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5 Natural Pain Killers You Could Find In Your Kitchen

We have all been afflicted by the debilitating effects of aches and pains, only to rush to the pharmacy for some over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. However, the healing process can begin at home with everyday kitchen ingredients. Natural herbs and spices, from capsaicin to turmeric, can offer relief for many conditions, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even muscle strains, without the side effects of OTC meds.

There are many reasons why we should pay attention to what we eat. After all, food in itself is a sort of medicine. By eating a variety of foods from all the food groups, we can ensure we’re getting the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients our body needs to sustain our immune system. A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found carbohydrate quality is much more important than carbohydrate quantity when it comes to preventing weight gain and chronic diseases, including the painful disease arthritis.

Marci Clow, a registered dietician and nutritionist at Rainbow Light, believes the best way to prevent pain is to eat healthy. “[E]at a well-balanced, mostly plant based diet and simply incorporate foods that help maintain weight and reduce inflammation, while cutting back on foods that induce inflammation such as fried and processed foods.”

So, what food ingredients with anti-inflammatory benefits should you add to your diet to fight off aches and pains?

Aquamin (Red Seaweed): Osteoarthritis Inflammation and Pain

This natural multi-mineral supplement derived from the seaweed Lithothamnium calcareum is sourced off the coast of Ireland. It is rich in calcium and magnesium, which can help with knee joint-related inflammation. A 2008 study published in the Nutrition Journal showed aquamin may reduce joint inflammation and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis in the knee. Aquamin users experienced a reduction in arthritis pain by 20 percent within a month, as well as less stiffness when compared to their counterparts taking placebo’s.

It’s the seaweed’s rich mineral content that allows to improve bone density as well as promote joint mobility and flexibility, according to Clow.

Bromelain: Nose, Sinuses, Osteoarthritis, and Muscle Soreness

This anti-inflammatory enzyme found in pineapple juice and the pineapple stem is used to reduce swelling — especially in the nose and sinuses— after surgery or injury. It reduces inflammation by causing the body to produce substances that fight pain and swelling. Additionally, it prevents blood from clotting in a number of ways, including aiding in the breakdown of the clotting protein fibrin, making it another exceptional food for those who experience inflammation, Clow said.

A 2011 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found using bromelain as an anti-wear-and-tear nutrient was effective in enhancing the recovery process following an injury or surgery. Researchers crushed the Achilles tendons of Sprague-Dawley rats and fed them bromelain for 14 days, finding they experienced quicker healing rates.

Capsaicin: Arthritis, Migraine, and Diabetic Neuropathy

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in red chili peppers, has medicinal properties that can provide relief from arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, and migraines. It works by binding to a protein on neurons that cause the feelings of pain and heat. This activates the neurons and causes them to send out substance P, a neurotransmitter partly responsible for the sensation of pain. When the neurons are exposed to capsaicin for a long period of time, their substance P levels are depleted and they’re less able to transmit pain signals.

A 2003 study published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia found capsaicin’s therapeutic effect could be delivered via the nose for treating chronic migraines. The subjects sprayed a jelly capsaicin formula once daily for seven days, applying the spray inside the nose on the same side as the migraine. All patients treated with capsaicin reported a 50 to 80 percent improvement in the symptoms of their migraines.

Ginger: Aches, Nausea, Osteoarthritis

The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger are known to relieve nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness. Ginger provides natural pain relief by inhibiting inflammatory pathways. “One of the features of inflammation is increased oxygenation of arachidonic acid, which is metabolized by the COX-2 and LOX pathways. Ginger can inhibit these pathways,” Clow said.

A 2001 study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found ginger extract could possibly become a substitute for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study compared the effects of a ginger extract to a placebo in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The ginger extract reduced pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40 percent compared to the placebo. This is attributed to ginger’s ability to affect certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level, as Clow mentioned.

Turmeric: Sprains, Strains, Bruises, and Joint Inflammation

This popular orange and yellow spice can help provide natural pain relief for a series of ailments due to its active ingredient, curcumin. It is known to naturally shutdown COX-2 enzymes, which are involved in inflammatory processes, according to Clow. Turmeric has even been proven to work just as well as ibuprofen.

A 2009 study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared curcumin with ibuprofen for pain relief in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Curcumin was found to ease and improve function in a similar fashion as ibuprofen treatment. Moreover, it served as an alternative for those who cannot take medicine such as OTC pain relievers.

Using these herbs and spices may help strengthen the immune system and treat diseases, but it is always best to talk with a physician before using any natural remedies.

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A Bad Night’s Sleep Could Be Linked To Early Signs Of Heart Disease

Not getting the right amount of sleep can compromise the functioning and emotional wellbeing of the brain. In addition to this, a new study indicates that for young and middle-aged adults, not getting enough sleep could be the sign of heart disease later on in life.

