Dear Pharmacist,

I have chronic pain and take ibuprofen daily plus hydrocodone and celecoxib. I'm willing to do anything right now that could help. The craziest thing is that nothing happened to me, I just developed pain over the years, no accidents, no trauma. Can you help me?

—D.W., Boca Raton, Florida

Answer: Pain is a symptom not a disease itself. It's your clue that something is out of balance in your system. Without knowing more details it's hard to hit the nail on the head so I will give you (and other readers who are suffering in pain) some general information. My goal today is to teach you about two different pain chemicals that your body releases in response to something. What that "something" is could be different for everyone. Sometimes pain is triggered by foods like gluten or nightshade vegetables, sometimes it is from a nutrient deficiency (like magnesium or CoQ10), and sometimes it is from poor elimination. If you are constipated and toxins back up in your gut, or in your blood, then this triggers a physiological response in your body that causes cells to release pain-causing chemicals called "cytokines."

Two cytokines implicated in pain include the leukotrienes and the prostaglandins. Those are such big names for little substances but too much of these will make you hurt. Your goal as a pain sufferer is to reduce levels of those.

First up leukotrienes! These are a subclass of "eicosanoids" pronounced "I-koss-anoids" which when you say that out loud, the last syllable sounds like the word "annoyed" and that's exactly what they do. They are very annoying and irritating! Leukotrienes spark production of other compounds involved in allergies, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders and anaphylactic reactions. Leukotrienes tend to increase if you eat food coloring, like yellow dye #5, tartrazine, and other artificial substances.

If you have pain, then non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (referred to as "NSAIDs"), such as ibuprofen or naproxen (Advil, and Aleve respectively) can help you. These are sold over-the-counter at pharmacies nationwide. The prescription drug Celebrex (celecoxib) can also help. Interestingly, researchers have found that some natural compounds like boswelia and quercetin can reduce those annoying eicosanoids. Since about 2001, the medical literature has shown that dark chocolate can reduce eiconanoids too! Other natural rescue remedies include omega 3 fatty acids, flax seed, perilla seed oil, curcumin and glycyrrhiza. The prescription medications Accolate and Singulair may help too, especially if your problems are primarily allergies.

Next up prostaglandins! Excessive amounts of this cytokine occur with arthritis, heavy menstrual cycles, premenstrual syndrome, migraines, multiple sclerosis, chronic lyme disease, as well as colon and breast cancer. What substances reduce prostaglandins? Fish oils, white willow bark (salix alba), ecklonia cava (a brown algae), meadowsweet (don't take if you're allergic to salicylates like aspirin), turmeric, skullcap, ginger root and passionflower. Medications to consider include aspirin, celecoxib, and the NSAID class including ibuprofen and naproxen. Ask your doctor if any of these are right for you.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website, SuzyCohen.com

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)