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Nutraceuticals and Inflammation

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Pain management caused by inflammation is an important part of veterinary care. Musculoskeletal pain can result from tissue damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, bone and articular surfaces. Depending upon location, function and innervation, musculoskeletal pain can have varying characteristics and patterns:

• Radiates from one area to another (referred pain)

• Cycles from one joint or muscle to another

• Aggravated by climatic changes (rain/wind/cold)

• Acute trigger point pain in muscles, ligaments, and tendons

• Aggravated with movement

• Improved with movement

• Mollified by cold/ice

• Assuaged by heat/water

Various types of tissue injury can lead to chronic inflammation and pain through a complex cascade of signaling events. Injured cells release arachidonic acid, a membrane lipid, which is converted through enzymatic reactions to leukotrienes and prostaglandins that can trigger further inflammatory responses and increase the sensitivity of pain receptors. Simultaneously, the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and pro-inflammatory cytokines from damaged cells triggers the activation of the transcriptional factor NF-B. This protein serves as a major control point in the inflammatory process, and further perpetuates the cycle of inflammation and pain by increasing the expression of a variety of pro-inflammatory cytokines and enzymes.

Nutraceutical support includes the use of antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids, and specific botanical ingredients that target the enzymes and other mediators of the inflammatory signaling cascade, and support a healthy anti-inflammatory response.

Boswellia is powdered gum resin of the plant Boswellia serrata. Active molecules include a variety of triterpenoids, collectively called boswellic acids, that have been demonstrated to be potent inhibitors of the pro-inflammatory enzyme 5-lipoxygenase, and also act via the inhibition of prostaglandin E synthase-1 and the serine protease cathepsin G. In animal and human studies, boswellia has shown to exhibit analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Yucca is dried powder from the plant Yucca schidigera. Active molecules include trans-3,3’,5,5’-tetrahydroxy-4’- methoxystilbene, alexin and reseveratrol, as well as additional saponins and phenolic compounds. These molecules have been demonstrated to act as potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. One of the primary mechanisms of action for its anti-inflammatory activity is proposed to occur via inhibition of NF-κB and nitric oxide synthase (iNOS).

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) occurs naturally in fresh fruit, whole grains, vegetables and animals. It serves as a source of sulfur necessary for the health and maintenance of mammalian connective tissues. MSM has been demonstrated to inhibit the activity of NF-κB, leading to a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines, nitric oxide, and prostaglandin E2.

Meadowsweet is the common name for the herb Filipendula ulmaria. Key classes of molecules identified in meadowsweet include salicylates, tannins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and phenolic glycosides. Meadowsweet’s analgesic effects are largely attributed to salicylic aldehyde, a precursor for acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin).

Nutraceuticals may be used to support health and well-being. Whatever treatment strategy you choose, it is important to continue assessing pain and other health indicators to ensure the patient stays comfortable and general health is maintained.


Andrew G. Yersin, PhD, is president of the companion animal health division of Kemin Industries.