In this Terry Talks Nutrition®, we’re going to look at the best natural ingredients for pain relief and recovery for anyone who has an active life. Whether you are running regular half-marathons or have a weekly game of basketball with your friends, these ingredients are exactly what you need.
Core Pain Relief Ingredients
Curcumin from turmeric is becoming one of the world’s leading natural pain medicines. This compound fights inflammation throughout the body, so it is outstanding for treating muscle pain, including DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). I consider it a must-have ingredient for anyone with an active life.
Sports medicine has been taking notice of curcumin for some time. In a double-blind crossover trial, participants started taking curcumin 2 days before a physical workout and continued for 3 days after. Those taking curcumin noted moderate to large reductions in pain and slightly increased performance (due to the pain reduction). The exercises included gluteal stretches, squat jumps, and single-leg jumps, to get in a variety of controlled movements to replicate the wide range of motions that can cause pain during a workout.
Another recent study found that adult recreational cyclists taking curcumin felt “better than usual” and less stressed on their training days – 2 hours of endurance cycling – versus those taking placebo.
In a study assessing the ability of curcumin to reduce DOMS and muscle damage in healthy adults after downhill running (a standard muscle inflammation physical test), those in the curcumin group noted less pain compared to the placebo group, and there was less incidence of muscle injury. Not surprisingly, markers of inflammation and muscle damage tended to be lower in the curcumin group following exercise as well.
I believe you get the best results from curcumin when it is blended with turmeric oils, which increases its absorption up to 10 times over plain curcumin extracts. Plus, the turmerones found in turmeric oil provide their own anti-inflammatory and cell-protecting power.
Historically, boswellia (Boswellia serrata) is one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatory medicines. It is a specific inhibitor of 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX), an enzyme that activates inflammation-inducing leukotrienes.
A recent placebo-controlled clinical study found that people had a greater pain threshold and pain tolerance when taking boswellia. The reason researchers are so interested in boswellia’s ability to reduce inflammation is because the conventional options – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – damage the gastrointestinal or cardiovascular systems. And, for that matter, there really aren’t any other effective medicines that work through the 5-LOX inflammation pathway. Even curcumin, one of my favorites, doesn’t match boswellia on that count.
But commercially available boswellia extracts vary greatly. I believe boswellia is most effective when it is standardized to its primary anti-inflammatory compound, AKBA, (acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid), and beta-boswellic acid, a pro-inflammatory compound (the last thing you want when recovering from activity or injury), is screened out. Unstandardized extracts often only provide as little as 1% AKBA and they don’t filter out beta-boswellic acid.
DLPA (also known as d,l-phenylalanine) is a combination of two forms of the amino acid phenylalanine. The combination of these two forms may prevent the breakdown of one of the brain’s natural pain-killing substances, enkephalins, which are in the same family as endorphins. It promotes the body’s own pain-killing response and improves mood at the same time – both major factors for pain relief and faster recovery.
Enzymes That Boost Your Recovery
Bromelain has long been a favorite natural ingredient for active people. Aside from relieving pain, it helps heal small tears in muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and shortens the inflammatory phase of tissue repair. It has been shown in combination with other supporting ingredients to reduce leg pain and DOMS. An Australian study of cyclists showed that bromelain supplementation lessened fatigue, even after four days of bicycle racing.
Pancreatin is an animal source of enzymes (protease, lipase, and amylase) that are outstanding for muscle pain relief and recovery. Animal-based enzymes like pancreatin more closely mimic the body’s own enzyme activity. Plant-based enzymes don’t work in the same way.
In fact, protease supplementation (which included animal-based pancreatic enzymes) combined with bromelain and other enzymes was tested against a placebo in a trial of downhill running.
Those supplementing with enzymes had a much faster recovery time and less muscle soreness than those who did not. So, protease may help heal muscle damage and support better muscle contractions for less pain and faster recovery from DOMS.
Stay at the Top of Your Game
Whether you’re a professional athlete, an amateur cyclist, or just an occasionally overenthusiastic weekend warrior, you can stop pain, speed recovery, and avoid delayed onset muscle soreness safely and effectively. In fact, the ingredients I recommend will do so much more than fight inflammation – they’ll help your body repair itself faster, so you can stay at the top of your game without risking your health.
To stop pain, speed recovery, and avoid delayed onset muscle soreness safely and effectively, I recommend taking curcumin, boswellia, DLPA, white willow, bromelain and pancreatin daily.