7 Natural Alternatives to NSAIDs (& My “Nutrient Shotgun Approach” To Tackling Exercise-Induced Soreness & Aggravation).

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It's now common knowledge, especially with these most recent studies on the effects of painkillers on kidney toxicity and muscle damage, that ibuprofen, Advil and any other NSAID's absolutely wreak havoc on your liver, gut and kidney – especially (and quite ironically considering when most exercise enthusiasts time the consumption of these anti-inflammatories) if you consume these before, during or after exercise.

Want me to prove it?

Although studies published since 2005 have investigated the safety of NSAID’s before exercise, a more recent study entitled “Aggravation of Exercise-Induced Intestinal Injury by Ibuprofen in Athletes” was pretty upsetting. In this study, nine healthy and trained men were studied on 4 different occasions: 1) taking a standard dose of 400 mg ibuprofen twice prior to a bike workout. 2) cycling without the ibuprofen; 3) taking 400 mg ibuprofen twice at rest and finally 4) resting without ibuprofen intake.

In each case, researchers measured small intestinal damage through monitoring plasma intestinal fatty acid binding protein (I-FABP). They also measured urinary excretion of special sugar probes, which can determine the amount of gastrointestinal permeability – a sign that the gut is becoming “leaky”.

So what did the researchers find?

While both ibuprofen consumption and working out both resulted in increased I-FABP levels (reflecting small intestinal injury), levels were higher after cycling with ibuprofen than after cycling without ibuprofen. In addition, gut permeability (“leakiness”) also increased, especially after cycling with ibuprofen – which reflected a loss of gut barrier integrity. In addition, the amount of intestinal injury from ibuprofen and gut barrier dysfunction were extremely well correlated. Based on this study, it can be concluded that exercise slightly aggravates your small intestine, and ibuprofen turns this into a significantly risky issue.

I can’t sum it up any better than the researchers who concluded that “NSAID consumption by athletes is not harmless and should be discouraged”.

So what about the popular practice of taking NSAID’s before a long event like an Ironman or a marathon to “mask the pain”?

It turns out this has also been researched.

One study found that taking 400 mg ibuprofen four hours before exercise reduced the soreness, but didn’t actually prevent muscle cell injury – which is concerning since this means that the ibuprofen may mask pain, but at the same time, can lead to increased risk of injury as you push through muscle damage. In this study, researchers measured creatine kinase (CK), which is a protein that muscle cells release when they are injured.

Other studies have found that NSAID use during long events, such as a marathon or triathlon, actually decreases kidney function, which can lead to very dangerous issues during exercise, including a decreased ability to properly regulate your sodium and electrolyte status and your hydration levels. This becomes especially dangerous in the heat, in which there already a great amount of stress on the kidneys and this extra stress may create a high risk of long-term kidney damage or kidney failure. One of most eye-opening studies on ibuprofen use during exercise occurred in research performed during the Western States trail running race, which is a popular and grueling 100-mile race.

In this study, runners were split into three groups: a group with no ibuprofen intake, a group taking 600 mg of ibuprofen one day before and on race day, and a group taking 1200 mg of ibuprofen one day before and on race day (having a group that was actually taking more ibuprofen allows researchers to see if there is a “dose response”, meaning whether a more pronounced effect is seen if more ibuprofen is given). This study found that both of the ibuprofen groups had significantly higher levels of markers for severe muscle damage, including C-reactive protein, plasma cytokine, and macrophage inflammatory protein, and this effect increased with higher amounts of ibuprofen intake.

Ironically, race time, post-workout soreness and rating of perceived exertion were not affected by taking ibuprofen – which means that A) ibuprofen did not help at all and B) ibuprofen caused significantly greater inflammation and muscle damage compared to not using them at all.

And now, as of last month, there are two more scary studies on NSAID's.

In one of the new studies, researchers asked 89 participants in several multiday ultramarathons around the world to consume either ibuprofen or a placebo every four hours during a 50-mile stage of their race.

Afterward, they drew blood from the athletes and checked their levels of creatinine (a byproduct of the kidneys’ blood filtering process and a sign of acute kidney stress). They found that a large percentage of all the participants, about 44%, had creatinine levels high enough to indicate acute kidney injury after running 50 miles.

