NSAID Function, Side Effects and Alternatives

NSAID Function, Side Effects and Alternatives

What do NSAID Painkillers Do? 

We’ve all had a splitting headache, cramps, back pain or another ailment while we need to function in our daily lives. What’s a person to do when you need pain relief? What most of us do is pop an over-the-counter painkiller also known as a NSAID or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (such as aspirin or ibuprofen). But do they really relieve the pain? Is that their true function? What happens when they become our go-to solution frequently? I recently chatted with a fellow health seeker who told me she relies on NSAIDs when she has pain and wants to change that isn’t sure how. Let’s look at how NSAIDs work in the body, potential side effects and some alternative solutions for pain relief. 

How NSAIDs Work

Admittedly, this is a simple, high-level explanation but sometimes you need a simple version when there are complex functions at play. So what happens when the body receives the signal for pain? The short answer is it inflames. And even though we may tend to think of “inflammation” as a “bad” thing today, it’s actually a natural process in the body. The body needs to inflame before it un-inflames. This is known as the inflammatory response. Despite the pain we feel during the inflaming part, this response means your body is working! One important element in the inflammatory response are prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances (built from lipids/fats) that the body needs to perform a variety of functions (i.e. assist in healing, forming blood clots, metabolic regulation etc.) including controlling inflammatory functions.  Prostaglandins are made with the help of dietary fat. We need a mix of saturated fats, omega 6 and omega 3’s to be able to create these prostaglandins that manage the body’s ability to inflame and un-inflame. In the U.S., fatty acid deficiency is epidemic. Many of us don’t get enough, don’t the right kinds of fat ratios and can’t absorb them due to digestive distress. 

NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen) block both the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory functions of the prostaglandins as well as other functions. They also prevent the conversion of fatty acids so they cannot be used by the body. Of course, there is A LOT more to this process but the bottom line is using NSAIDs doesn’t address the root cause of our pain. And if we depend on them, we’ll have to use them over and over again. Each time pain comes up, we run for relief that is just temporary. The best way to eradicate recurring pain from your life is to get to the the root cause. Once you determine the source, you can eliminate triggers and hopefully eliminate the recurring pain for good! Why block the body’s natural function? Instead, listen to the body’s signals and ask how can we support it?  

NSAIDs Side Effects

What are the potential side effects of these drugs? For a drug that is so commonly found in our medicine cabinets and so easily shared with friends. Here’s a brief list of NSAID side effects:    

– Stomach pains

– Hearing loss

– Indigestion, heartburn

– Joint pain, swelling

– Gastritis, stomach ulcers or upper-gastrointestinal bleeding  

– Anxiety and depression

– Increased risk for heart attack and stroke

– Gut lining damage, a.k.a leaky gut which can lead to autoimmune conditions 

– Kidney and liver damage 

– 100,000 hospitalizations annually 

– And death. More than 16,000 deaths per year according to Dr. Hyman, “that’s more deaths per year than caused by asthma or AIDS.”  

Well, that says enough for me to want to find alternative methods of managing pain.  

Alternatives of NSAIDs 

There are alternative ways to treat pain! First thing is first, because “thoughts are things” we first must address our thought process. Start with a new mindset, a new approach to pain. Shift from the band-aid approach of: “get rid of my pain when it happens and never think about it until it occurs again.” Instead, start approaching pain to eliminate it for good, think: “Let me get to the root of the problem and eliminate the triggers.” 

Of course, that doesn’t stop us from wanting a pill. Since we all think about what we can take when pain hits, here are some alternatives:  

White Willow Bark has been used as a pain reliever since 400 BC. Some studies show willow is as effective as aspirin for reducing pain and inflammation. 

Ginger has anti-pain and anti-inflammatory properties.

– Turmeric is the tuber that grows in the ground while Curcumin is the compound that is most bioavailable in the body… powerful anti-inflammatories found in nature. One powerful and brand is: Fusionary Formulas check it out.

Cinnamon helps to advance tissue repair (and as an aside helps with blood sugar levels too).

MSM combats inflammation and restores flexibility among other things. 

Bromelain (found in pineapples) helps to anti inflame and has been used to treat arthritis. 

Magnesium helps support blood pressure, as it helps the muscles in the contract/expanding process. 

CBD oil is also has amazing anti-inflammatory properties helping with such things as relieving nausea, pain, reducing anxiety, helps to fight cancer cells, seizures and more. Much is to be learned on this topic but know that CDB oil does not have the psychoactive component THC.  

Lifestyle habits are long-term solutions that can have a big impact! Sure, they may take some extra effort to implement consistently but they can be very effective. Aim to: 

– Eat anti inflammatory foods (such as leafy greens and superfoods). 

Avoid sugar… the worst of the inflammatory foods. Check out the 5-week class to a new you I teach, The Restart® Program! 

– Ensure a good mix of EFAs in you diet (essential fatty acids: saturated fats, omega 6 and omega 3).

– Get 8 hours of sleep regularly.

– Use peppermint essential oils, breathe in and rub on temples for tension headaches (keeping away from eyes).

Lasting Solutions

The bottom line is that once you know the severity of the potential side effects of NSAID drugs, then you’ll likely want to try a new route when it comes to managing pain. NSAIDs aren’t a cure but rather a band-aid solution masking the root cause of pain. While implementing lifestyle changes that stick may be a challenge, there are tools to help you succeed. A coach like me can help guide you to a new way of being. Curious about health coaching? Reach out for your FREE, 20-minute introductory session at info@YourHealthPath.com   


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