“COX” Suckers

Natural alternatives to Prescription Anti-inflammatories

It’s been a bad year for pharmaceutical companies. Many prescription anti-inflammatories known as COX-2 Inhibitors – once a huge profit generator for drug companies – have been found to be unsafe and pulled from the market. This comes as little surprise for some of us in the natural medicine community; however it has left many people who were dependent on these medications scrambling for alternatives. What does Naturopathic medicine have to say on this matter? Let’s explore.

The reason any Naturopath worth his salt was not surprised by the downfall of drugs like Bextra and Vioxx, is that these drugs are inherently suppressive. Their sole purpose is to block inflammation – a natural protective strategy of the body – instead of eliminating the root causes of inflammation. “COX-2”, stands for “cyclooxygenase-2”, a natural pro-inflammatory chemical produced by the body. When the body is trying to protect an injured area or call attention to a part of the body that may need repair it sets off an inflammatory process. Inflammation limits mobility so that a damaged shoulder or knee will not be dangerously overworked; and it walls off damaged parts from the body as a whole, thereby preventing the spread of any noxious substances from the injured part from affecting the greater whole. Inflammation is a message to be heeded; not a nuisance to be squashed.

One of the main causes of inflammation in an area is that a progressive decrease in oxygen and blood circulation in a given area will, over time, weaken that area, and leave it prone to injury. Therapies such as acupuncture, clinical nutrition and botanical medicine can re-irrigate that area with fresh oxygenated blood and stimulate the body’s own natural repair mechanisms to fix whatever structure may be damaged.

Inflammation is also the body’s way of forcing us to rest. Jessica is a patient of mine dealing with terrible neck pain from a serious car crash a year ago. Through an advance style of acupuncture which I practice we’ve been able to relieve her pain considerably. But Jessica is a gym bunny. As soon as her pain is gone, she’s back at the weights and logging miles on the treadmill. All my pleas for her to rest go ignored. Without the pain, there is nothing, not even common sense, stopping her from stressing this delicate area. So, her body turns on the inflammation again – because it’s the only way to stop her and the only way for the body to protect itself. Jessica sees inflammation as her enemy rather than a teaching from her inner wisdom, telling her that now is the time in her life for rest and repair

Of course no one can fault a person for wanting the pain relief Cox-2 inhibitors so effectively provide. Once the message of inflammation has been heard and honored, amelioration of symptoms is appropriate and necessary. To that end, there are many natural substances with proven anti-inflammatory power:

Rosemary, Ginger, Turmeric and Boswellia are all herbs that are known COX-2 inhibitors. Studies suggest far fewer harmful side-effects from these natural COX-2’s than from synthetic anti-inflammatories. Many homeopathic preparations including Truameel and Zeel by BHI-HEEL have documented efficacy comparable to prescription COX-2’s. They’ve even been tested in randomized, double-blind, placebo control studies. Essential fatty acids support production of chemicals in the body that naturally inhibit COX-2 production and thereby create a COX-2 inhibiting environment within the body.

There are so many ways to respond to inflammation in the body, that no one should be disheartened by the loss of these prescription “wonder-drugs”. With a skilled physician and a willingness to listen to the wisdom of our bodies, inflammation can actually be a stepping-stone towards greater health.

This article was written by Dr. Steven Ehrlich ND, as a patient education resource for The Center For True Harmony Wellness and Medicine. Edited and revised by Sherry VanGoethem, Dr.Christine Brass-Jones OBGYN, and Dr. Denise Quance Grobe N.D. If you have any questions or comments contact the office at (480) 539-6646 or through email at info@trueharmonywellness.com