What do I need to know about NSAIDs?

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) – commonly known as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen – are medications used for muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, menstrual pain, etc. If NSAIDs are used short term (a few days or up to few weeks) they can be safe and effective in providing pain relief and reducing swelling. However, it is always extremely important to know the cause of the pain and/or swelling in the first place. You don’t have that headache frequently because of an aspirin deficiency. Remember, NSAIDs are purely to help relieve the symptoms but do not deal with the cause.

It is completely appropriate to use NSAIDS if you injure yourself, as they are extremely effective in relieving pain and swelling; but if NSAIDS are used longer than a few weeks there are many serious adverse side effects that can occur:

  • Long term NSAID use leads to joint destruction, promotes “leaky gut”, can cause gastric ulcers and bleeding, and can cause liver and/or kidney failure.
  • NSAIDs promote joint destruction by interfering with cartilage formation and can accelerate the development of osteoarthritis.
  • NSAIDs damage the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to ulcers or bleeds; and can disrupt the lining, causing increased absorption of food proteins into the blood stream. This in turn can lead to food sensitivities, increase inflammation and increased pain.
  • NSAIDs can put an extreme burden on the liver, since this is the main organ that detoxifies these drugs, but more commonly can create kidney problems.
  • NSAIDS should NEVER be taken before exercise or other forms of exertion because this increases the chance of kidney failure due to decreased blood flood to the kidneys – starving them of oxygen and nutrients.

Chronic NSAID use is a widespread problem. Conservative calculations estimate that 107,000 patients are hospitalized each year and at least 16,500 deaths are related to their long term use.

Please ask about the many alternatives to chronic NSAID use.

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