NSAIDs & Stomach Ulcers

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs are used to treat fever, muscle aches, headaches, arthritis and inflammation.  Over 22 million prescription strength NSAID prescriptions are written every year in the UK and over 70 million in the US. 

These numbers are for prescriptions not just the everyday common over-the-counter products that we all use every day.

NSAIDs work and that is why they are widely popular but they don’t come without risk.  When taken for a long time or at high doses NSAIDs increase your risk of stomach ulcers.  These ulcers are generally referred to as peptic ulcers.

Ulcers used to be blamed on stress and spicy food but new research is showing two more likely causes:  NSAID usage and a gut bacteria Helicobacter pylori.

Common NSAIDs:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Naproxen
  • Diclofenac

Due to the aging population the use of NSAIDs will increase over the next years.  Many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis regularly take NSAIDs.

Benefits of NSAIDs:

  • Easily Available (over-the-counter)
  • Inexpensive
  • Non-Habit Forming (unlike Opiod pain killers)
  • Work Well

Taking an NASID medication with milk or food may help make it easier on your stomach.

Use NASIDs with Caution:

  • Have now or have had stomach ulcers.
  • If you currently have kidney problems.
  • Currently taking any steroid medication.
  • Currently taking blood thinning medication
  • If you are combining two  or more pain-relief medications.

Do NOT Use:

  • Pregnant or breast feeding.
  • Not recommended for children.

Risk Factors:

  • Over 65
  • Previous ulcer history
  • Taking NSAIDs in high doses or more than one
  • Smoking
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Respiratory Disease

Be aware that many painkillers can show up in cough and cold medicines.  Read all ingredients on labels to determine if they contain aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Symptoms that could indicate a problem:

  • Nausea – Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Stomach Pain
  • Dark Stools (This could indicate internal bleeding.)
  • Fatigue

Safety:

A safe dosage of Ibuprofen is 200-400 mg every 4 to 6 hours.  No more than 1200 mg per day.  Only take more under a doctor’s orders and watch for signs of problems.

DO NOT drink alcohol when taking pain medication.

If you have taken ibuprofen for 10 days in a row and are still having pain, see your health care professional.

Always let your doctor know if you have taken or are taking any NSAIDs regularly to alleviate pain.  This includes emergency room personnel.  Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs can reduce your blood clotting ability.

Alternative:

A natural alternative to NSAIDs is White Willow Bark.  White Willow Bark is what aspirin was derived from.  This is a natural herb that can help alleviate pain and inflammation.  White Willow Bark can be found at health food stores or online in some supplements.

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