By: Dr. Jonathan Tait – 2/11/2016
Fact: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can be deadly in the first week of use.
Last July the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strengthened an existing label warning that non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – both prescription and over the counter (OTC) – increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke. 1
Based on an FDA review in combination with the Arthritis Advisory Committee and Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee the following warnings were issues regarding use of NSAIDs:
This is not new information.
The risk of heart attack and stroke with NSAIDs, either of which can lead to death, was first described in 2005 in the Boxed Warning and Warnings and Precautions sections of the prescription drug labels for these medications.
Kidney and gastrointestinal (GI) side effects, such as increased blood pressure and stomach ulcers, have long been known.
Calculating the cost of NSAID side effects: 2
Despite the potential for deadly side effects, NSAIDS continue to be prescribed, bought and used at record numbers. In 2013, Advil ($490 million sold) and Aleve ($364 million) were in the top 5 OTC medications purchased in the U.S. 3
I rarely endorse short, and never advocate long-term use of oral NSAIDs in my practice. The only form I will utilize is topical, as systemic absorption (and potential for side effects) is thought to be only maybe 5-6%. Although better, it does not however eliminate total risk of NSAIDs as described above.
Are there alternative to NSAIDS for pain and inflammation?
The most effective substitute I have found is curcumin.
Curcumin is a component of the spice turmeric (about 5% by weight). It is known to have several biological effects:
For our purposes we are focusing on the first two effects – anti-inflammatory, antioxidant – to help with the inflammation and pain related to the underlying chemical reactions in your joints.
Turmeric, or curcumin, has an excellent safety profile with few known side effects, other than the potential to be a mild blood-thinner at high dose.
Here is the problem.
Turmeric alone in whole or powdered form has low bioavailability, meaning it is poorly absorbed into the body, or takes a bunch in order to get to blood levels that can have a clinical effect.
Most supplement forms of turmeric cannot be adequately absorbed, and therefore you are getting little if any effect, even if taking massive doses.
How do you increase the bioavailability of many curcumin extracts?
The number one way to increase the bioavailability of curcumin in the body to quickly achieve the clinical effect we are after (less inflammation, less pain, less joint stiffness) is to take a potent bioavailable curcumin supplement.
I have researched curcumin products extensively over the past two years, and have found what I believe to be the best form on the market.
In a double-blind crossover study of this high potency curcumin supplement against standard supplement curcumin extracts, one containing natural turmeric oils, and the other containing fats to increase absorption, this form showed 30 times the bioavailability in rats and humans. 4
Safer than NSAIDS, and with added side benefits rather than side effects, a highly bioavailable curcumin product should be a no-brainer for the symptoms of joint pain and inflammation.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This information or product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should always consult with your health care provider before taking any new supplement.