I’m sure most of you have used over-the-counter painkillers before, but did you know that there are actually natural painkillers which are just as effective, but way less harmful. Wow… wow… harmful!? Yep. You heard right. In all aspects of health, I try to be as objective as possible….however, I’ve seen some prettttty compelling scientific evidence to allow me to come to the following conclusion: I take a firm stance against the overuse of certain painkillers – in this case, we’re talking particularly about non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This class of drugs includes over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin and, although they make my menstrual cramps oh-so-much better, the potential damage these drugs can do to your gut health is nothing short of scary. Over-the-counter Painkillers: A Detrimental Threat to Your Gut & Body I’m not going to tell you that painkillers don’t have any benefits. Of course they do. They take away pain which sucks, and aspirin has shown a whack of other benefits such as enhancing blood circulation and cognitive functioning. However, I am going to tell you that the risk of taking these drugs every time you have an ache or pain, far outweighs the benefits. NSAIDs are known to carry a significant risk of gastrointestinal damage. In fact, several studies have shown these drugs to cause damage to the gastric mucosa, which is the mucosal layer that lines the stomach, and additionally even cause gastrointestinal lesions. This type of damage is not uncommon, and has shown in some studies to occur in up to 91% of aspirin users and 33% of ibuprofen users. Additionally, when studying pharmacology in university, I quickly discovered that the side-effects pages of using drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen were way longer than the indications page. Scary, right!? But let’s get real here – nobody likes to feel pain. We all lead busy lives and sometimes pain can get in the way of our day. Well, once again, you’ve got a scientist on your side and I’ve got you covered! Natural painkillers are actually easy to come by, and one in particular has actually shown to act as both an effective natural painkiller and natural anti-inflammatory without producing negative side-effects of NSAIDS, all while in fact enhancing gut health! Getting excited yet? So what is this magical natural painkiller I’m talking about…. It’s called ‘curcumin’ and this amazing natural painkiller is actually a therapeutic active commonly found in turmeric. Molecularly, curcumin has shown to act nearly identically to aspirin, particularly when it comes to acting as a natural painkiller and anti-inflammatory, making curcumin a safe and suitable option for everything from headaches to menstrual cramps! Additionally, curcumin aids in supporting the body’s detoxification processes, strengthening the immune system – AMAZING RIGHT? Curcumin: How to Take it Properly There’s two ways to take curcumin: by consuming it through turmeric, or by taking an all-natural curcumin extract, which can be much more powerful. If you’re choosing to consume your curcumin through eating turmeric itself, it’s important to note that the bioavailability of curcumin is very low in the body. This means that even if you’re taking in enough curcumin, your body may not be utilizing it properly. Don’t worry though – there’s a little hack to get around this. Studies have shown that consuming curcumin with fat or black pepper increases bioavailability, therefore increasing its effects as a natural painkiller. It’s notable, though, that turmeric will stain the crap out of your hands, nails and clothes so I actually avoid touching it at all costs to avoid looking like I have a hand-infection (why are you so vengeful, turmeric!?). SO…let’s move onto a WAY easier method: The second way of consuming curcumin – which is way more practical and portable – is by taking a natural curcumin extract. This will ensure you’re getting a therapeutic dosage (700 – 1400mg 1-2x daily) to deliver strong natural pain relief every single time. Additionally, you can use all-natural plant based capsules which already contain black pepper or fat to increase bioavailability. This way, if you ever have any unexpected pain at work or while you’re out, you can easily pop a few of these, feel its natural painkiller effects, and move on with your life…without turning everything you own neon-orange. As a nutritional scientist and practitioner, this is my personal recommendation for a high-grade curcumin supplement that includes pre-added bioavailability-enhancing compounds. The best curcumin supplement I’ve come across in the USA so far can be found , whereas the best one I’ve found in the UK & Europe can be found . Don’t be like me…don’t make the same mistakes…don’t wait until you’re standing over the graves of your once-beautiful clothing to show them how much you truly appreciate them. For every curcumin capsule you take, you save the life of a T shirt. Health begins in the gut, Anita Tee, MSc, BSc, PTS Founder, Fact vs Fitness www.factvsfitness.com MSc Personalized Nutrition BSc Genetic & Molecular Biology Personal Training Specialist Canadian Register of Exercise and Fitness Professionals Royal Society of Medicine Member.