contact with aspirin, the stomach lining gets irritated. The stomach lining then becomes sensitive to its own acidic juices and the same result as above ensues.

For this reason, Bayer recommends taking aspirin with food, because the food acts as a barrier that keeps the acetylsalicylic acid from infiltrating the exposed stomach lining. Alternatively, taking aspirin with a full glass of warm water helps it to be absorbed by the stomach more readily, reducing the time it is in contact with the stomach linking.

Enteric-Coated Aspirin Tablets

Enteric coated aspirin tablets have a coating that reduces the effects that acetylsalicylic acid has on the stomach lining. The coating allows the tablet to pass directly through the stomach and dissolve in the intestines, where it doesn’t have the same damaging effect.

Buffered Aspirin

Buffered aspirin is coated with a chemical that helps to neutralize stomach acids as it dissolves.

NSAIDS were found to have an additional benefit of reducing inflammation, and so helped alleviate not only the symptom of pain, but also served to reduce the actual cause of the pain, for example, reducing joint inflammation in arthritis.

High Risk Factors for Taking Aspirin

The risk of damage is increased with the following factors:

  • Age - older patients often require higher doses of pain medications more often
  • Previous Ulcer
  • Alcohol - consumed at the same time they are taking aspirin or NSAIDs have an increased risk of damage to the intestinal lining
  • Steroids- taking prescription corticosteroid
  • Anti-coagulants - taking oral prescription anti-coagulants e.g. Coumadin can increase the risk of bleeding 12-fold
  • Dosage and Frequency - how much how often

Other Facts About Aspirin

Wider searches revealed some other interesting facts about taking aspirin

  • Taking just one tablet of aspirin a day is quite safe - every aspirin tablet causes us to bleed internally... by one teaspoon of blood.
  • Taking aspirin with 800ml of water is better than buffering - and possibly avoids any bleeding at all**
  • Aspirin can cause significant gastric irritation even in smaller doses.
  • Alternatives for pain relief is acetaminophen [e.g. paracetamol 500 mg 1-2 tablets every 6 hours] - but these types of medications are not anti-inflammatories so do nothing to help prevent or reduce inflammation,

So what else can we do - we could try avoiding foods that promote inflammation and eat more foods that possess natural anti-inflammatory properties.


Anti-inflammatory Foods

A typical anti-inflammatory diet includes a well-balanced, varied diet that is high in vegetables and low in refined carbohydrates and undesirable fats, such as saturated fats and trans fats.

Anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Most colourful fruits and vegetables
  • Oily fish (which contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Certain spices, such as as cinnamon and ginger
  • Extra virgin olive oil contains a chemical oleocanthal that acts similarly to ibuprofen.

Avoid Pro-Inflammatory Foods

Pro-inflammatory foods will increase inflammation, increase your pain from the inflammation, and may also raise your risk for chronic disease.

Pro anti-inflammatory foods to avoid include:

  • Refined oils
  • Sugars - sodas, soft drinks, pastries, pre-sweetened cereals and candy
  • Saturated and trans fats - may enhance the creation of prostaglandins
  • Junk foods - high in fat and nitrates
  • High fat meats
  • Dairy products and eggs - high in saturated fats and arachidonic acid
  • Nightshade family of vegetables - potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant
  • Essential fatty acids (EFAs) - most people consume far too many omega-6 EFAs [pro-inflammatory] found in most cooking oils [corn, safflower, peanut, and soy oils], and too little Omege-3 EFAs, found in salmon and other coldwater fish. The omega-3s compete against omega-6s and reduce levels of three key pro-inflammatory compounds in people: thromboxane B2, prostaglandin E2, and interleukin 1-beta.
  • Olive oil - rich in omega-9 fatty acids that enhance the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fish oils.
  • Rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and walnut oil.
  • Protein - builds healthy tissue but eat more lean poultry, fish and seafood, nuts, legumes and seeds; and reduce red meats, which may trigger inflammation
  • Soybeans, tofu, and soy milk - proteins which may help to reduce inflammation.
  • Carbohydrates and Fiber - from whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
  • Leafy vegetables, green and brightly colored vegetables, and fresh whole fruits.
  • Berries - blueberries and strawberries are packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and antioxidants such as quercetin, which is also found in apple and red onion skins
  • Water - either alone or in 100% fruit juices, herbal teas, vegetable juices and low-fat milk.

Anti-Inflammatory Supplements

  • Omega 3 Fish Oils - great for overuse syndrome, athletic injuries and athritis
  • Soy Protein powder
  • Co-enzyme 10 - Daily dosage: 1-3 grams.
  • Evening Primrose Oil - GLA - Gamma-linolenic acid - an omega-6 fatty acid that behaves more like an omega-3; boosting the body's levels of prostaglandin E1 to suppress inflammation. Some research has shown GLA and omega-3s have a synergistic anti inflammatory effect. Daily dosage: 400-700 mg daily.
  • Vitamin E - a fat-soluble antioxidant is also an anti-inflammatory nutrient helping to reduce free radicals generated by inflammation Daily dosage: 400 IU
  • Vitamin C - an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient to help rebuild tissue damaged by inflamtion. Low levels of vitamin C can result in fatigue and irritability; more severe long-term deficiencies can lead to easy bruising and rheumatic symptoms. Daily dosage: 1-3 grams daily
  • Pycnogenol® and grape-seed extract - also possess anti inflammatory properties. Daily dosage: 100-300 mg
  • B-complex vitamins - essential for normal nerve function. A combination of B1, B6, and B12 reduce musculoskeletal pain and enhanced the effects of NSAIDS, which means a lower dose is required. Daily dosage: high-potency B-complex supplement with at least 25 mg of vitamin B1.
  • Glucosamine sulfate - reduce joint pain, and increase the thickness of joint cartilage in those with arthritis. It may make sense for people engaged in regular exercise to take glucosamine sulfate supplements to compensate for wear and tear to joint cartilage. Daily dosage: 1500 mg.
  • MSM - Methylsulfonylmethane - the active sulphur ingredient in glucosamine sulfate - helps build tissue, including skin, muscle, and cartilage. Daily dosage: 1-3 grams.
  • SAM-e - S-adenosyl-L-methionine - natural byproduct of protein also reduces inflammation and pain and stimulates tissue repair and growth. Daily dosage: 200-400 mg.

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