When most people have pain in their bodies, they reach for a bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen to help relieve their symptoms, but there are risks associated with those over-the-counter pills that everyone should be aware of.
I wrote about the dangers of taking aspirin for pain, but before you switch over to ibuprofen, you may want to take note of the risks involved with this seemingly “safe” pain reliever.
What Is Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is known as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. It works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which are the substances our bodies release in response to injury or illness. Prostaglandins are what causes us the “pain” sensation, and NSAIDs work to block those sensations.
You’ll find NSAIDs most commonly labeled as Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. While not all of these are ibuprofen, they are all NSAIDs which have their own host of risks involved with taking them.
My Personal Side Effects From Ibuprofen
I have been taking ibuprofen for years to help relieve my pain, and I would take some hefty doses at times not realizing the risks involved with prolonged use. Even if you don’t take over-the-counter drugs that often, you are still at risk for some pretty serious health issues that you may not even be aware of.
Not too long ago I took some ibuprofen to help relieve my menstrual cramps, as it’s what I’ve taken for years, but I had the most unusual side effect from it that I didn’t realize was caused by the ibuprofen, until I put two and two together.
About 30 minutes after I took my usual dose of ibuprofen, my ears started to ring, and all audible sound was ‘tinny’. It was like being inside an aluminum can and trying to talk, or listen to other people’s voices. My hearing was also overly sensitive to the point where running water seemed high-pitched and loud.
Not surprisingly, I was pretty freaked out about what the heck was going on with my hearing, but I just chalked it up to feeling under the weather. Then something clicked in my mind and I decided to do a little research online for ibuprofen side effects and sure enough, ringing in the ears, or Tinnitus, was common with taking ibuprofen.
Luckily I was able to take a magnesium supplement, and the ringing in my ears subsided within an hour. Magnesium plays a very important role in our bodies, and is one of those essential supplements that many of us are deficient in, but is a must for our health.
Dangers Of Taking Ibuprofen
After my personal experience with ibuprofen side effects, it was clear that I needed to do more research on the dangers of this seemingly safe drug. I was shocked to learn that not only were there side effects, but there are some really serious side effects that could happen to you even if you only take ibuprofen once in your life.
Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes
NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen (commonly known as Advil, Aleve, and Motrin), have always held warnings about their potential risk of heart attacks, but in July of 2015, after looking at further studies, the FDA decided to strengthen that warning even more.
FDA is strengthening an existing warning in prescription drug labels and over-the-counter (OTC) Drug Facts labels to indicate that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, either of which can lead to death. Those serious side effects can occur as early as the first few weeks of using an NSAID, and the risk might rise the longer people take NSAIDs.
This new warning isn’t about long-term NSAID usage, but that serious side effects, like heart attacks and strokes, could happen within weeks of taking them! That’s pretty scary!
When I had that side effect of ringing in my ears after taking a dose of ibuprofen, I found out that what I was experiencing was a more severe form of tinnitus. Tinnitus is when you hear sounds inside your ears that’s not coming from an external source, so even when you’re in complete silence, you may hear ringing, hissing, roaring, or even clicking sounds.
I actually have a mild version of this when I’m in complete silence, as I hear a high-pitched ringing sound in my ears that never goes away, but many people suffer from more severe forms of tinnitus that plague them everyday.
Taking ibuprofen can not only create ringing and tinnitus in your ears, but prolonged use of ibuprofen can permanently damage your hearing. Unfortunately this side effect doesn’t seem to be well listed on the warning label for this drug, which is why I never made the connection when it happened to me.
If the thought of having a heart attack or stroke within weeks of taking an ibuprofen, or getting permanent hearing loss wasn’t scary enough, check out some of the other “common” side effects that come with this over-the-counter drug.
Common Side Effects of Ibuprofen
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Upper abdominal pain, bloating, or indigestion
- Pain in the stomach or intestines
More Serious Side Effects
While these are less common than the above list, there is still a chance that you could experience these more severe side effects.
- Fluid retention or bloating
- High blood pressure
- Stomach inflammation
- Ulcers in the digestive system
- Rashes, hives, or other allergic reactions
- Worsening of asthma symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Pale skin
- Fast heartbeat
- Yellowing of the skin
- Blurred vision, or changes in vision
Natural Alternatives For Pain Relief
With all the side effects that can come with taking an NSAID, many of us still need something to relieve our pain when we do experience it, and luckily there are natural alternatives for pain relief that do a pretty good job.
Capsaicin – This is what’s found inside chili peppers, and what gives them their heat factor. Capsaicin is great when used topically, and can provide heated relief for muscle and joint pain. It works by interfering with a chemical in the body known as Substance P, which signals to the brain that you have pain, and should feel it. Thanks, Substance P! I have a great recipe for a warming muscle rub that uses capsaicin as the main ingredient.
Boswellia – Also known as “Indian Frankincense”, boswellia is another natural anti-inflammatory that comes in either supplement or topical form. Boswellia are flowering plants that are either trees or shrubs, and are most commonly found in Asia and Africa. Studies have shown that boswellia extract works so well as an anti-inflammatory, that it can compete with drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen for pain relief. You can get boswellia extract here.
Cat’s Claw – Cat’s claw grows in South America, and is yet another natural anti-inflammatory that works in a very similar way to ibuprofen by blocking prostaglandin, the hormone that cause inflammation and pain in the body. While you may get diarrhea if you take too much cat’s claw, there are no real serious side effects with taking this herb. You can get Cat’s Claw extract here.
Tumeric – I think everyone should be taking a tumeric supplement daily, because it’s just such a powerful herb that has so many benefits for the health. Tumeric contains a component called “curcumin”, which is known as a very potent pain killer. It helps block signals to the brain that your body is feeling pain (hey, that rhymed!), and studies have shown that it’s effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain. Curcumin has also been found to be as effective as Prozac in treating depression, but without all the harsh side effects that Prozac has. I take this organic curcumin/tumeric supplement, as it has no binders or fillers in it.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3’s are something that we all need in our diet, but most of us don’t get enough throughout the day. Omega-3 fatty acids are wonderful for treating all types of inflammatory ailments from joint pain, arthritis, muscle aches, and even irritable bowel syndrome. Omega-3’s are also beneficial for reducing your risk of heart attacks, stroke, and help normalize cholesterol levels, and protect against cancer. Fish oil is the best source of omega-3’s, and the purest source that I personally take is Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
In addition to the above alternative methods for pain relief, I have found that eating a good diet rich with dark green veggies, organic meats, and little to no grains, has help tremendously with how my body responds to pain and inflammation.
I also discovered a while back that I had a magnesium deficiency, so I use a high quality magnesium lotion that I get from Radiant Life that helps give my body energy and healing power. Find out if you have a magnesium deficiency too.
Do you take ibuprofen for pain relief? Are you concerned about the risks?