Vitamin Retailer: Managing Pain Naturally

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Pain is a universal sensation that has a high price. Here’s how to help provide some highly appreciated relief.

No matter the language, certain human expressions are universally understood: a smile in greeting, laughter, and the grimace of pain are recognizable.

Millions of Americans are in pain, all the time or occasionally; but many consumers are not keen on simply swallowing an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever and are far less desirous of obtaining prescription pain killers for fear of addiction and losing control of their lives.

Herbalist Matthew Becker, lead practitioner at Pharmaca in Boulder, CO, asserted that as the store is in a “big sports town,” he sees quite a lot of customers seeking relief for sports-related injuries as well as joint discomfort. “We also see more customers dealing with gastrointestinal (GI) distress and pain,” he reported. “More people are aware of the role of inflammation in pain and in disease,” he added.

Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs at Wisconsin-based EuroPharma, Inc., said she believes that the biggest news regarding pain and inflammation is the continual flow of stories about opioid addiction and the damage caused by OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. “There was a time when the OTC risks weren’t considered serious,” she recalled, “but there is a much greater awareness of the dangers and risks associated with them today. A person is much more likely now to pause before taking a common OTC for back pain, for instance, than they might have been in the past. But they still need something that is safe and that works well.”

In agreement is Michael Baghoomian, co-founder of Muscle MX, Utah, who observed that dealing with pain and inflammation without the help of opioids and NSAIDs is a hot topic. People are looking for natural alternatives, and he said, cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) are growing exponentially in this space as a result.

The sensation of pain is the body’s way of pressing the “alert” button. It means something is out of whack and needs attention. In the course of medical science research, it is only recently that inflammation is being understood more clearly for its role in degradation and its associated discomfort. Undeniably, the most common element causing myriad people to experience chronic pain is inflammation.

“Over the years and through extensive clinical studies, inflammation has been shown to be the cause of many chronic health concerns,” said Jamie Langston, RN, BSN, and DaRon Gillilan, chief sales officer at Texas-based LifeSeasons. “And with these new scientific findings, we’re able to understand the pathways that cause discomfort and inflammation.”

For example, he said, there is a comprehensive amount of scientific data suggesting that nutrition (diet) has a critical role in fostering an acidic and pro-inflammatory environment in the body. Every food and beverage consumed either increases or decreases systemic inflammation. For many individuals, he said, the challenge is that healthy choices are often difficult, maybe impossible, to make. In the United States, not only are processed foods cheaper and more readily available than fresh, whole foods, but approximately 80 percent of all processed foods are high in sugar and unhealthy fats, refined carbohydrates, salt and chemicals such as synthetic colors and preservatives.

“Lifestyle in the Western world has increasingly become unhealthy due to excessive consumption of processed foods that increase inflammation,” emphasized Dr. Carola Leuschner, co-founder of Avie Nutraceuticals in Louisiana. She noted that there is considerable scientific evidence that chronic inflammation is a causative factor for many diseases including arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) and heart disease, among others. Critically, “chronic inflammation prevents people from performing necessary exercise, especially when after exercise the recovery is impaired by muscle soreness and inflammation,” she said.

In agreement is Marita Schauch, ND, women’s health educator on behalf of Natural Factors Nutritional Products Inc., Washington, who said, “Research is now showing that inflammation is more than just pain and arthritis—it is involved in heart disease, cognitive decline, digestive disorders, skin conditions and mental health disorders.” Inflammation, said Schauch, is truly a broad topic and not clearly understood by your customer base. And as previously mentioned, diet management is critical in the longer-term lessening of aches and discomfort.

And while many health care practitioners advise against strenuous exercise, which causes more acute pain and can hasten joint breakdown, Schauch noted that the lack of exercise can also lead to pain and tension as sedentary lifestyle leads to weight gain, which puts more strain on the joints. Baghoomian agreed, stating, “Weight control and diet play a role in how the body deals with pain and inflammation.”

If you can help your customers maintain daily activity and livelihoods without pain, you can help them increase potential for healthy longevity. “Keeping inflammation at a healthy balanced level without using OTC non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen and the like, offers a unique opportunity to preserve long-term, pain-free mobility and exercise without detrimental side effects on the gastrointestinal system,” commented Leuschner.

Individuals have largely depended on anti-inflammatory drugs, such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen) to relieve pain, but it has become more widely known that indiscriminate use of these drugs can cause GI bleeding and other issues, and in some people, these side effects can be fatal.

