Are Painkillers making you feel sick?

If you are someone who has freely used painkillers in the past you may now find that you have problems with food. That is my story but only now do I find that research is backing up what I felt might have caused my gut problems.

Painkillers and Leaky Gut

In today’s world when people have a headache or lots of aches and pains or just can’t sleep, it is very common to pop an over the counter painkiller. Because they are so freely available and cheap, nobody thinks twice about taking it for pain of any kind or to relax the body.

But beware. New research has linked painkillers or nonsteroidal anti inflammatory (NSAID) drugs to a range of health problems including coeliac disease, a rise in allergies, autoimmune diseases and heartburn. Yes, often the very condition you are taking the painkiller for is actually being made worse!

And from as far back as the 1980s, one study found “NSAIDs are shown to disrupt intestinal integrity and long term treatment leads to inflammation of the small intestine.”1 Basically that means that the lining of the gut wall is no longer intact and what follows is inflammation of the small intestine.

Many scientific studies conducted over the past two decades show a correlation between NSAID use and leaky gut syndrome.

According to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “All the conventional NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen and Advil were equally associated with small intestinal inflammation apart from aspirin and nabumetone which seem to spare the small bowel” and “intestinal permeability changes were significantly more pronounced” with some of the tests.

Here’s a list of common NSAIDs or painkillers:

• Advil / Motrin (ibuprofen)
• Aspirin
• Aleve (naproxen sodium)
• Celebrex
• Naprosyn (naproxen)
• Lodine (etodolac)
• Mobic
• Nalfon (fenoprofen)
• Daypro (oxaprozin)
• Relafen, Relifex, Gambaran (Nabumetone)
• Cambia / Cataflam / Voltaren (diclofenac)
• COX-2 Inhibitors

So what’s the big deal about Leaky Gut?

When Leaky Gut syndrome occurs, the walls of the intestines become inflamed and more permeable. This inflammation and permeability makes it less able to carry out its filtering and protective role for the internal environment.

Some bacteria and their toxins, partially digested proteins and fats, and waste not normally absorbed may “leak” out of the intestines into the blood stream. This triggers the body to set up an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal bloating, excessive gas and cramps, fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, skin rashes and autoimmunity. Leaky gut syndrome may trigger or worsen such disorders as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

Link to Gluten sensitivity and Coeliac disease

When the gut is more permeable than it should be, it allows gluten to leak out into the blood stream triggering an autoimmune response.

By the way gluten is a protein primarily found in wheat, barley, and rye. The name comes from the Latin gluten, meaning glue, which helps things stick together and keep shape, and gives dough and other foods a firm, chewy texture. Because so many products are processed with wheat, gluten can show up in everything from oatmeal and salad dressing to shampoo and lipstick.

One widely increasing autoimmune condition is Coeliac disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue and produces symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weight loss and tiredness.

This condition can be life threatening and coeliacs can’t eat any products containing gluten. There is no cure for coeliac disease but switching to a gluten-free diet can help control symptoms and prevent long-term complications.

In the long-term, if it is not managed, the condition can cause malabsorption of all food and malnutrition leading to anaemia, osteoporosis and even bowel cancer.

The final message

Be very wary of your use of over the counter painkillers. One of their major side effects is that they affect the permeability of the gut (leaky gut). With the increased passage of toxins and gluten proteins, anyone is at the risk of developing gluten intolerance or at worst coeliac disease.

There isn’t a cure for celiac, but sticking to a strict (as even one spore can trigger the immune system) gluten-free diet helps. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness in the US, an estimated 1% of the U.S. population has the disease, though it’s severely under-diagnosed.

Don’t let this be you. Regular use of over the counter NSAIDS is bad news, not only for your gut but for your heart and kidneys.

1. Drugs. 1986;32 Suppl 1:35-41. Effect of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on the human small intestine. Bjarnason I, Zanelli G, Prouse P, Williams P, Gumpel MJ, Levi AJ.