But the organ stress was particularly high among the runners who had taken ibuprofen – who were about 18% more likely to have an acute kidney injury compared to the racers who took a placebo. In addition, their injuries (based on creatinine levels) tended to be more severe. The researchers theorized that, by inhibiting prostaglandins, the NSAID's prevent blood vessels from widening. Crimping blood flow to the kidneys might make it harder for those organs to filter the blood.

The second study backed this up and found that by reducing the production of prostaglandins, NSAIDs change how a body responds to muscular exertion. Researchers looked at muscle cells and tissue from mice that had experienced muscular injuries and compared the injuries to those that often develop during strenuous exercise. The tissue in the injured areas filled with a particular type of prostaglandin that plays an important role: stimulating stem cells within the muscles to begin multiplying to create new muscle cells that repair tissue damage. Afterward, tests in the mice showed that the healed muscle tissue was stronger than it had been before.

This process mimics exactly what should happen when you exercise strenuously – straining and then rebuilding muscle. But when the researchers used NSAIDs to block the production of prostaglandins, they found that fewer stem cells became active, fewer new cells were produced, and the muscle tissue (even after healing) was not as strong and supple. These findings imply that anti-inflammatory painkillers might impair your muscles’ ability to regenerate and strengthen after hard workouts.

So as you can see, the use of NSAID’s isn’t really a case of “jury’s out”.

Just don’t use them. Period. With so many other natural methods out there to control pain or quell chronic inflammation, this seems to be a no-brainer. Towards the end of this article, I'll fill you in on the potent supplement alternative I use to avoid dumping NSAID's into my body, but first, let's look at a few other non-pill alternatives.

NSAID Alternative #1: Slather Yourself In Magnesium Lotion

In the article “Why I Slather My Body With Magnesium Oil After Every Hard Workout“, I delve into the science behind transdermal magnesium therapy, and the notoriously poor absorbability of magnesium powders and capsules compared to a topical application (here's the latest study that shows the superiority of topical vs. oral magnesium). 

Problem is, magnesium oil makes the sheets “sticky” when you sleep, and it stings quite a bit if it touches any open wounds or cuts – and I'm certainly often covered with both due to obstacle course racing, hiking and hunting. 

Enter magnesium lotion.

The stuff I use is made by “Ancient Minerals”. It is formulated for even the most sensitive of skin and designed to deliver magnesium through the dermis, directly to the cells, where it can relax muscles and combat calcium build-up from muscle micro-tearing. Contaminants in sea waters make finding a pure magnesium source tough, so the source used in this lotion is from something called “Zechstein Minerals”, which sounds like some kind of Nazi military food but is apparently a very pure source of magnesium.

In addition to 185mg of elemental magnesium in each teaspoon, it also contains organic plant moisturizers like coconut oil and shea butter, which soothe and hydrate without leaving your skin feeling waxy or greasy. It is fragrance-free and does not contain any formaldehyde releasing preservatives.

After a tough training session or race, I simply put about a quarter size dab into my hand and put that amount on one leg, then do the same thing for the other leg, both arms, and my low back. It goes right through the skin and directly into the muscles. Not only does this approach seem to help folks who tend to get non-exercise related nighttime leg cramps, but anyone who has raced an Ironman, a Hurricane Heat, a century cycling race or any other long event knows that one thing that keeps you awake at night afterwards are your legs, abs and/or arms twitching and cramping, and this also keeps that from happening.

Finally, if you really want to take your magnesium application to the next level, you can also try the following 1-2-3 combo to drive the lotion even more deeply into the tissue. I learned this trick from former podcast guest and Tour de France recovery specialist Jeff Spencer


NSAID Alternative #2: Sweat & Shiver

It's no secret that when I'm at home, I incorporate plenty of “cold thermogenesis” via cold showers in my well water and cold soaks in the tub behind my house along with infrared and sauna.

I'm so hooked on sweat and shivering (also known as “hot-cold contrast”), that when I travel to very sauna-friendly locations such as Finland or Japan, one of my favorite things to do to beat jetlag and recovery quickly from airline travel is to visit a traditional sauna or bathhouse, and partake in 45-90 minutes of heat therapy combined with cold therapy. From anti-aging to skin healing to detoxing to moving lymph fluid to massively speeding up muscle and joint recovery, there are a variety of benefits you get from this kind of “sweating and shivering”.