More scientific evidence is changing perception of nutraceuticals for managing discomfort, said Leuschner. “For example, it has been shown that a combination of curcumin with Boswellia serrata was as effective as NSAID celecoxib (Celebrex) in promoting joint function (mobility and flexibility). These results including education on the merits of exercise (healthy movement) promotes awareness and the increased use of nutraceuticals and other dietary supplements that promote bone, joint and muscle health,” she explained.

Painless Products

For the most part, customers of all ages inquire about natural remedies to lessen their aches, and many of those will come from active people, such as amateur athletes. Muscle MX has developed two pain topicals, Activate and Recovery, to both enhance muscle performance and help lessen pain, soreness and inflammation safely and effectively, according to Baghoomian. Muscle MX topicals, he noted, are 100 percent natural and contain cannabidiol oil (CBD), which he described as a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient. Muscle MX uses CBD extracted from industrial hemp and contains no THC, the phytochemical present in cannabis that produces the psychedelic effect.

“Activate is a heated pain-relief balm for muscles, joints and tendons, to be used before activity to promote optimal performance,” Baghoomian described. “Recovery is a fast-acting relief for achy muscle, joints and tendons for use after any activity or treat general pain and discomfort.”

EuroPharma, said Myers, also has hemp-based remedies—Hemp Oil and Hemp Oil + Curcumin. “The reason that hemp (Cannabis sativa) is so popular is that compounds it contains can preserve endocannabinoids, including anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) and, as a result, amplify those endocannabinoids’ ability to relieve pain. These same compounds may also interact with cannabinoid receptors found on the surfaces of cells,” she explained.

Myers added that there is ongoing research exploring the reasons why hemp oil compounds appear to be so effective for pain relief aside from their anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers have found that the synovial tissue of individuals with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis had elevated levels of endocannabinoids compared to individuals without those conditions. The body seemed to flood the joints with endocannabinoids to relieve inflammation.

“There is an entourage of phytonutrients from hemp,” she asserted, “so a full spectrum supplement may provide better and longer lasting results than one isolated compound over the long term.” LifeSeasons, said Langston, has developed a line of inflammation health supplements formulated to help alleviate aches and discomforts commonly associated with inflammation. Its product Pain Bloc-R combines several widely researched ingredients including white willow bark, angelica root, acetyl L-carnitine, natural caffeine, L-theanine, L-tetrahydropalmatine and several B vitamins to help soothe aches and discomforts.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover, pilot study to investigate the efficacy of Pain Bloc-R formula in participants with normal aches and pains is scheduled to start this summer (2018). This study will be conducted under the oversite of KGK Science.

Inflammation can cause GI distress and lower abdominal pain. Natural Factors’ WomenSense GI Sense, said Schauch, provides herbs that support healthy inflammatory responses, such as boswellia, chamomile and curcumin, plus the adaptogens ashwagandha and bacopa to lessen physiological stress reactions. This formula provides support for the relationship between stress and the GI tract, which can cause discomfort.

“Stress reactions in the body are a result of messages sent from the brain to the adrenal glands: the hypothalamic pituitary axis,” she explained. “In addition, microbial imbalances in the gut cause a stress response in the brain and vice versa. The gut-brain is a two-way communication system.”

Stress effects, however, are not limited to one pain region—they can affect cellular homeostasis, Schauch elaborated. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, initially supports healthy inflammatory responses, but with long-term (chronic) stress, cells may become resistant to cortisol’s regulatory effects resulting in increased potential of cellular damage. Cellular distress causes the overproduction of free radicals, which impair cell function. GI Sense provides antioxidants for the maintenance of good health and protects from free radical damage. “It has been well established that stress and inflammation contribute to cellular distress of the GI tract. WomenSense GI Sense offers herbal support for women of all ages who experience mild digestive disturbances that arise from stress. This helps relieve cellular damage and reduces markers of physical stress,” she said.

Curcumin is one of the most popular touted nutraceuticals for pain management, and there are newly sophisticated forms for store shelves. For example, noted Leuschner, studies by researchers at Avie Nutraceuticals have shown that Avie’s Ultramicronized Turmeric Curcumin “has 352 times greater antioxidant activity, 1,400 times greater radical scavenging capacity and 126 times greater inhibition of the inflammatory enzyme COX-2 than several other curcumin supplements. Most importantly, Avie’s Ultramicronized Turmeric Curcumin is fully water-soluble, and doesn’t require addition of pepper to promote absorption and efficacy,” she explained.

The company has two specific remedies to lessen achiness. Its Joint Balance blends soluble ultramicronized turmeric curcumin with boswellia to promote optimal and healthy joint function, improve flexibility, and reduce muscle soreness after strenuous exercise. Avie Joint Balance contains 15 mg ultramicronized turmeric and 100 mg Boswellia serrata powder per 500 mg capsule.

