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With over-the-counter drugs like Advil, Aleve, Motrin and aspirin filling the medicine cabinets of most households today, it's hard to find anyone who hasn't taken one of these drugs at one time or another.

NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) is a classification of drugs, whether prescription or not, that reduce inflammation, kill pain (analgesic), and reduce fever (anti-pyretic).  Originally designed to eliminate or manage pain associated with arthritis, NSAIDs are now used for all types of pain: from arthritis to muscle pain and headaches to fevers.  These drugs, which can be bought in any pharmacy, grocery or convenience store, have become such a part of our modern existence, we tend to use them without much thought or hesitation; assuming they are safe, since no prescription is required – while too often disregarding the health warnings.  I was one of these people who took my daily dose, until a few years ago when Motrin went from relieving my pain to kicking my ass!

NSAIDs, as harmless as they seem, can be damaging and even life threatening if taken too frequently or abused.  Problems, such as stomach irritation and ulcers, gastro intestinal bleeding, high blood pressure, kidney problems, heart risks and fluid retention are among the most recognized health risks associated with drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) and naproxen (Aleve).

For several years, I took two ibuprofen tablets a day, usually on an empty stomach with black coffee.  One day, after noticing abnormally dark stool (sorry, I know it's gross!), I got myself to a doctor and discovered I had internal bleeding.  Somewhere, something along my gastrointestinal track was bleeding.  The doctor immediately sent me to the hospital where I was admitted, and then scheduled to have a procedure the next morning to diagnose and correct the problem.  It ended up I developed a bleeding ulcer in my duodenum – the first loop of the small intestine past the stomach.  The ulcer was caused by the irritation that occurred from taking too much ibuprofen.  Taking it without food made matters even worse.  Mental note: always take NSAIDs with food!

The minor surgery consisted of closing the bleeding hole with staples the doctor shot into my duodenum by going down my throat, past my stomach, and into my intestines with the medical equipment.  Thankfully, I was heavily sedated and didn't feel the journey.  And, fortunately, he was able to reach it, and did not have to cut my gut open, but... it was still no picnic!

The three day recovery period in the hospital was even worse than the surgery.  Unable to eat for several days until the intestine began to heal was HELL.  I need to eat a lot throughout the day, and having to go without food for so long turned me into a bear.  Ask my wife!  Then, having lost so much blood from my bleeding ulcer during the week before surgery, I was severely anemic, which required a blood transfusion.  All this because of taking a couple over-the-counter pills everyday that look like M&Ms?!

Well, needless to say, I changed my lifestyle and habits, and have switched to using Tylenol, which is not an NSAID, (and does not require to be taken with food) when I find I absolutely need something for pain or headaches.  However, Tylenol, whose active ingredient and drug is acetaminophen, does not come without its' own health risks.  Doses greater than what the label recommends are toxic to the liver and may cause severe liver damage.  The potential for liver damage is greatly increased when it's used in addition to other liver damaging drugs and alcohol.  It won't cause bleeding ulcers, but it can do a number on your liver.  So, as with NSAIDS and any other drug, follow directions and don't abuse.

Back to NSAIDs... The labels do not list all the possible health risks and contraindications, so finding out which problems can occur is pretty much left up to us.  In an attempt to save you from learning the hard way like I did, take a look at the following list of conditions that warn against NSAID use, or at the very least, deserve a conversation with your doctor.

Notify your doctor before using any NSAID if you have any of these conditions:

  • allergy to aspirin or NSAIDs
  • recent ulcer, stomach bleeding, or gastritis
  • acid  reflux
  • Crohn's disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • nasal polyps
  • low platelet count
  • decreased kidney function
  • decreased liver function
  • heart problems
  • history of stroke
  • asthma
  • chronic lung conditions
  • taking prednisone or any other steroid
  • taking blood thinners
  • drinking more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day
  • drinking more than 7 alcoholic drinks per week
  • older than 65 years old