For those of you who think that a spa or sauna is just a place to go get your nails done, grab a massage or sit in a claustrophobic stinky wooden-slatted room with a bunch of naked or half-naked hippies, allow me to correct your misguided assumptions. For example, one of my favorite spas is in Seattle and is called Banya 5. It combines the best of Turkish hammams, Russian banyas, Finnish saunas and Japanese bathhouses.

The first thing inside Banya 5 is a “parilka”, which is a dry sauna made of tons of concrete and brick that generates a radiant heat that gets far hotter than traditional saunas. This deeply penetrating heat relaxes muscles and regulates breathing, and they even provide oak leaf “veniks” to perform a traditional “platza”, which basically involves whipping yourself with branches, a treatment that tones the skin and stimulates circulation.

Next, they have a Turkish steam room, in which steam brushes over fresh eucalyptus boughs to produce a nourishing, moist 113 degree heat that provides significant benefit to the skin and respiratory system. The moist heat decreases respiratory congestion to soothe, relax and ease breathing and the steam also opens skin pores to help the body expel toxins and rehydrate dry skin. I've always said you need to be careful with steam rooms to ensure the water being pumped in is chlorine and fluoride free, so if you decide to take up a regular spa habit, always check first to ensure a good water filtration system is being used at whichever sauna you choose.

There is also a saltwater tepid pool. This particular pool mimics the salinity of Puget Sound in Washington state, and is basically an 87 degree mineral salt bath that decreases muscle tension and increases relaxation as you are “held” in the buoyant, mineral-infused water, much like a “float tank”. Like the magnesium lotion mentioned above, the salt water also increases the absorption of minerals lost in the sweat.

Next is my favorite part: the cold plunge. The internal organs, blood, lymph and nervous system are particularly stimulated by the contrast of radiant heat and extreme cold. Cold water plunging is an important part of hydrotherapy, especially for the circulatory system, and at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, this cold plunge is no joke. Immersion in this temperature of cold water constricts skin pores and blood vessels that have ideally first been dilated from the heat to create an invigorating pumping action of the venous system that flushes metabolic wastes and toxins.

So when I have access to heat and cold like this, what exactly is my method? A full 60 minute routine for me might look something like this:

-15 minutes dry sauna with stretches and yoga like this 

-5 minutes full body immersion in extreme cold

-15 minutes steam room with deep nasal box-breathing (4 count in, 4 count hold, 4 count out, 4 count hold) 

-5 minutes full body immersion in extreme cold

-15 minutes saline pool soak with static breath holds 

-5 minutes full body immersion in extreme cold

If you can hunt down a Finnish Sauna, Turkish Bath, Japanese Bathhouse or anything else like it, you must give this routine a try sometime. Finish with the cold water and a cup of hot tea or coffee, and I guarantee you'll have a “relaxation and recovery” high, unlike anything you've experienced before. This is an especially potent alternative to NSAID's for anyone who has just finished an extremely hard workout or race.

NSAID Alternative #3: Suck Down Decaf Coffee

Speaking of coffee, here's another tip I haven't talked about much before in my other recovery articles: I go nuts for decaf coffee in the days after a tough event or very hard training block or training session. While caffeinated coffee can overstimulate the central nervous system and wreak havoc on my recovery napping, the same cannot be said of decaf coffee.

There's a tremendous amount of research showing the antioxidant benefits of coffee, and these benefits come from the large amounts of antioxidants in coffee, not necessarily the caffeine. There's actually not a major difference in the amount of antioxidants in regular vs. decaffeinated coffee.

For example, one group in Italy measured antioxidant activity using a number of tests, including the Ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP), the total radical-trapping antioxidant parameter (TRAP) and Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC). These tests look at how well various chemical changes occur with the interaction of various foods. the results showed that there wasn't a significant difference in antioxidant activity between regular and decaffeinated beverages.

Now here's the deal: almost all decaffeinated coffee is produced using a Swiss water process or carbon dioxide extraction, both of which are quite harmless. However, you may have also heard that some major chains, such as Starbucks, use a chemical process to decaffeinate their coffee that may be harmful to you.

