So many people today are inflamed and in pain. According to Medscape, more than 70 million prescriptions are written in the United States every year for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If over-the-counter use (OTC) is included, greater than 30 billion doses of NSAIDs are taken within the United States alone annually.
Currently, there are more than 20 drugs classified as NSAIDs. Most of them work to decrease the synthesis of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins. This is through reversibly inhibiting an enzyme involved in their formation, cyclooxygenase (COX). Salicylates, such as aspirin, slightly differ in their action by irreversibly binding to COX and inhibiting production of it for the entire life of the cell. Acetaminophen inhibits COX centrally. (1)
I hate to see people suffer. Unfortunately, many are simply suppressing their symptoms using pain relieving medications and not getting to the root cause of why their body is sending pain signals to their brain and various body parts to begin with. By continuing to suppress the inflammation verses fixing the problem, long-term complications can occur.
NSAIDs and Gut Complications
According to a 1998 study in the American Journal of Medicine, conservative estimates for yearly hospitalizations due to gastrointestinal (GI) complications of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is 107,000 patients. There are at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths among arthritis patients alone. (Keep in mind, this was over fifteen years ago.)
This estimate was based on a prospective study that followed over 11,000 arthritis patients at eight participating institutions in the United States and Canada. The researchers reported:
The figures for all NSAID users would be overwhelming, yet the scope of this problem is generally under-appreciated.
Prednisone use, age, NSAID dose, disability level, and previous GI –induced symptoms from NSAIDs were the risk factors most associated with serious GI events. The study authors believe the only way to prevent complications is to stop taking the medications. (2)
Unfortunately, aspirin may not be a safer NSAID, as it also carries its own risk. It has been linked to gastric ulcers, Crohn’s disease, Helicobacter Pylori infection, amongst other complications. GreenMedInfo reports, “In essence, aspirin, a semi-synthetic compound, makes the blood tissue itself semi-synthetic.” (3)
Aspirin and NSAIDs have also been linked to “leaky gut” and, most recently, celiac disease in mice. Specifically, a new and interesting study has linked indomethacin use (a NSAID) to markers of celiac disease in mice. (4-5)
This is concerning considering that your GI tract is the home of your immune system, neurotransmitters for brain health, digestion and assimilation, detoxification, hormonal modulation, inflammatory signals, and more.
NSAIDs and Heart Risk
Furthermore, a thirteen year study that followed 8,423 people linked the use of NSAIDs to an increase risk for the most common type of irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation. The average age of the participants was 69, and they all had normal heart rhythm at the start of the study. In fact, current or recent use was associated with an 80 percent increased risk of atrial fibrillation as compared to non-users. This increased risk still held after controlling for other cardiovascular risk factors. The results of this study were published in the BMJ open. (6-9)
The link to heart disease and NSAIDs is not new. In 2004, rofecoxib (Vioxx) was found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and was withdrawn. According to GreenMedInfo, researchers from Switzerland performed an analysis of all randomized controlled trials comparing NSAID use with other NSAIDs or placebos. The study included 31 trials of seven different drugs and 116,429 subjects. Although the number of overall harmful outcomes was low compared to placebo, the drugs had higher risk:
For instance, compared with placebo, rofecoxib 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 and diclofenac were associated with the highest (around four times) risk of cardiovascular death. Naproxen appeared least harmful in terms of cardiovascular safety among the seven analyzed preparations. (3)
Natural Solutions to Inflammation and Pain
I, too, was an avid pain-pill popper back in my herniated disc days. Thankfully, I found relief for pain through a holistic approach that included therapeutic essential oils, nutritional supplements, herbals, yoga, chiropractic, and naturopathic medicine. Unfortunately, the years of NSAIDs have given me a sensitive digestive tract, but I am able to modulate this using the same methods today that I used during my painful back period.
Another of the big game changers for me has been eating less inflammatory foods, by decreasing sugar intake and processed foods, increasing my vegetable intake, and eating organic to prevent exposure to pesticides, GMOs, and chemicals.
I also will not eat conventionally-raised meat. This kind of meat is full of hormones, antibiotics and is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. This is because one component of the inflammation cascade is arachidonic acid. This is a form of an omega 6 polyunsaturated fat found mostly in meat, dairy, and fish. Organic meat tends to have higher levels of omega 3 polyunsaturated acids and a more favorable profile for preventing inflammation. (It is important to note that arachidonic acid can also form lipoxins, which are anti-inflammatory.)
Find out more details in the continuation of my blog here.
Essential Oil Highlight:
Ylang Ylang to the De-Stress Rescue
Ylang Ylang has been found to significantly decrease blood pressure and pulse rate while decreasing labored breathing (PMID: 15303255). Its esters and alcohols provide a balancing and toning effect. This oil is also a powerful immune booster being antimicrobial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic. Ylang ylang has anti-tumoral properties due to its sampangine content, which was found to be cytoxtic to human melanoma and leukemia cells (PMID: 16289142, PMID: 15033745). And, for the somewhat vain, it makes your hair shiner too!
Here’s the 5 minute July promotion video: http://vimeo.com/99655140
Learn more and sign up for my weekly essential oil tips here.
(1) Wiegand, T, Tarbara, A, et al. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Agent Toxicity. emedicine.medscape.com. Updated March 3, 2014.
(2) Singh, G. Recent considerations in nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug gastropathy. Am J Med. 1998 Jul 27;105(1B):31S-38S.PMID: 9715832
(3) Si, J. The Evidence Against Aspirin And For Natural Alternatives. GreenMedInfo. October 10, 2014.
(4) Si, J. Could This Popular Pain-Killer Be Causing Celiac Disease? GreenMedInfo.com. June 28, 2014.
(5) Gliadin intake alters the small intestinal mucosa in indomethacin-treated HLA-DQ8 transgenic mice. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2014 Jun 12. pii: ajpgi.00002.2014. [Epub ahead of print]
(6) Bakalar, N. Pain Relievers Tied to Heart Rhythm Disorder. New York Times. April 9, 2014.
(7) Bouwe, K, Heeringa, J, Hofman, A, Franco, O, Stricker, B. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of atrial fibrillation: a population-based follow-up study. BMJ Open 2014;4:e004059.doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004059.
(8) Mercola, J. NSAID Pain Killers Linked to Irregular Heartbeat. Mercola.com. June 29, 2014.
(9) Dickson, E. Common painkillers linked to increased risk of heart problems. Eurekalert. January 11, 2011.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic, Grade A essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been AFNOR and ISO standardized. There is no quality control in the United States and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.
This information is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness.
Images courtesy of istockphotos: istockphoto.com