The Athletes Guide to Pain and the Top 7 Natural Ingredients that Work

Training can hurt. When athletes experience a minor headache, muscle tension or other pain, they readily reach for over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen—the most commonly used drugs in the U.S. These are called NSAIDs or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. But regular use of these drugs can lead to long-term side effects like intestinal damage, liver failure and more, recent research reveals.

How NSAIDs kill your gains
Intestinal damage is especially important to athletes because NSAIDs destroy "gut flora" (gastrointestinal microbiota), severely altering the bodies ability to absorb nutrition- like protein. Nutrients are not only vital for building muscle and recovery from training, a lack of nutrition can lead to anti-catabolism (breakdown of muscle).

Even worse
Additionally, damage to an NSAID user's gut flora can lead to leaky gut, further leading to additional inflammation causing a vicious cycle. 

Before popping the pills, we have constructed a list of alternative remedies for pain relief that can preserve gut flora and your gains.

7. Magnesium

Magnesium supplements can help curb the pain of migraines, muscle spasms and fibromyalgia. “It’s really easy to be magnesium deficient,” Tanya Edwards, MD, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told WebMD. Heavy consumption of alcohol lowers magnesium levels. “The foods that are highest in magnesium are things like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Most of us just don’t eat those very often.”

6. Cats Claw

Named for its hook-like horns, cat’s claw, a woody vine native to the Amazon rainforest and other places in South America, is known for containing an anti-inflammatory agent that aids in blocking the production of the hormone prostaglandin, which contributes to inflammation and pain within the body. Stick to the suggested doses to avoid diarrhea: 250 to 1,000 mg capsules one to three times daily.

5. Ginger

The powerful anti-inflammatory ginger is more effective than drugs like ibuprofen for pain relief, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Arthritis. The study revealed that drugs like Tylenol or Advil do block the formation of inflammatory compounds. Ginger, however, “blocks the formation of the inflammatory compounds–prostaglandins and leukotrienes–and also has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation and acidity in the fluid within the joints,” reported a prominent study.

4. Boswellia

Commonly known as Indian frankincense, boswellia contains active components like resin that reduce inflammation and pain. It can be taken as a supplement as well as used topically.

3. White willow bark

The original Aspirin, white willow bark contains salicin which, in the stomach, converts to salicylic acid—the primary component of Aspirin. Synthetically, it can irritate the stomach, but naturally through white willow bark, it is effective in relieving pain, inflammation and fever. 

2. Turmeric

This distinctive, curry spice possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It also improves circulation and prevents blood clotting. Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin is responsible for lowering the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.

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