Starbucks does, in fact, use a solvent called methylene chloride to produce all but one of their decaffeinated coffees (methylene chloride is a toxic compound and suspected carcinogen). As with most solvents, you don't want to breathe the fumes or let it touch your skin. However, the coffee you drink is not the concern here. Decaffeinated coffee contains no detectable traces of the methylene chloride because it is burned off by the high roasting temperatures (you're much more likely to come in contact with this chemical in paint thinners or adhesives). However, workers who roast the coffee may indeed get occupational exposure to methylene chloride.

So if you do decide to go with Starbucks for your coffee, then use the decaf Sumatra blend, which is the only one I'm aware of that is made with a non-toxic Swiss water process. If you're going to drink Starbucks decaffeinated coffee and you care about those poor coffee workers getting exposed to chemicals, then choose that blend.

One other quick and interesting note about decaf coffee. Caffeine can inhibit mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin), a mechanism that increases protein synthesis in your muscles after exercise. So when you use decaffeinated beans, you can consume coffee post workout, and continue to optimally build and repair muscle. Cool, eh?

NSAID Alternative #4: Eat Sulfur-Rich Foods

Ever smell a rotten egg?

That's a sulfur-rich food. Sulfur is one of the most abundant mineral elements in the human body, coming in at around 140 grams for the average person and is involved in hundreds of physiological processes, including the formation of the disulfide bonds that give strength and resiliency to hair and skin, taurine synthesis for proper functioning of the cardiovascular system, muscles, and the central nervous system, and perhaps most importantly for recovery, the synthesis of glutathione, one of the body's premier endogenous antioxidants.

But you don't need to eat rotten eggs to get sulfur.

Sulfur is found in methionine, an essential amino acid found in meat, eggs, and cheese, and it's also found in cysteine, an amino acid found in pork, poultry, eggs, and milk. But when I'm recovering from a hard workout or race, my body simply doesn't seem to function as well when being forced to digest complex, protein-rich foods, so I'll often instead opt for oodles and oodles of sulfur-rich vegetables (which don't just contain the sulfur that animal meats do, but also more potent groups called “organosulfur compounds“), along with 10-20 tablets of methionine-rich “essential amino acids“.

What qualifies as a sulfur-rich vegetable?

Any and all fibrous non-leafy green vegetables that steam well and emit that distinctive, rotten-egg-ish odor usually contain decent amounts of sulfur, including brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and related vegetables, and alliums like onions, shallots, garlic, and leeks.

For example, a variety garlic sulfides have been shown to protect your body from peroxidative damage and increase glutathione activity in the liver.  Sulforaphane, an organosulfur compound found in broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, inhibits mitochondrial permeability and reduces oxidative stress by increasing glutathione activity.

So, typically, after a hard workout, hours after a difficult race or following a long bout of air travel, you'll often find me loading up at the salad bar located at the nearest natural grocery store I can find (I'll often book hotels that are near a Whole Foods, Sprouts Market, etc.) for lunch and dinner (and even often for breakfast) the day after a tough event. I simply eat tons and tons of sulfur-rich vegetables combined with small amounts of anti-oxidant rich fats such as avocados, olive oil and walnuts.

A sulfur-rich salad from a salad bar like this might contain:

-Roasted cauliflower
-Roasted broccoli
-Red onions
-Roasted garlic
-Steamed cabbage
-Roasted brussels sprouts
-Avocado chunks
-Black rice noodles
-Olive oil
-Chopped walnuts
-Sea salt
-Black pepper

Ahh, but wait (even if you're not a card-carrying orthorexic)…

…what about all the canola oil in the fancy salad bars at places like Whole Foods, where I typically go to load up on these veggies if I'm traveling?

Here's the deal: canola oil comes from a specifically bred variety of rapeseed, which is part of the mustard family along with kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, and is also very high in – you guessed it – sulfur content. Rapeseed oil has been a part of traditional diets in Eastern Europe, especially Poland, India, Japan, China and Canada for thousands of years.

It's actually a myth that all canola oil is GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). The development of canola oil predated genetic engineering by almost 20 years. Canola was bred using traditional plant breeding methods. These methods involve selecting desired traits followed by crossing these traits into existing varieties until the offspring exhibit the desired characteristics. While it is true that canola oil was not originally developed using genetic engineering methods, some forms of canola are genetically engineered today. To avoid genetically engineered canola oil, you can choose organic canola oil, which by definition would not be genetically modified, or canola oil that has been non-GMO verified.

