Forty-six. That’s how many Americans die each and every day from drug overdoses involving prescription opioid pain medication. That’s nearly two every hour, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest estimates.
The two most common painkillers involved: Oxycodone (such as OxyContin); Hydrocodone (Vicodin).
There’s no question the nation is in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis, with President Donald Trump recently declaring it a national emergency. But it’s also true that many Americans suffer from pain, with one in six struggling with the discomfort of arthritis and joint pain, a leading cause of disability.
As the baby boomers grow into old age, those numbers are expected to increase sharply in coming decades.
So what can be done to combat the opioid crisis while also making sure people with pain are safely and effectively treated?
Dr. David Brownstein, a board-certified family physician and medical director for the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Mich., tells Newsmax Health a variety of natural remedies can be as effective — or more so — than prescription opioids.
Brownstein, editor of the Natural Way to Health newsletter, notes that drugs are typically conventional doctors’ first choice to treat pain. They are an expensive option, financially and from a health perspective — costing as much as $30,000 a year and posing serious potential negative side effects, including an increased risk for addiction.
Plus: A growing body of research shows they may not even be effective in treating pain
“There is currently has no consensus on what causes arthritis. The logical question is: If you don’t understand the cause of an illness, how can you effectively treat it?” he says. “Because conventional medicine does not understand the cause of many chronic illnesses, the long-term conventional therapies presently in use are ineffective and can often be toxic.”
Brownstein notes that two natural alternatives — glucosamine and Boswellia serrata — have proven to be very effective in helping many arthritis sufferers cope with the pain, without emptying your wallet, or compromising your overall health.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance found in the human body, especially in the joints. It has been found help improve problems with the joints such as osteoarthritis. Glucosamine sulfate is found in high concentrations in the cartilage of the joints. Supplementing with glucosamine can help increase the thickness of the cartilage and also help increase the fluid around the joints.
Boswellia is an herb that has been used for over 2,000 years in Ayrurvedic medicine. It is derived from the resin of the Boswellia tree and shrub. Boswellia has potent anti-inflammatory effects and has been used for many inflammatory conditions including asthma, colitis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.”
Together the two provide key support factor for joint function and repair
Studies have shown glucosamine supplements help counteract joint pain caused by mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee. They have also been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, allergies, and chronic low back pain.
Boswellia is a potent anti-inflammatory agent used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It comes from a tree that grows in mountainous regions of India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East.
Boswellia contains ingredients that inhibit the enzyme 5-liosygenase, which shuts down the inflammatory response, Dr. Brownstein explains. As a result it is an effective natural, anti-inflammatory agent.
These natural alternatives to conventional medicine offer a significant advantage over non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that have been the primary treatment for arthritic disorders for 50 years.
They’re also better options than more powerful steroids or other medications, such as chemotherapeutic agents and so-called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) — such as methotrexate, Humira, Imuran, and Enbrel — that have been touted by some doctors as preferable to NSAIDs.
Brownstein notes that DMARDs pose special risks because they have clear immune-suppressing properties and have been associated with serious side effects.
“In my experience, the results of these drug therapies are dismal. They may temporarily alleviate the symptoms of arthritic disorders, but they do little to halt or reverse the progression of the illness,” he says.
“I’ve found little need for these drugs. Arthritis does not occur due to the lack of NSAIDs, DMARDs, or chemotherapy, which only cover the symptoms. There is a better way to treat these chronic conditions. “
Brownstein’s prescription for combatting the opioid crisis includes turning to natural remedies as a first-line and a change in attitude so doctors and patients start to think of pain medication as a last resort — at best.
In addition to taking glucosamine and Boswellia serata supplements, Browstein recommends the following strategies to manage and reduce pain and the symptoms of arthritis:
Be physically active. Walking, bicycling, and swimming can reduce arthritis pain and improve mobility, physical function, mental health, and quality of life.
Maintain a healthy weight. People can reduce their risk of developing arthritis — and ease the pain of it — by controlling their weight and avoiding injuries.
Take supplements. Most arthritic patients have multiple nutritional deficiencies, including lowered levels of vitamins A, B6, B12, and C, and should consider taking supplements along with glucosamine and Boswellia. Others that have been shown to help: turmeric, and extracts of bromelain, pomegranate, green tea, leaf, holy basil leave, and piperine from black pepper.
Watch your diet. Steer clear of foods that boost inflammation in the body — including those with refined sugar, salt, oil, and flour, such as fast foods, processed meals, and junk snacks. Eat a whole-food diet including unrefined sugar, salt, oil, and flour, and as much organic produce as possible.
Stay hydrated. Drinking adequate amounts of water can help arthritic patients significantly improve their condition.
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