Chronic pain and the problem with opioids
Stiff? Achy? Has that nagging pain in your back or neck been steadily getting worse? Are you taking opioids for pain relief? If so, we’ve got some important news for you.
Chronic pain is a massive problem plaguing over 30% of Americans today. Consequently, over four percent of adults regularly take some form of opioid prescription as pain management. The problem is, while studies have shown opioids to be helpful in managing short-term pain, managing chronic pain with opioids put users at risk of harmful side effects and can easily lead to opioid addiction (according to research published in the New England Medical Journal (2016)).
Opioid addiction has become a leading epidemic and a national health issue. Prolonged opioid use often leads to drug tolerance, which means the same dosage of opioids, over time, yields less effective results. Even many physicians have admitted to their lack of confidence in opioids!
Curcumin to the rescue
So, in today’s advanced world, there must be a better option for pain relief, right? Thankfully, there is.
It’s called curcumin. And instead of causing frequent side effect such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting like many opioids do (these debilitating side effects sound worse than the pain in the first place), curcumin actually helps lessen opioid dependence, is not addictive and relieves pain. In other words, unlike using opioids to control pain and having to periodically increase dosage, curcumin users generally decrease opioid dosage.
Curcumin’s efficacy in treating pain associated with a number of chronic conditions and reducing inflammation in the body has been clinically tested and is incredibly promising. Rather than slapping a “Band-Aid” on a symptom (pain) as opioids do, curcumin supports the body’s physiological processes, targeting the cause of distress and working to optimize the body’s intrinsic functions.
But, before dashing to the health food store in search of just any curcumin product, it’s important to understand a few key factors to check for in order to make sure you choose the right curcumin product for your body that will give you the best results. Amidst a flood of products boasting an array of health-boosting ingredients, how do you choose?
Choosing curcumin the smart way
First of all, you’ll want to be sure you choose a product with the smartest ingredients working for your optimal health, not just the most.
First, let’s take a look at the efficacy of curcumin and what, specifically, it has to offer, and next we’ll review the “Big 3” key points you’ll need to know in order to choose the best curcumin product for you.
Curcumin is an anti-oxidant rich compound derived from turmeric root. Taken as a supplement, it helps reduce inflammation within the body (a root cause of many of today’s chronic illnesses), supports digestive health and boosts immunity as well as cardiovascular health. Studies have shown curcumin to help regulate blood sugar levels and support cellular health, which makes it a great anti-aging wellness product. Some think of it as the “miracle” supplement.
Not only does curcumin target multiple aspects of our health from a holistic standpoint, but extensive clinical trials have also shown it to be an incredibly safe and effective method of pain reduction (AAPS Journal, 2017). Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin has helped benefit those suffering from cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, Cohn’s disease and pancreatitis, to name a few.
Now, on to the “Big 3” primary ways curcumin is effective in reducing opioid use and dependence:
- Curcumin actually mimics the structure of opioid compounds in the body, meaning that it interacts with the body’s opioid receptors to reduce pain without side effects and without becoming addictive!
- Because curcumin targets these same receptors in our body, it may actually help reduce opioid dependence. Studies examining the administering of curcumin in combination with opioids found curcumin to reduce opioid tolerance, thus lowering effective opioid dosages.
- Studies show high doses of curcumin may reduce withdrawal symptoms associated with morphine while also protecting brain cells from damage caused by chronic opioid use.
Although more research is needed to uncover the full scope of curcumin’s benefits (and you should always check with your doctor before taking curcumin), the “Big 3” tell us that curcumin helps manage pain, reduces opioid dependence, protects our brain cells and reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms!
Making sure your body can absorb your curcumin
Inflammation is a big health topic today, and you might be wondering if all the hype you’ve heard about turmeric means that it’s just as effective at fighting inflammation as curcumin. To begin with, the compound curcumin only makes up 2% of turmeric power, so if you’re taking turmeric, you’re getting an incredibly small and hard-to-absorb dose of curcumin.
Instead, look for curcumin labeled “95%” and “active curcumin.” This means that instead of taking hours to be converted by your body to a usable form, it gets to work on your cells right after you take it. Another term for active curcumin is “95% tetra-hydro-curcuminoids” (make sure the “tetra-hydro” is in there, not just “curcuminoids”).
In addition, when choosing a curcumin supplement, you’ll want to ensure it contains supportive ingredients that help your body actually absorb the curcumin. Don’t just take dry curcumin powder. Black seed oil, for instance, increases curcumin absorption since curcumin is a fat-soluble compound. Ensuring the curcumin you take is bioavailable to your body is crucial so that you can reap its incredible health benefits.
Packing too many ingredients into a supplement can actually be harmful. That’s why it’s important to ensure the ingredients in your supplements are working for your health and allowing you to thrive.