So when you look at a grocery store like Whole Foods Market, for example, they only use non-GMO canola oil in their prepared foods they make in-house, and when it's on the salads in the cold salad bar, it's rarely been oxidized at extreme temperatures.

Furthermore, also a myth that all canola oil is extracted with chemical solvents. Vegetable oils can be extracted by one of two major methods: They can be expeller pressed (a mechanical process which literally squeezes the oil out of the vegetable) or solvent extracted (a chemical process whereby a solvent, usually hexane, is used to remove the oil). At Whole Foods Market, it's all expeller pressed, non-GMO canola oil.

For low temperatures like salad and vegetables, canola is fairly heat-stable too, and yeah, although it's not quite as good as avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil, in my opinion, when I'm getting all the benefits of a big, sulfur-rich salad while traveling, the pros outweigh the cons.

So there. You'll have to drag me kicking and screaming from my occasional big-ass Whole Foods salad.

Except that pesky $22 average price tag when I weigh and pay for the darn thing.

NSAID Alternative #5: Walk

Even if I'm blistering, hobbling, limping and teeth-grittingly sore after a race like an Ironman or a Spartan, I still go out of my way to walk (often thousands and thousands of steps) the day after a hard event.

Sure, the first few steps usually suck, bigtime, but then after that, things get easier. Blood begins to flow. Lymph fluid begins to the circulate. The heart begins to pump.

One study found that grounding yourself to the earth, or “Earthing,” might help relieve Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). When walking barefoot on beach sand, close to or in the water and on dewy grass, free electrons in the ground that are called “negative ions” transfer into your body through the soles of your feet. These free electrons are some of the most potent antioxidants known to man, and experiments such as those discussed in the documentary and book that my friend Dr. Mercola talks about here have shown exposure to negative ions from the ground and earth can decrease pain and inflammation, improve sleep and make your blood less viscous – all good news if you're worried about clotting and soreness after a tough event.

In addition to the ground itself, three other potent sources of negative ions include the air your breathe when you are walking next to moving water such as waterfalls or the ocean the gases released by plants and trees and sunlight (even through the clouds) – so a walk outdoors on the beach or in a forest is actually a perfect recovery tactic.

In a recent BenGreenfieldFitness podcast, I even talked about special sandals I wear called “EarthRunners”, which are equipped with carbon lacing and carbon plugs built into the bottom of the sandal. Unlike rubber-soled shoes or sandals, this type of grounding footwear conducts negative ions from surfaces like sand, concrete, grass, roads, blacktop, etc. and straight up into your feet, while still allowing you to walk around shod (e.g. not looking like a hippie barefoot caveman).

NSAID Alternative #6: Dig Into Tissue

When I'm at home, at least once per week, I complete an entire metabolic mobility routine for 45-60 minutes, usually on a Wednesday morning, and often for a bonus weekend session. The video below shows exactly what I do (click here for YouTube version with full workout description).

I also try to get a massage like this once every one to two weeks. It sucks and it hurts but it works wonders for keeping my body aligned and moving well (and I recently came across the app “Soothe“, which easily allows me to hunt down a massage therapy just about anywhere in the US and get them to come to my condo, hotel or anywhere else).

Why do I do all this seemingly masochistic body work?

You can read my entire brain-dump on the importance of maintaining supple connective tissue and fascia here, along with the extreme importance of deep tissue work to help one recover from tough workouts or races.

But when I'm traveling or stuck in a hotel room during a conference or after a race, and since I pack light, I often don't have access to the entire suite of medieval torture devices that I do at home.

So what do I do instead? I get creative.

-The corners of dumbbells or kettlebells at the average hotel gym can easily be used to dig into the sides of your hips or sore shoulders…

-A water bottle like a Nalgene can be wrapped in a sock or item of clothing and used as a roller for the calves, forearms, sides of hips, low back, hamstrings, hip flexors, IT band, quadriceps, etc…

-Tennis balls, softballs, and lacrosse balls can be used to dig into your neck, the back of your shoulders, your hips, etc. and golf balls are perfect for the feet…

-Rocks, the corners of park benches, flagpoles, etc. at an outdoor park setting can also be used on hips, backs, the undersides of knees and more…

So get creative. Remember Baloo the Bear from the Jungle Book cartoon, who rubbed his back incessantly on a tree? Be like that. You don't necessarily need to pack a massage therapist and a giant foam roller in your suitcase.

