Why pain killers or anti-inflammatories are not recommended for long term use?

Pain killers or anti-inflammatories can be classified as steroidal or nonsteroidal. Steroidal include corticosteroid drugs such as cortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisone and prednisolone. These drugs may be given for short period of time but long term use may increase risk of adrenal insufficiency (inability to handle stress, poor sleep, respiratory allergies, PMS, autoimmune), osteoporosis and cataracts.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) include ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen. These are also not recommended for long term use as they are associated with serious side effects. For example, aspirin may reduce risk of clot –related stroke but it also increase your risk of bleeding stroke. There is obviously a weakening effect on your tissues and cells. Is aspirin the only answer to prevent stroke or heart attack? The answer is no and there are many herbs that can do the job, in addition to promoting both macro and microcirculation and tissue healing/repair effects. These herbs include rosemary, gotu kola, amla berry (as in Phytolec™) and grape-seed.

In summary, such medications used in joint pain, skin problems etc., work by reducing your immune system response. This is why they make you highly susceptible to opportunistic infection (not good news for cancer patients, children and elderly); ulcers, poor wound healing, bleeding, weak tissues, constant infection.

Most medications have side effects because of nutrient or antioxidant depletion effects. For example acetaminophen /paracetamol, a pain reliever depletes the body of glutathione, the most important antioxidant produced by your body to protect you from diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, heart attack and stroke.

Most of these drugs can increased risk of leaky gut syndrome or intestinal permeability (LP) – a condition when there is perturbed intestinal barrier that allows toxic molecules from poor digestion to enter the blood stream and poison the body. LP is most associated with diseases such as chronic depression, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, joint diseases, schizophrenia, chemotherapy treatment, liver cirrhosis and ankylosing spondylitis.

The good news is that there are safer alternatives in the form of phytomedicine or whole herb extracts which have far lesser adverse effects than pharmaceutical pain killers. I have used herbs for treating fever, headache, joint pains, inflammation etc., with good success and in many cases, patients could cut or reduce dosage of pharmaceuticals.

Please allow me to reiterate:  Please don’t use pharmaceutical pain killers or anti-inflammatories on long term basis. My late mum nearly died and suffered from intestinal bleeding after long term use of paracetamol for practically every type of pain. I hope nobody will suffer the same fate.

But more importantly, pain is only a symptom of an underlying condition. Your pain may be a symptom of poor sleep, diet, stress management, emotional stress etc. This is why any condition need to be treated holistically and not just with a pill, whether is a drug or a supplement or herb.

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About sliew

I am a practicing Medical herbalist and doctor of naturopathy from Singapore.
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