How Safe Are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs are NonSteroidal AntiInflammatory Drugs. They are a class of drugs used to treat inflammation, mild to moderate pain, and fever. If you are an adult living in the US you have likely taken one or more of them; and many of us have taken a lot of them. The most common over the counter are aspirin (Bufferin, Bayer, and Excedrin), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), naproxen (Aleve) and ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis). Others are available by perscription.
We know they all have side effects, some more serious than others, but we also know they reduce pain. Nobody wants to live with pain so we tolerate or ignore the side effects. Is there a better way to get rid of the pain? Let's take a closer look at what we are dealing with.
WHAT IS PAIN?
Pain is essential to survival. It is a signal that there is something wrong in a specific part of the body. Without it we would run around with broken bones, allow severe burns to go unattended or bleed to death from a simple cut. Pain may be acute or chronic. Acute pain is severe and lasts a relatively short time. It is usually a signal that body tissue is being injured in some way, and the pain generally disappears when the injury heals. Chronic pain may range from mild to severe, and it is present to some degree for long periods of time. Acute pain is usually the result of injury while chronic pain comes from conditions like arthritis.
Blocking pain without seeking out and going after the cause can be dangerous. It is like putting a garbage bag over a stop sign. Sooner or later something bad is going to happen
On a basic level, pain is the result of an electrical signal being sent from your nerves to your brain. But the process is not only electrical. When you get injured, say with a sprain, the damaged tissue releases chemicals called prostaglandins, which are like hormones. These prostaglandins cause the tissue to swell. They also amplify the electrical signal coming from the nerves. Basically, they increase the pain you feel.
HOW DO NSAIDs REDUCE PAIN?
NSAIDs work on a chemical level. They block the effects of special enzymes -- specifically Cox-1 and Cox-2 enzymes. These enzymes play a key role in making prostaglandins. By blocking the Cox enzymes, These drugs stop your body from making as many prostaglandins. This means less swelling and less pain. So what's wrong with this process? First of all, it artificially alters the way the body is meant to function. Common sense tells us this comes with a price.
Here's the price: Prostaglandins, which are inhibited by these drugs function in the body to protect the stomach lining, promote clotting of the blood, regulate salt and fluid balance, and maintain blood flow to the kidneys when kidney function is reduced. By decreasing prostaglandins, NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation, bleeding, fluid retention, and decreased kidney function. The side effects of COX-1 drugs are pretty terrible. It is estimated that 25% experience some kind of side effect and 5% develop SERIOUS health consequences such as GI (stomach) bleeding, acute renal failure, or worse. All NSAIDs have the potential to cause high blood pressure, kidney problems, fluid retention, and heart risks.
ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES?
Yes there are alternative ways to reduce pain. Admittedly few of them will act as quickly as NSAIDs, but they do work. I will be the first to confess that I am a wimp when it comes to pain. I vividly recall a few attacks of
that practically made me scream for indomethicin. Eventually I got rid of the gout naturally. Chronic pain associated with conditions like arthritis can be dealt with naturally but this does require lifestyle changes. There are, however, some very good alternatives.
- Ginger...In China, ginger has been used to aid digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years. Ginger has also been used to help treat arthritis, colic, diarrhea, and heart conditions. Ginger has long been used in traditional medical practices to reduce inflammation.
- Turmeric...A member of the ginger family, turmeric, contains curcumin, a potent natural anti-inflammatory agent. Studies have shown turmeric can benefit arthritis, skin disorders, cancer, skin problems, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Serrapeptase...Serrapeptase has a history of homeopathic use in Japan and Europe in alternative medicine for pain and inflammation. It's source is an enzyme created by silkworms.
- Essential fatty acids...Omega 3 fatty acids are known to reduce pain and inflammation particularly in arthritis cases.
- White Willow Bark...White willow bark contains a natural occuring chemical from which aspirin is derived. This chemical, salicin, makes white willow bark the natural substitute for aspirin, with all of the same benefits of the pharmacutical drug, but without the harmful side effects.
- Devils claw...The major uses of devil's claw are as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for joint diseases, back pain, and headache. Studies have found that taking devil's claw for several months substantially reduces pain and improves physical functioning in people with osteoarthritis.
- SAMe (S-adenosylmethionire)...SAM-e is made from a naturally occurring amino acid and sold as capsules. Doctors aren't entirely sure how it controls pain, but it reduces inflammation and may increase the feel-good brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine.
Common sense will tell you that anything that grows naturally without chemical assistance or alteration is better for you than products like NSAIDs. Drugs that chemically alter the way your body functions always do more than just attack the target problem. It's your body and your life; treat it with love and respect and it will serve you well. Nothing is more important than feeling good.
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