NSAID Alternative #7: Use The Shotgun Approach

Now, of course, from berberine to curcumin to tart cherry and beyond, there are a ton of natural anti-inflammatory supplements you could use as an alternative to NSAID's, but for a “shotgun approach” that mixes just about every natural NSAID alternative that exists in one fell swoop, I usually use just one: Kion Flex.

Kion Flex is a pretty unique bone and joint formula that assists with more rapid recovery from hard workouts and provides your body with the nutrients to stay ahead of the exercise-recovery cycle while supporting strong bones and joint mobility and flexibility. It contains naturally occurring compounds such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin from type II chicken collagen as well as a specific blend of a gazillion different whole foods, herbs, and enzymes that promote bone and joint wellness and vitality. Specifically, it contains the following blends:

1. Collagen Blend:

Type II Collagen is the principal structural protein in cartilage which provides strength, flexibility and joint support. It comprises over 50% of the protein in cartilage and over 90% of articular (joint) cartilage. A recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study examined the efficacy of oral supplementation of type II collagen on moderating joint function and joint pain due to strenuous exercise in healthy subjects. The study showed that collagen supplementation increased joint mobility, prolonged how long one could exercise before joint pain occurred, improved recovery speeds after exercise, and led to less joint pain after exercise.

The Type II Chicken Collagen used in Kion Flex provides structural support needed for healthy joints. It also contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfates and comes from chickens free of growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and insecticides. This form of collagen is a whole food concentrate that has no known side effects and provides maximum absorption. According to recent studies at Harvard University Medical School, the Type II Collagen derived from Chicken Cartilage can also help to strengthen the immune system.

2. FlexPro Blend:

Cherry Juice: This natural extract has been found to aid in the breakdown of uric acid crystals which deposit in joints, tendons, kidneys and connective tissue. Concentrated cherry juice delivers the powerful antioxidants and bioactive compounds found in fresh cherries such as anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins, without excess carbohydrates or calories.

Ginger: Possesses many strong antioxidant properties and has been shown to relieve muscular discomfort.

Turmeric: Also referred to as curcumin, turmeric manifests excellent antioxidant properties that may protect your cells from free radical damage and support your body’s healthy inflammatory response. Human studies have shown many beneficial aspects of curcumin supplementation, notable here being pain reduction and benefiting inflammatory states.

White Willow Bark: The use of white willow bark for pain relief dates back to over 2400 years to the time of Hippocrates. One was advised to chew the bark to reduce aches and fever. It appears to be particularly well suited for low back pain. Its pain relieving action comes from a glycoside called calicin – from which the body can naturally make salicylic acid (aspirin). The analgesic, pain-killing actions of willow bark are typically slow-acting but are longer lasting than standard aspirin products.

Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic acid is one of the main components of synovial fluid (joint fluid) and is the main lubricating element in synovial fluid.

Boswellia: Known by its more popular name Frankincense, boswellia has been used for hundreds of years to relieve joint discomfort.

Cetyl Myristoleate: This naturally occurring fatty acid promotes joint wellness and has been researched clinically. Preliminary results of several double-blind, randomized controlled, research studies have found cetyl myristoleate effective in improving knee function.

3. Mineral Blend:

Goat Milk Mineral Whey Concentrate: This mineral/electrolyte extract from goat milk whey has been developed using extraction technology known as refractance window drying. This gentle extraction process captures fragile nutrients without harsh processing steps or extreme temperatures. The mineral whey blend in Kion Flex contains over 20 different bio-organic minerals and electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, and phosphorus, minerals critical in maintaining proper muscle, bone and joint health.

