Alternatives to NSAIDs

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knee-painAccording to the CDC, as many as 54 million Americans  have been told by their doctors that they have arthritis. Arthritis usually leads to restriction of physical activity, increasing the risks of heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis and depression. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are most commonly prescribed to provide pain relief for arthritis.

These drugs only provide temporary relief and may even lead to further deterioration of the joint and surrounding tissue. They inhibit the formation of cartilage, which helps to cushion the joints. The long-term use of NSAIDs, including aspirin, may lead to stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney damage and toxicity to auditory nerve cells.

In fact, NSAIDS are one of the seven most-commonly prescribed drugs in North America. These include aspirin, Celebrex, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen. Before you take that pill for your aches and pains, take note: more people die each year of bleeding ulcers caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) than from cocaine abuse. It wasn’t that long ago that a class of NSAIDs known as COX-2 inhibitors was linked to increased risk of heart attacks. All these side effects have led many people to turn to natural alternatives to NSAIDs for alleviating arthritis pain.


Fatty meats and dairy foods increase the production of prostaglandins that inflame the joints. Foods that are high in refined sugar and bad fat should be eliminated, as they will inflame the joints. Some people also do not tolerate nightshade vegetables very well and should avoid them (this includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant). Other foods to eliminate are salty or spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine and soft drinks.

Be sure your diet includes plenty of antioxidant foods such as fresh, raw organic vegetables and fruit, grains and legumes. These contain carotenoids, flavonoids and vitamin C, all excellent anti-inflammatory agents. Vitamin C is particularly important, as it is necessary for the formation of collagen, cartilage and bones and is essential for the growth and repair of all the tissues in the body.

Also include essential fatty acids, which help reduce the inflammatory response. These include omega-3 fatty acids from cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna and mackerel and fresh, unrefined, cold-pressed flax oil.


Mild to moderate exercise also has a place in maintaining healthy joints. Swimming and walking help to stabilize joints by increasing muscular strength and controlling weight. Excess weight can result in small tears in the cartilage upon impact. A weight loss of 15.5 pounds can lead to a 50% decline in pain in postmenopausal women, as was reported in a recent study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.


Essential Fatty Acids: If you don’t like fish, try a fish oil supplement. Omega-3s have been found to help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. These “good” fats work in part by boosting levels of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that have anti-inflammatory activity. Usual dosage of these oils is between 2 and 4 grams daily.

Glucosamine Sulfate: Glucosamine is a nutrient used by the body in the production of cartilage. It stimulates the production of new cartilage, blocks enzymes that break down connective tissue, and reduces pain and inflammation. Glucosamine has been studied extensively for osteoarthritis and found to be comparable to NSAIDs, yet better tolerated. The recommended dosage is 1,500 mg daily.

SAMe: SAMe is a nutrient produced in the body that is vital to the health and development of tissues and organs. In the joint, SAMe is involved in cartilage formation and repair. Supplementing with SAMe has been found, in numerous studies, to reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and to stimulate cartilage formation.

Comprehensive Formula: A formula that combines joint supportive nutrients in one bottle can make your choice easier. Pathway Joint Formula combines glucosamine, MSM and anti-inflammatory nutrients to aid in healthy joint support.

Before taking any supplements, please consult with your primary care practitioner or a healthcare professional to learn about possible interactions, as well as proper dosage.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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January 2023