Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to manage pain and inflammation. They work by blocking a specific enzyme called cyclooxygenase (or COX), which blocks hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are a major contributor to inflammation, pain and fever, hence the effectiveness of NSAIDs.
Sounds like a good thing, right? Unfortunately long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to serious health concerns. Even recommended dosages for short periods of time can be harmful. This should be of particular interest to athletes. With the abundance of over-training, repetitive-strain injuries, and general wear and tear, NSAID use is a typical go-to treatment option.
4 Major Reasons to Stay Away From NSAIDs:
1. Intestinal Damage
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, 60% or regular NSAID users will have gastrointestinal side effects, which include gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers. Of particular interest, athletes are at an increased risk when using NSAIDs including Ibuprofen (common brand name Advil) prophylactically before a training session.
With intense exercise, blood gets diverted away from your digestive tract toward your muscles. Insufficient blood flow causes trauma to the small intestine cellular lining. Typically, these cells return to normal within an hour of training. However, researchers have found Ibuprofen use increased levels of a protein, indicating intestinal leakage, which remained elevated for several hours post exercise. It is suspected that intestinal integrity is consequently compromised, allowing small amounts of bacteria and digestive enzymes to leak into the bloodstream and increase systemic inflammation. The absorption of nutrients, especially post exercise, can also be compromised and affect the ability of tired and sore muscles to fuel and regenerate. So in short, Ibuprofen use with exercise can actually increase inflammation, and prevent your muscles from absorbing the necessary nutrients for recovery. Coaching Programs
2. Liver Damage
According to the Mayo Clinic, overdose of acetaminophen (common brand name Tylenol) is the leading cause of acute liver failure in North America. Because acetaminophen is found in over 600 OTC medications, overdosing is very common. Even regular doses of acetaminophen over a short period of time may be enough to cause liver damage. Researchers found that healthy individuals taking just 4g of acetaminophen/day for two weeks induced an increase in liver enzymes – a biomarker for liver damage. Acetaminophen damages the liver by depleting glutathione, a powerful liver anti-oxidant that protect the cells from oxidative stress.
Endurance athletes already experience an increase in liver enzymes and oxidative stress post long distance activities. Although this area has not been well studied, it is already known that people with pre-existing liver damage are at a higher risk of hepatotoxicity with acetaminophen use. It stands to reason endurance athletes may be at a heightened risk. CBD Oil Is it Legal? Will it Help Me?
3. Heart Damage
Heavy NSAID use is a known risk factor for cardiovascular accidents. In fact researchers performed a comprehensive analysis of all randomized controlled trials that compared any NSAID with other NSAIDs or a placebo. The analysis included more than 30 trials that examined in total more than 116,000 patients, and the results were astounding.
Drugs including Rofecoxib (Vioxx) and Lumiracoxib were associated with twice the risk of heart attack, while ibuprofen was associated with more than three times the risk of stroke. Etoricoxib (Arcoxia) and Diclofenac were associated with the highest risk of cardiovascular death.
NSAIDs inhibit the “bad” prostaglandins that cause inflammation and pain, but also inhibit the “good” prostaglandins that dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow. When the “good” prostaglandins are suppressed, the result is higher blood pressure and increased blood clotting. 30 Days Of Superfoods for Pain Relief
4. Kidney Damage
An underappreciated side effect of NSAID use is kidney toxicity. Long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to impaired glomerular filtration, renal tubular necrosis, and ultimately chronic renal failure by disrupting (the “good”) prostaglandin synthesis, which can impair renal blood flow.
Even in NSAID users with healthy kidneys, subclinical irregularities in kidney function are sometimes observed. Researchers found an increased risk of exertional hyponatremia (abnormally low sodium concentration in blood) due to altered kidney function when taking NSAIDs. NSAIDs increase the effect of anti-diuretic hormone, causing the kidneys to retain water and thus diluting sodium levels. This complication is especially concerning if it is hot and humid on race day. Brain swelling, brain herniation, cardiopulmonary arrest, seizures, coma, and even death, are all potential side effects.
Alternative Sources to NSAIDs
1. Curcumin: A powerful anti-inflammatory when bound to phosphotidylcholine. Not only is it effective for pain management, it actually protects your liver and kidneys from oxidative damage.
2. Fish oil: The DHA and EPA primarily from fish oil have been found by many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic with proven effectiveness in athletic injuries and delayed onset muscle soreness. Natural Arthritis Remedies
4. Health care team: Physio, chiropractic, acupuncture, and osteopathic therapies are all proven effective modalities to expedite injury recovery.
5. Anti-inflammatory diet: Eliminating or radically reducing most grains and sugars from your diet can significantly lower inflammatory prostaglandin production. Inflammation could it be the Problem?
Original article by: Rachelle Viinberg, ND