Ibuprofen and aspirin are in nearly 100% of medicine cabinets across America. They are such a prominent part of our culture that many carry them around in day bags, popping one or two anti-inflammatory capsules into our mouth at the slightest hint of discomfort. We often don’t put much thought into it all because it’s accepted that these pain relievers aren’t damaging to our health but the truth is, your body is far better equipped to relieve pain than ibuprofen and aspirin give us credit for.
Many doctors will prescribe mainstream pain relievers, also known as NSAIDs, for chronic pain and inflammation. Of course, these aren’t as potentially harmful, addictive, or potent as prescription opioids, so these drugs have a valuable place in managing pain. But that doesn’t mean they’re actually a healthy go-to in the long term. Here are three reasons you should avoid using over the counter pain relievers on a daily or regular basis.
They can wreak havoc on your digestive system.
This is actually an effect that’s placed right on the labels of these drugs: “NSAIDs such as ibuprofen may cause ulcers, bleeding, or holes in the stomach and/or intestine.” The very things that stimulate inflammation are called prostaglandins, which are also necessary for protecting the lining of your gut. When NSAIDs block prostaglandins, they’re also slowly tearing down the lining within your stomach. And while a “leaky gut” may just sound unpleasant, the truth is that it can actually lead to severe autoimmune issues.
The Heighten Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
This is one of the more well-known side effects of over-the-counter pain relief drugs. In fact, for more than a decade the FDA has been issuing warnings that NSAIDs can damage your heart.
Within the first week of use, they say the risk of heart problems starts to increase significantly and that risk only grows stronger as a person continues their use of the same drugs. Even if you have no existing risks of heart attack or stroke, to begin with, NSAIDs have still been found to pose a risk.
At one time, researchers found that COX-2 NSAIDs caused 140,000 heart attacks during the five years they were on the market. This finding led to examining ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen for the same risks.
They FEED Gut Bacteria
Now, we already know NSAIDs slowly break down the lining of your gut, but they also actually feed gut bacteria in the process. Depending on the drug, you’re actually creating new and different gut bacteria, like ibuprofen, for example. One study found that Ibuprofen and arthritis drug celecoxib (Celebrex) increased pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae. This is a family of bacteria that includes E. coli, Salmonella, and a number of lesser-known bacteria that contribute to eye, skin, respiratory, and urinary tract infections.
So in reality, while these over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories aid us in one way, they’re actually simultaneously creating an entirely different world of problems for your longterm health.