Many People in Pain Share One Common Inflammatory Chemical

  • Published
  • 3 mins read

Published 3-7-09

“Dear Pharmacist,

After recent blood tests, I have been diagnosed with Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Can you suggest supplements to help me get a life?”

–A.D. Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Answer: Lyme disease -an infection transmitted by ticks- can cause headaches, severe muscle and joint pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, memory loss and difficulty concentrating. It sounds a lot like fibromyalgia and CFS doesn’t it? I can’t determine whether or not you genuinely have all three conditions. Regardless, your complex disorders each have various causative factors and their own cluster of symptoms. They are almost always associated with high levels of pain-causing inflammatory chemicals, one of which is called TNFa.

It stands for Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, and we shorten it to TNF. This bad boy increases your risk for tumors, and it causes systemic pain (think pain all over). It’s associated with chronic low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis, Alzheimer’s, peripheral artery disease, Crohn’s disease, asthma, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriasis and guess what else, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease and chronic fatigue syndrome! If you are reading this and suffer from one of these conditions or any type of “itis” problem (like pancreatitis, arthritis, etc.) talk to your doctor about reducing TNF and other nasty pain-causing chemicals like substance P. It’s not a cure-all, but it may help.

Doctors often prescribe injectable drugs like Enbrel, Remicade, Cimzia and Humira to block TNF. Certainly, this is one option but this class of drugs makes me nervous. New studies suggest that TNF blockers almost double your risk for shingles and they may cause life-threatening fungal infections. To reduce Substance P, doctors usually prescribe narcotics like Vicodin, Percocet or morphine which dull your sense of pain. Whether or not these are right for you is between you and your doctor. Believe it or not, there are natural TNF blockers in your own kitchen:

Curcumin: It’s a natural yellow dye found in the spice turmeric. High-quality curcumin supplements are terrific antioxidants and many studies prove that curcumin reduces TNF.

Ginger: A powerful anti-inflammatory. Buy it fresh, not powdered. Peel it, and grate about an inch into your soups, sauces or  morning juice. Steep it in hot water to make tea which is terrific for nausea and indigestion. If you supplement take about 1,000 mg two to four times daily.

Cook with fresh rosemary and oregano. Green tea lowers TNF also. If you want to supplement, consider Zyflamend, a unique product that combines many strong anti-inflammatory herbs that may help with the painful disorders I’ve discussed today. I have no connection to the makers, I just like to point you in healthy directions. This product is sold at health food stores, online and there is information at

Did You Know?
If you drink a glass of red wine each night, thiamine supplements can protect your gut lining.