NSAIDS for Inflammation? Think Again.Apr 11, 2016
For decades now Advil, Aleve, Midol, Motrin, aspirins and other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have been the go-to drugs for headaches, aching joints, menstrual cramps and other symptoms of painful inflammation. Doctors widely recommend them, they’ve been on the market for years, and the average consumer believes they are safe.
In truth, NSAIDs offer short-term relief, at best, and contribute to a long list of adverse side effects, at worst.
While just about everyone swallows these pills on occasion, 60 million people take them regularly. The cost per year in the U.S. comes to five billion dollars for prescription NSAIDs, and another two billion dollars for over-the-counter NSAIDs.
Here are six good reasons to reconsider regular NSAID use.
1) Gastrointestinal Irritation
Medline Plus explains this succinctly:
“NSAIDs such as ibuprofen may cause ulcers, bleeding, or holes in the stomach or intestine. These problems may develop at any time during treatment, may happen without warning symptoms, and may cause death. The risk may be higher for people who take NSAIDs for a long time, are older in age, have poor health, or who drink three or more alcoholic drinks per day while taking ibuprofen. If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop taking ibuprofen and call your doctor: stomach pain, heartburn, vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds, blood in the stool, or black and tarry stools.”
What causes the problem? NSAIDs reduce inflammation by suppressing the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme but also blocks the cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) enzyme needed for a healthy stomach lining. In plain English, NSAIDS interfere with the mucus that Mother Nature designed to protectively coat our stomachs.
2) Heart Attack and Stroke
Last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced with great fanfare that regular NSAIDs use can increase the risk for stroke and heart conditions, with the most common symptom being atrial fibrillation. Although the drugs are still widely available, the FDA now requires warning labels. Given that the evidence has been mounting for decades, this is a case of better late than never.
The study that caught people’s attention came out of Oxford University in 2012. Researchers reviewed 639 studies involving 353,000 people and found increased risk for heart attack and stroke. It broke down to about eight more heart attacks or strokes for every one thousand people on the NSAID drugs. Back in 1998, the Life Extension Foundation — never one to mince words — blamed NSAIDS for directly or indirectly killing more than 7000 Americans and causing more than 70,000 hospitalizations per year. Today the figures cited are closer to 15,000 deaths and 85,000 hospitalizations per year.
3) Flesh-eating Bacteria
NSAIDS may trigger changes in common strep bacteria, transforming them into virulent strains that cause necrotizing fasciitis, an infectious disease marked by destroyed skin and muscle. Tabloids have had a heyday with this devastating disease, running headlines such as “Flesh Eating Bug Ate My Face.”
The association was first noted back in 1985, but thirty years later it has been neither proven or nor disproven. Although the New Zealand Journal has reported that five out of seven cases occur in people who take NSAIDS, correlation does not equal causation. “Indication bias” also figures in, given the possibility that NSAIDS drugs are taken in response to the disease rather than contributing to or causing it.
If NSAIDS are responsible, it’s most likely because they reduce pain and inflammation by impairing immune function and by interfering with chemotaxis, granulocyte adhesion, phagocytosis and bacteriocidal activity. In other words, they prevent the immune system from doing its job. What’s more, by masking the symptoms, NSAIDS delay diagnosis, allowing the infection to take hold, and putting susceptible people — particularly children with varicella — at risk.
4) Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Many women take NSAIDS to relieve cramps and pain during their menstrual periods. The perfect storm for Toxic Shock Syndrome is the use of super absorbent tampons (which cause adverse changes in vaginal bacteria), the presence of deadly staph bacteria and the use of NSAIDS.
As with necrotizing fasciitis, NSAIDS might not cause or contribute to the problem. Rather the drugs may disable the immune system, mask symptoms and delay diagnosis.
Millions of people take NSAIDS to suppress arthritic symptoms, not knowing that they may be worsening the disease. NSAIDS work by blocking the COX 1 and 2 enzymes needed to produce prostaglandins. While that can reduce pain and fever by inhibiting the prostaglandins that trigger inflammation, NSAIDs also block the production of healing prostaglandins, glycosaminoglycans (GAGS) and hyaluronic acid (HA). GAGS are needed for a healthy cartilage matrix, and HA for the synovial fluid needed to lubricate joints.
One out of seven couples today has difficulty getting pregnant, and experts predict it will soon be one out of four. Few people know that NSAID drugs may be contributing to the problem. Yet adverse effects have been reported for many years.
At the 2015 conference of the European League Against Rheumatism, Sami Salman, MD, of the University of Baghdad, reported that even short-term use of NSAIDs could adversely affect a woman’s fertility. The small study involved 39 women of childbearing age who were given one of three types of NSAIDs drugs on the first day of their periods. While all of the women in the placebo group ovulated, three-quarters of the women taking naproxen (popular brands include Midol and Aleve ) and etoricoxib (Arcoxia), and 94 percent of those taking diclofenic (Voltaren, Zipsor, Pennsaid) did not. Worse, some of the women developed cysts.
As Dr. Salmon humbly explained to Medscape Medical News, “I’m actually a very late whistleblower because many others have tried to say the same thing: that NSAIDs — which are widely used and can be bought without a prescription — prevent the ovarian follicle from rupturing so women who are taking NSAIDs cannot release an ovum to be fertilized.”
Dr. Salmon reported that the anovulatory effect of NSAIDS is reversible — even as quickly as in one menstrual cycle. But he added that a woman is not going to get pregnant if she continues to take NSAIDS, and advises doctors to warn women to “stop taking these drugs if they want to be fertile.”
What does Big Pharm have to say”
It insists that if the drugs were so dangerous people just wouldn’t be taking them.
What To Do Instead?
Stop seeing inflammation as the enemy. See it as a helpful warning.
Work with an alternative doctor, nutritionist or other health care practitioner to get to the root cause of your headaches, menstrual cramps, aching joints and other ills. If you think I might be able to help, click the Contact button at the bottom of this page and book your free “Get Acquainted Call.”
Consider supplementing with antioxidants and/or taking herbs such as boswellia, turmeric and ginger. Although it can be tempting to do it yourself, a knowledgeable health care practitioner can help you evaluate and monitor proper dose, product potency, best brands, and other factors. Keep in mind that even “safe and natural” products are not right for all people at all times.
Make needed dietary changes. Eliminate packaged, processed and fast foods containing MSG and other additives. Evaluate whether gluten and grains are inflammatory for you. Cut out all inflammatory fats. Stop taking rancid or “fermented” flax, fish or cod liver oil products. Regard bone broth as your number one healing food and enjoy a few cups every day. Don’t make enough broth or don’t like it? Collagen and cartilage supplements can do the trick. Click here to learn why I love the Vital Proteins brand.