Avie Pain Relief Spray is a topical application to provide “quick relief of muscle and joint pain after intense exercise, sprains, bruises or aches from heavy household work or gardening,” Leuschner said. “The formulation is fast acting, fast penetrating and does not leave any residue after application. Most importantly, Avie Pain Relief Spray is aspirin free and non-staining,” she noted.

“Research shows that curcumin can promote a healthy inflammatory response and provide antioxidant support to cells,” said Schauch. “However, when it comes to curcumin, it’s not how much you take, but how much you absorb that matters. Early clinical studies found that large quantities of curcumin had to be consumed because the absorption (bioavailability) of regular curcumin is quite poor. Curcumin is relatively insoluble in water and is rapidly transformed and excreted from the body.”

Natural Factors’ Theracurmin is an advanced formulation that uses proprietary dispersion technology to create microscopic particles dispersed in a colloidal suspension for better absorption. Detailed absorption studies have proven that Theracurmin is the best-absorbed form of curcumin on the market on a milligram-to-milligram basis compared to all other curcumin supplements. This improved absorption with Theracurmin is extremely important in getting the health benefits curcumin provides.

Existing double-blind clinical studies on Theracurmin demonstrate benefits for liver health, periodontal health, muscle and joint health, vascular health, heart health, and global quality of life scores. The results of every study have been truly remarkable.

Two of EuroPharma’s primary pain relief products are its original formula CuramIn and Curamin Extra Strength.

According to Myers, both provide clinically tested curcumin (BCM-95) that is blended with turmeric oil for enhanced absorption and higher efficacy; BCM-95, she said, is verified in over 30 published clinical studies for a variety of health concerns, including joint pain. Both also contain boswellia, which is said to lessen pain by inhibiting 5-LOX inflammation. But boswellia, Myers clarified, needs to have low beta-boswellic acid content (which interferes with beneficial activity) and higher levels of acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA) to ensure it exerts its maximum efficacy. “BCM-95 and BosPure have been clinically shown in a published study to improve pain and function in individuals with osteoarthritis,” Myers said.

The osteoarthritis study compared the two botanicals to a generic celecoxib (known under the brand name Celebrex) for individuals with osteoarthritis. One group received celecoxib, 100 mg, twice daily while the second group received a 500 mg blend of the high-absorption curcumin and the high-AKBA, low-beta boswellia extract twice daily. The pain in the herbal group improved to a high degree—64 percent versus 29 percent in the drug group. There was such a difference, in fact, that their degree of pain improved from “moderate to severe arthritis” to “mild to moderate arthritis.”

Myers reported that another study focused on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) using high-absorption curcumin alone. This RA study followed 45 individuals, randomized to three groups. Group one received diclofenac sodium (which could raise the risk of heart attacks), 50 mg, twice daily; group two received 500 mg of high-absorption curcumin twice daily; and group three received both diclofenac sodium and high-absorption curcumin. In the Disease Activity Score in 28 Joints (DAS28) patient assessment, the group taking curcumin alone noted the highest impact for reducing disease symptoms, followed by those using the combination therapy of curcumin with diclofenac sodium. Interestingly, the diclofenac sodium-alone group scored in last place. I think this shows that natural, effective, and safe medicines really have an advantage and a strong future.

Curamin and Curamin Extra Strength also help reduce discomfort through DLPA, which Myers explained contains two forms of the amino acid phenylalanine. The “l” form improves mood-elevating chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. The “d” form appears to block a nervous system enzyme (carboxypeptidase A) that intensifies pain signals. DLPA helps prevent the breakdown of one of the brain’s natural pain-killing substances, enkephalins, which are in the same family as endorphins.

At Pharmaca, Becker said he likes to recommend two products for long-term management and for acute aches, such as those resulting from injury. He related that he has personally found Wobenzym to be effective “and has dramatic anti-inflammatory capability. I recommend it for across-the-board, chronic stress-related discomfort and it is always extremely beneficial.”

Becker also likes bromelain as a short-term nutraceutical for acute conditions, he said, such as after a tooth extraction, for example. He added that both Wobenzym and bromelain have years of use and studies.

People will always be dealing with types of discomfort, acute and chronic. It has been said that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional—retailers can certainly help their customers suffer less. VR

For More Information:

Avie Naturals, www.avienaturals.com
EuroPharma, www.europharmausa.com
LifeSeasons, www.lifeseasons.com
Muscle MX, www.musclemx.com
Natural Factors, www.doctormarita.com; www.naturalfactors.com

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