Britain is a nation of pill-poppers who use drugs to beat aches and pains instead of changing their diet and lifestyle, a recent study has warned.
According to researchers from the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, nearly 7m Brits are taking cholesterol-lowering statins and the use of drugs to prevent or treat pain is likely to become more common in the future.
Professor Sarah Harper from the research has spoken out about Britain’s dependency on pain-relieving pills at the Oxford London Lecture 2012.
Harper said, as reported by the Telegraph: “I think we may be entering a world where preventable chronic disease will not be prevented by public health measures tackling lifestyles, but increasingly by drug therapies which will control and reduce symptoms of chronic disease.
“We have to ask if we wish our future to be one where individuals at increasingly younger ages pop pills rather than eat healthily, stop smoking, reduce alcohol and take up exercise.
"Do we want 10-year-olds popping statins?”
Harper also pointed out that academics who advocate that people over 45 should take low-dose aspirin as a preventative to cancer are feeding the pill-popping culture.
"Drug therapies are fantastic, but we have to be careful that we don't just have drugs where there are healthy living alternatives,” Harper told the Telegraph.
In the UK, over 10 million people take sleeping pills each night to help them sleep and almost 80% of GPs routinely prescribe drugs, such as painkillers and antidepressants.
If you agree with Harper and believe that a good diet and alternative lifestyle changes should take priority when treating pain, take a look at our round-up of natural (pill-free) ways to beat pain.
According to previous research, turmeric is more effective in tackling pain relief and inflammation than steroid medications. According to researchers from the National Institutes of Health, the pain relief properties from turmeric are more prevalent to rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, as it inhibits the destruction of joints from arthritis. Turmeric contains a protein called NF-kB, which, when turned on, activates the body's inflammatory response, which helps battles aches and pains.
Red grapes are packed full of resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant compound that blocks enzymes that degenerate tissue damage, which can lead to joint and muscle pain. According to the Rush University Medical Center, resveratrol helps protect against cartilage damage that causes back pain in particular. Another study by the Michigan State University found that cherry extract is ten times more effective than aspirin when it comes to relieving inflammation in the body. Other berries rich in back-pain fighting resveratrol include blueberries, cranberries and blackberries.
Ginger is well known for its ability to block the pain-causing prostaglandin levels in the body. Ginger has long been used as a natural method of pain relief, particularly in India, where researchers regularly test its inflammation and pain relief properties. According to research by the University of Miami, researchers discovered that two third of patients with chronic knee pain reported less soreness after taking a daily dose of ginger extract for six weeks. Health experts recommend a daily dosage of 500 to 1,000mg of ginger a day to help ward off aches and pains.
Research by the Oklahoma State University found that osteoarthritis sufferers who consumed 40g of soy protein a day for three months, reported a 30% improvement on their arthritis-related knee pain. Soy contains bundles of isoflavones, a plant hormone with strong anti-inflammatory properties, which helps reduce the discomfort of osteoarthritis and other related joint pains.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for keeping the immune system healthy - and warding off inflammation and chronic neck pain. During research at the University of Pittsburgh, 60% of participants experienced enhanced pain relief from eating more fish or taking fish oil supplements for three months. The effect was so great, almost as many stopped taking their daily pain relief as a result. Besides salmon, other fish that contain high levels of the essential EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids include halibut, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.
Cherries, like the other members of the berry family, contain high amounts of antioxidants called anthocyanins - the key compound to the cherry's pain fighting power. According to research by the Department of Agriculture, participants who ate 45 big cherries daily for 28 days reduced their inflammation levels significantly. Researchers found that cherry anthocyanins are especially effective in treating arthritis symptoms, as participants of the study said their joint pain had improved as a result of consuming cherries or cherry juice. Anthocyanins contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties.
If you ever wondered why over-the-counter painkillers contain caffeine, it's because coffee enhances the effects of common pain relief. It also acts as a natural pain reliever itself, particularly good for post-workout aches and pains. Researchers from the University of Georgia discovered that patients who drank two cups of coffee after working out, reduced common post-workout aches and pains by almost 50%. Experts also claim that caffeine is good for a pre-workout boost too, as it has been proven to raise the body's pain threshold.
The humble sage is commonly used to treat throat ailments, like tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, gum disease, laryngitis, as well as other problems like headaches, bruises, bad memory and common menopause symptoms. Sage contains rosmarinic acid, which is absorbed into the body and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, which soothes inflamed muscles. Add it to boiling water and make your own sage tea, or sprinkle it as a seasoning on your food.