4. Enzyme Blend:

Oral enzyme therapy is a unique approach to promoting joint recovery from exercise and breaking down potential blood-clotting components like fibrinogen that build up during big workouts or races. Enzymes coordinate many physiological functions in the body and meet both digestive and metabolic needs by breaking down proteins and peptides into amino acids, the body’s building blocks. Optimal enzyme activity in the body is crucial for overall health. The enzyme blend in Kion Flex contains the following natural enzymes:

-Protease: Converts protein into polypeptides, and breaks down inflammatory byproducts.
-Bromelain: A combination of enzymes from both fruit and leaves of the pineapple plant. Also breaks down inflammatory byproducts.
-Papain: An enzyme found in papayas that breaks down fats and proteins for optimal nutrient absorption. Also breaks down inflammatory byproducts.
-Amylase: Breaks down and digests carbohydrates and inflammatory byproducts.
-Lipase: Fat digesting enzyme, and also breaks down inflammatory byproducts.
-Cellulase: Converts fiber cellulose to glucose, and breaks down inflammatory byproducts. Cellulase is not made in your body and can only be obtained from food or supplements.
-Peptidase: Breaks down proteins at different pH levels along the digestive tract and breaks down inflammatory byproducts.

In addition, Kion Flex contains a unique ingredient: goat milk whey. This type of whey has been used for decades to promote bone density as well as relieve occasional joint discomfort, and it contributes less to allergy or autoimmune issues than other forms of whey can. One world-renowned nutritionist, Dr. Bernard Jensen, used goat milk whey as one of his go-to natural healing foods of choice for healthy joints. This highly concentrated whole food extract also contains a complete array of naturally occurring minerals (including Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium) in ratios easily absorbed by a beat-up body.

Kion Flex does not rely on traditional tableting technology. The reason for this is current tableting technology requires that ingredients be ground extensively and granulated multiple times, then binding agents must be added, and finally, the product must be crushed in a 10 to 100-ton press to successfully “punch” the tablet into shaped. This process exposes delicate ingredients to high pressure, high heat, and lowers the actual bioavailability of the final product. This is precisely the reason Kion Flex uses encapsulation technology that requires no binders, no granulation, no extreme pressure or temperature, along with a non-gelatin, vegetarian capsule made from vegetable cellulose.

When all these components are included together, the result is a bone and joint formula that is far more effective than the basic glucosamine and chondroitin blend that you’ll find in most bone and joint supplements, and a carefully selected blend of ingredients to support bone and joint wellness and vitality.

Now, even though the Kion Flex bottle label instructs you to take “4-6 per day”, I personally don't mess around. If I'm sore, I'll often take 6 morning and 6 evening, and if I'm injured, I'll take as many as 10 morning and 10 evening – usually on an empty stomach so the enzymes work on my muscles and not on food. When it comes to beating back soreness and accelerating recovery without the nasty side effects of NSAIDs, that “nutrient shotgun” approach is incredibly effective for me.


So…let's review:

  1. Slather Yourself In Magnesium
  2. Sweat & Shiver
  3. Suck Down Decaf Coffee
  4. Eat Sulfur-Rich Foods
  5. Walk
  6. Dig Into Tissue
  7. Overdose On Collagen, Herbs, Minerals & Enzymes

When you implement these methods – and especially if you combine them all into one mighty routine – you'll bounce back much, much faster and feel much, much more happy and pain-free after a tough workout, an injury, surgery, or difficult crucibles like a Spartan race, Ironman, bike race, marathon or anything else that seems to absolutely crush you. This translates into extra days available for training, playing sans soreness with family, knowing you're not going to get a blood-clot flying or driving long distances after a hard training block or race, and beating back the chronic repetitive motion and inflammation-related injuries that often rear their ugly heads after your body has been through the grinder.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about anything in this article, or your own recovery tips or natural alternatives to NSAIDs? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to reply!

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20 thoughts on “7 Natural Alternatives to NSAIDs (& My “Nutrient Shotgun Approach” To Tackling Exercise-Induced Soreness & Aggravation).

  1. Jake says:

    Hey Ben – Regarding your mobility routine. a) do you feel you get more out of the myofacsial release techniques when your body is warm or are you simply just multitasking to kill two birds with 1 stone b) I know you are a big fan of the training mask, have you written any articles on the benefits? c) do you have the names of two specific mobility tools you had in the video. The orb you used for your hips and the arm/forearm device( I’ve not found one of these that works very well/efficiently – do you like this one?).