The researchers found that extreme sleep durations and poor quality of sleep were linked with elevated coronary artery calcium levels and arterial stiffness. The study, published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, found getting too much sleep, too little sleep or poor quality sleep was associated with raised levels of calcium in the coronary arteries and arterial stiffness.

“Inadequate sleep is a common problem and a likely source of poor health, including visible signs of disease, such as heart attack,” reports co-lead author Dr. Chan-Won Kim, a clinical associate professor at Kangbuk Samsun Hospital, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea.

Several previous studies have demonstrated that sleeping for too long or not long enough is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events. However, the association between sleep and the risk of CVD is not understood yet. To investigate, a team of researchers set out to evaluate the cardiovascular health of individuals alongside the quality of how each one of them slept. A total of 47,309 young and middle-aged adults had their sleep duration and sleep quality assessed with a sleep questionnaire. Each participant also underwent a health examination to measure coronary artery calcium and arterial stiffness, two subclinical measures of CVD.

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The presence of calcium in the coronary arteries indicated the presence of early coronary lesions. The researchers measured arterial stiffness by observing the speed of the pulse between the arteries of the upper arm and the ankle. Those with inadequate sleep was linked to raised levels of coronary artery calcium. Participants who slept 5 or fewer hours a day had 50% more coronary artery calcium than those who reported sleeping 7 hours a day. Likewise, participants who reported sleeping 9 or more hours a day had more than 70% more coronary artery calcium compared with those who slept 7 hours a day. Participants reporting poor quality of sleep had over 20% more coronary artery calcium than those who reported good sleep quality. The researchers uncovered similar findings when assessing arterial stiffness.

“Adults with poor sleep quality have stiffer arteries than those who sleep 7 hours a day or had good sleep quality,” states co-lead author Dr. Yoosoo Chang, an associate professor at Kangbuk Samsun Hospital. “Overall, we saw the lowest levels of vascular disease in adults sleeping 7 hours a day and reporting good sleep quality.”

The researchers write that several mechanisms could be behind their findings. Inadequate sleep is associated with several cardiovascular health problems such as higher blood pressure and impaired glucose metabolism. Previous research from the team also demonstrated that not sleeping long enough and poor sleep quality are associated with an increased risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – a condition that indicates a form of fat deposition linked with CVD. They acknowledge that the study is limited by relying on self-reporting to measure sleep duration, and that inadequate sleep could also simply reflect other underlying health issues. Despite these limitations, the researchers believe their findings highlight how important sleep is for maintaining cardiovascular health.

“For doctors, it might be necessary to assess patients’ sleep quality when they evaluate the cardiovascular risk and the health status of men and women,” Dr. Kim concludes.

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Almost Half Of A Man’s Testicular Cancer Risk Is Passed Down From Parents

Most men blame their parents for a lot of aspects of their life that they don’t like about themselves. Their weight, their hair, their skin or eye color, or that they weren’t athletic enough to make it to the Premier League. A new study shows these people may have one more thing to trace back to their parents: a higher risk of developing testicular cancer.

According to Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, along with colleagues in Germany, Sweden, and the U.S., almost half of the risk of developing testicular cancer comes from the DNA passed down from our parents. The research suggests that genetic inheritance of testicular cancer is fa more important than in other cancer types, in which genetics only make up about 20 percent of the risk. Testing for a range of genetic variants linked to testicular cancer could prove to be effective in finding who is more at risk of developing the disease, as well as creating new ways of treating and preventing it in the future.

“Our study has shown that testicular cancer is a strongly heritable disease. Around half of a man’s risk of developing testicular cancer comes from the genes he inherits from his parents — with environmental and behavioral factors contributing to the other half,” said Dr. Clare Turnbull, senior researcher in Genetics and Epidemiology at The Institute of Cancer Research, in a press release.

The researchers used statistical analysis from two large testicular cancer studies. One examined patterns of ancestral testicular cancer in family groups across 15.7 million people from the Swedish Population Registry cancer family database, including 9,324 cases of testicular cancer. The other looked at the genetic code of 6,000 UK men from two previous testicular cancer studies, 986 of whom had been diagnosed with the disease. Combining these analyses showed that 49 percent of all possible risk factors regarding testicular cancer were inherited.

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“Our findings have important implications in that they show that if we can discover these genetic causes, screening of men with a family history of testicular cancer could help to diagnose those at greatest risk, and help them to manage that risk,” Turnbull said.

The research found that the inherited risk comes from a large number of minor variations in DNA code passed down from parents, instead of one faulty gene with a big effect. Though there has been major progress in trying to identify the mutations associated with the testicular cancer risk, the researchers found that only 9.1 percent of the risk of developing the disease could be attributed to those mutations. That means that the majority of these genetic variations have yet to be identified.

“[O]ur study also shows that much work remains to be done. There are a lot of genetic factors that cause testicular cancer, which we are yet to find — so the first step must be to identify the genetic drivers of testicular cancer so we can develop new ways to prevent it,” Turnbull said.