Many people have aches and pains that require ibuprofen and no one would begrudge you for taking this pill for an acute migraine or severe pre-menstrual cramps. I’ve been asked if I believe in ibuprofen and I do, but only for occasional use. I’ve even recommended a 200mg tablet of ibuprofen be taken along with a cup of coffee (to enhance effect) but that’s only for a select type of headache pain, or for mild post-operative pain. Sounds crazy but combining caffeine with ibuprofen can provide pain relief better than the ibuprofen alone. I’m often asked if acetaminophen is just as good as ibuprofen for arthritis and joint swelling and the answer is NO, it is not. Acetaminophen may ease the pain but it has no impact on your swelling. Ibuprofen, a drug that is part of NSAID [Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug] family, WILL reduce both pain and swelling. So ibuprofen is better than acetaminophen when it comes to an inflamed joint. There are caveats with that of course, nothing in my world is black and white. If you want to read about acetaminophen and learn how to protect your liver, click here.
Now back to Ibuprofen…
I don’t recommend chronic, daily intake of ibuprofen because:
a) it masks the pain
b) it can be harmful to your intestinal lining if you are sensitive
c) there are less-talked about cardiovascular effects surfacing
So even though you will always find some Advil or generic ibuprofen in my purse (just in case of acute pain… like overshaking it at Zumba) … It’s a no-brainer to determine the underlying cause of your pain if it is chronic.
Pain is a symptom, not a disease itself.
Chronic pain must be stopped or it will stop you.
Even if you can’t find the exact cause of your chronic pain, I still recommend natural inflammation fighters over NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), or in combination with them so that you can lower the drug dosage.
According to Medline Plus:
“NSAIDs such as ibuprofen may cause ulcers, bleeding, or holes in the stomach or intestine. These problems may develop at any time during treatment, may happen without warning symptoms, and may cause death. The risk may be higher for people who take NSAIDs for a long time, are older in age, have poor health, or who drink three or more alcoholic drinks per day while taking ibuprofen. If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop taking ibuprofen and call your doctor: stomach pain, heartburn, vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds, blood in the stool, or black and tarry stools.”
NSAIDs reduce inflammation by suppressing an enzyme in your body called cyclooxygenase-2 or COX-2 but they inadvertently block COX-1 enzyme which is needed for a healthy stomach lining. This is why NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen and others can cause gastritis, and even a bleeding ulcer.
Here are 3 alternatives that might be safer in terms of their effect on your intestines and heart:
Boswellia- It’s also known as frankincense and it’s a 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase) inhibitor. This reduces leukotrienes which are involved in inflammation, asthma and allergies. Another compound in boswellia called “incensole acetate” blocks NF-Kappa B which would otherwise pour out tons of pain-causing cytokines! This compound acts like an anti-anxiety and antidepressant pill. Boswellia reduces interferon gamma (IFN-g), another pro-inflammatory cytokine.
Boswellia is kind of awesome! One day a while ago, I was cleaning the kitchen when Sam walked in and asked me to tape a YouTube video highlighting the amazing effects of frankincense (boswellia) and how it acts just liek an asthma drug (Singulair) as well as an arthritis drug (Celebrex). He thought that was so interesting that one herb could act like two totally different prescription drugs, that target two totally different diseases. So I humored him and recorded it. To watch my video on that click here. Keep in mind, there are many ways you can put boswellia in your diet, the video explains this.
Ginger- We know this helps with nausea and vomiting, but it’s also a strong anti-inflammatory herb, capable of reducing pain-causing compounds such as TNFα, COX 2 (just like Celebrex) and 5-LOX. As an added benefit, compounds in ginger target and kill H. pylori, the bug most famous for stomach ulcers, but also involved in rheumatoid arthritis. If you are allergic or sensitive to ginger, I should tell you that turmeric (curcumin) comes from the ginger family and you may have cross sensitivity. On that note, I wrote an article about curry and how it might help with diabetes, dementia and cancer. Click here to read my article.
Hyaluronic acid- I am not referring to injectable Restylane or Juvederm for wrinkles! I’m referring to natural supplements of this, which can “lube” your joints. Arthritic joints are often extremely deficient in hyaluronic acid, and this makes the cartilage less squishy. Supplements may help. Hyaluronic acid has impressive effects on the eyes, you can read my article, What to Do for Dry Eyes & Blurry Vision.
Friends- I haven’t listed dosages here because that is such a personal thing. I feel it is best to experiment with dosages because we are all individuals and our baseline function is different. Our level of kidney and liver function is different. Our needs differ from one to another that there can be dramatic changes in dosages, not only from one individual to another, but also from month to month (as our body changes). So please follow dosage directions listed on the label of the product you buy. One day, I will formulate a “Joint Script” supplement for you that contains synergistic ingredients and joint soothers like this. Until then, if you are interested in anything I’ve written about today, you can buy them individually at any health food store or online. Feel free to post your comments below, especially if you have experience with any of these compounds.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.