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How pain relievers can ruin your gut health

When a sudden headache or minor injury interrupts your day, it’s easy to reach for over-the-counter pain relievers. And you might not think about their possible long-term side effects. Certain medications, allergies, and belonging to certain age groups can increase the risk of side effects. While NSAIDs are generally safe, knowing the dangers can help you ensure that your NSAIDs don’t cause more harm than good. We’ll explain how pain relievers can ruin your gut health.

What are NSAIDS?

NSAIDs (short for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) are medications used to treat and pain. Other pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, are only effective at treating pain. NSAIDs are multi-functional and can also lower fevers and prevent blood from clotting. Studies have shown the benefits of a low daily dose of an NSAID, such as aspirin. And doctors often prescribe them to help prevent heart attacks and other heart complications. Besides heart conditions, NSAIDs also treat inflammation from arthritis.

NSAIDs are not recommended for certain groups, as they are at greater risk for experiencing side effects. Talk to a doctor before taking NSAIDs if you are over 65 years of age, are pregnant, may soon become pregnant, are breastfeeding, or have asthma.

You should consult your doctor if you have experienced any of the following:

  • Past allergic reactions to any NSAIDs.
  • A history of stomach ulcers.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Complications with your heart, liver, kidneys, circulation, or bowels.

NSAIDs can also have bad interactions with vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products.

NSAIDs can have negative side effects when mixing with other medications. Be sure to consult your doctor to make sure it is safe to take NSAIDs for pain in combination with your normal medications.

Common medications that react with NSAIDs include:

  • Ciclosporin
  • Diuretics
  • Lithium
  • Methotrexate
  • Certain SSRIs.

Alternatives are available, and your doctor will be able to recommend or prescribe the best for you.

What are common sides effects of NSAIDS?

While NSAIDs can help reduce pain and boost your heart health, they can often be rough on the digestive system. NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation, ulcers, heartburn, and internal bleeding. Other serious side effects include allergic reactions. Typical symptoms include trouble breathing, hives, skin rashes, puffy eyelids and rapid heartbeat. In extreme cases, NSAIDs can cause vision issues, dizziness, depression, confusion. Yellowing of the eyes or cloudy urine can be evidence of other issues NSAIDS can cause. They could mean serious effects on your liver or kidneys. Specific NSAIDs can cause more serious complications. Check with your doctor about possible side effects and the ways to prevent them from being more extreme.

Preventing side effects of NSAIDS

With the possibility of serious side effects, you should know the necessary precautions when taking NSAIDs. Small steps can prevent long-term complications. One way to prevent stomach problems is to never take NSAIDs on an empty stomach. To best protect your stomach, take your medication with a full meal. If timing is an issue, taking an antacid, such as Tums or Alka-Seltzer, can also help reduce the risk of stomach complications. Be sure to limit your alcohol intake. If you take NSAIDs often, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether as the combination can be especially harmful to digestive systems.

Be sure to only take one type of NSAID at a time. You can take some NSAIDs with other pain relievers, but consult your doctor first to ensure safety. Always take the smallest effective dose at first. If that is still not enough to counteract the pain, you can always take more, but it’s better to treat the pain or inflammation with as low a dose as possible. The elderly and those who are taking steroid-containing medications are at higher risk for side effects. People in these groups should avoid NSAIDs if possible.

Alternatives to NSAIDS

NSAIDs aren’t the only available pain reliever. If you can’t use NSAIDs for any reason, your doctor should be able to prescribe a safe alternative. If you only use NSAIDs for pain, acetaminophen is the most common alternative and is less harmful to the digestive system. But acetaminophen is not effective against inflammation. And it doesn’t help reduce discomfort in joints caused by arthritis. If you are taking an NSAID for a specific condition, your doctor can prescribe other medications that protect your stomach. Consult the label of the pain reliever for the ingredients as it may not always be clear elsewhere on the bottle whether it contains NSAIDs.