Just because NSAIDs do not require a doctor's prescription to use, does not mean they aren't serious, potentially harmful drugs.  We need to be responsible and use good judgment when using these or any drugs.  If you are taking excessive amounts of pain killers, see your doctor about the underlying cause of your pain, or for alternative medication.  Or, try using one of the many natural pain killers that every health food store offers.  Just don't do what I did.  You may not be as lucky to restore your health... if you can call not eating for three days lucky!

by Aaron Marino

Past Topics

New Topics Added Weekly!
Take a Chill Pill | Relax with GABA  -
July 5, 2012
What Does Gaba Do in the Brain? Do you ever find yourself anxious or stressed?  Aaron Marino of alpha m. gives the heads-up about  gamma-Aminobutyric acid.  Aaron explains that GABA is an amino acid that attaches to receptor sites in your brain and relaxes your body. He feels better in 10-minutes and chills-out. He doesn't feel melancholy and blue but just feels good. He takes it only occasioRead More»
Preventing Muscle Cramps and Spasms | Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium, Calcium -
May 25, 2012
Spasms can be painful and lead to soreness: therefore, prevent the frequency of cramps with specific nutrients. Aaron Marino of alpha m. addresses what a muscle spasm is and the soreness that results. Cramping happens after cardio and excessive sweating due to the depletion of potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. A surefire way to prevent cramping is supplementation (potassium, magnesium, caRead More»
Vitamin B Smart -
May 2, 2012
Most of us know vitamins play an essential role in maintaining good health, but what they do exactly isn’t always understood.  If you’re like most people, you pop a vitamin or two everyday and trust you’re getting what you need.  But are you? Education is key to making informed and educated choices about what to consume, and vitamins are no exception.  I believe we would take better care Read More»
Facts About Fat -
April 6, 2012
By now, most of us know we should include healthy fats in our diet, but do we understand why, or know which fats are best? Not all fats are created equal, and some are definitely more essential to good health than others.  Identifying which fats we should include in our diet can be a challenge, despite all the information available on the subject.  Too much information can be confusing and overwRead More»

Choosing a Multivitamin -
April 2, 2012
There are different perspectives and opinions regarding the need to take a multivitamin.  Many believe if a person eats a balanced diet, it’s not necessary to take one – it’s overkill and most of it goes to waste. The flip-side is many think a multivitamin is a safety net that ensures a person gets the vitamins, minerals and micronutrients he needs; in case the diet doesn’t provide what iRead More»
Thoughts About Prohormones | Synthetic Testosterone -
March 30, 2012
Aaron Marino of alpha m. gives opinions, science, and truths behind prohormones. Prohormones boost testosterone levels.  However, the body has a natural balance of testosterone and estrogen. So when you take synthetic testosterone or prohoromones, the estrogen level rises in response, which cause side effects. You shouldn't be taking this stuff, period. You don't need extra testosterone if you arRead More»
Creatine and Glutamine | When to Take?  -
March 23, 2012
Aaron Marino of alpha m. discusses creatine and glutamine. The viewer is taking 5 grams of each pre and post workout. Is this proper time and place to take them? Aaron responds that the glutamine should be taken post workout and then before going to bed because you want your muscles already broken down. Creatine should  pre and post workout as it's rehydrating your muscles. When you are taking crRead More»
Protein Powders -
March 19, 2012
Originally used by bodybuilders and athletes, protein powders are now consumed by every gender, age group and activity level interested in increasing their protein intake.  Protein powders are an excellent way to meet the high protein demands many of us have – especially weightlifters and athletes – in order to maximize performance. There are many types of powdered proteins, and since proteinRead More»
Low Testosterone -
February 10, 2012
Testosterone, the very hormone that makes us men, plays a crucial role in not only maintaining our manliness, but our overall heath, as well.  Puberty brings with it a surge in testosterone that remains high throughout our 20’s and 30’s, but tends to drop off once we hit the big 4-0. The decline, known as “andropause” is slow, with typical levels dropping only 1% to 2% per year – so donRead More»

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