    Alot of questions, I know, hope you can get to them when you have a minute! Thanks again for all that you do.

  2. Karl D Jackson says:

    Hey Anon, a former girlfriend with horrible menstrual cramps was able to resolve it after 16 years with a specific wheat germ oil (perhaps Probin, do not even know if that make it any more or a custom blended ayurvedic formula from Triguna ji.) Wishing you a speedy return to normalcy.

  3. Joe says:

    I’m curious as to why Kratom wasn’t mentioned in this article, considering you did a podcast episode on it?

    1. There are many alternatives to NSAIDs, and Kratom is definitely one of them. Kratom episode was just a few months ago and can be found here if anybody's interested in checking it out. https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/kratom-101

    2. There are many alternatives to NSAIDs, and Kratom is definitely one of them. Kratom episode was just a few months ago and can be found here if anybody's interested in checking it out. https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/kratom-101

  4. Kyle Taylor says:

    Ben, You mentioned the magnesium lotion and it generated a questions I have had regarding magnesium. Are you familiar with the work of Hans Nieper, M.D who formulated special magnesium supplement called 2-AEP Magnesium? This supplement supplies elemental magnesium from magnesium 2-AEP (2-amino ethanol phosphate). Any experience with the 2-AEP formulations that also come in calcium and potassium versions. I believe the most popular stack is the Membrane Complex version that combines 400 mg of calcium (as calcium 2-AEP with 50 mg of elemental calcium), 400 mg of magnesium (as magnesium 2-AEP with 30 mg elemental magnesium), and 200 mg of potassium (as potassium 2-AEP with 40 mg elemental potassium). Appreciate the feedback or your experience with 2-AEP’s.

  5. Kalila says:

    @Anon- I totally agree – I have found that using magnesium lotion on my lower abdomen and lower back during my period has helped tremendously for this. Might be worth a try!

  6. DJD says:

    I put my email address in the form in an attempt to get “The Low Carb Athlete – 100% Free” but it brought me to a webpage with 3 other ebooks for free. Is there a link to the The Low Carb Athlete please.


    1. We are emailing it to you!

  7. Maurice says:

    Regarding mobility video-thanks.

    What about a video of “shaking” to wake you body up.?

    And why do it?


  8. Anon says:

    I use ibuprofen for the first two days of my menstrual cycle. Dysmenorrhea is real and extremely painful. Definitely not comparable at all to sore muslces after a workout. I wish there would be other natural things that would work, but I haven’t found any yet. I do use castor oil pack, progesterone cream, extra magnesium and the age old trick of curling up in a ball in my bed. I also have tried red raspberry tea. I think I probably have 8-10 more years of this (I am 42 now) and have dealt with this for 30 years so far. It really sucks :(

    1. Marc says:

      Have you ever tried Dong Quai?

      Many ladies in my life have gotten relief from it….find a good source like Ron Teagarden (spelling?)

      Stay sane and breathe :-)

    2. Chrissie says:

      Hey Anon, that used to be me! My hot water bottle was my bestie! I realised recently that I’ve had 4 easy months with no pain and the only thing that’s different is changing to the LCHF (low carb healthy fat) diet about 6 months ago. Could be all the green leafy veggies I’m eating but the change has been phenomenal. Good luck ;-)

    3. Alice says:

      I heard you hsve to take it two wks before your period to keep down the prostaglandins

  9. Jesper says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for another great article. It’s a pleasure to follow you.

    In some cases NSAIDs cannot be avoided. For instance, my girlfriend suffers from endometriosis and consumes a lot of painkillers to minimise the pain. Do you have any recommendation on how to minimise the damaging effects or any knowledge regarding healthier alternatives?

    Kind regard,


    1. Yes, all the healthy alternatives are in the article above!

  10. Kate says:

    Thanks for the article. I took NSAIDs for years do you have any recommendations for addressing the potential damage they may have caused…also I have very high BP that can’t really be explained, not sure if excessive NSAIDs have contributed to that, relatively young and low-normal body weight.

    1. I'd approach it from the very same type of gut healing strategy I outline here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/digestio…

  11. gareth says:

    A great post – I only take nsaids when extremely ill with the flu usually these days (which has not been for over a year) – but really turmeric alone feels as good

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