• Allison Fahrenbach

NSAIDS & Intestinal Permeability

Millions of Americans take over-the-counter painkillers like Advil and Aleve for any random ache, pain, or cold symptom, without a second thought.

Working with as many athletes as I do, I see reliance on these types of non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) all the time.

The problem is that most people who use NSAIDS religiously have NO idea the damage they are doing to their stomach. NSADS increase intestinal permeability (nicknamed "leaky gut" by popular media) which can cause a myriad of issues from autoimmune disease to allergies.

There have been several solid studies conducted over the past twenty years that definitively show a correlation between NSAID use and intestinal permeability (leaky gut).

According to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "All the conventional NSAIDs studied were equally associated with small intestinal inflammation apart from aspirin and nabumetone which seem to spare the small bowel." Another study concluded, "NSAIDs are shown to disrupt intestinal integrity"

This study found the negative impacts of taking NSAIDS can begin in as little as ONE WEEK of consistent use!

NSAIDS have been scientifically proven to damage the intestinal lining

Intestinal permeability is something to be concerned about, because when your intestinal lining is compromised it allows bacteria and food proteins to leach into your bloodstream. This can trigger an inflammatory response by the body, causing your immune system to attack itself, leading to allergies, diabetes, obesity or weight management issues, heart disease, GI distress, even cancer.

Not only that, inflammation can affect the brain and nervous system, causing mental and emotional imbalances like anxiety depression, irritability, and mood swings.

And, if you have gluten sensitivity you need to be specifically concerned as Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs can make it worse.

The most common NSAIDs are:

  • Advil / Motrin (ibuprofen)

  • Aspirin

  • Aleve (naproxen sodium)

  • Celebrex

  • Naprosyn (naproxen)

  • Lodine (etodolac)

  • Mobic

  • Nalfon (fenoprofen)

  • Daypro (oxaprozin)

  • Ansaid (flurbiprofen)

  • Cambia / Cataflam / Voltaren (diclofenac)

  • COX-2 Inhibitors

I actually recently finished working with a client who came to me with several issues including persistent un-diagnosed digestive issues, unexplained weight gain, and seemingly uncontrollable anxiety.

After her initial intake I realized she had been using NSAIDs chronically for YEARS, taking low dose aspirin at the direction of her heart doctor and using Aleve for her migraines.

The first thing I did was to remove all gluten and dairy from her diet because with intestinal permeability and inflammation, these are common triggers for many people -- even for those who weren't previously sensitive.

We then added in a few simple supplements to begin to heal the the inflammation in her stomach -- and her leaky gut. These included things like ginger root, curcumin (an anti-inflammatory extract from turmeric), DGL (a form of licorice in a chewable tablet that helps to heal gastritis and leaky gut), zinc, and L-glutamine.

After months of not using NSAIDS, employing diligent dietary control and sticking to her supplementation, the inflammation in her gut subsided and she is now consuming a wide variety of healthful foods with no issues. What's more, the 18 lbs she gained prior to working with me has been lost.... PLUS 6 more!

Here are 10 Guidelines For Healing a "Leaky Gut" from NSAIDS

  1. Stop medications that cause a leaky gut including: anti-inflammatories, aspirin, acid blockers, and antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary).

  2. Instead address the root cause of your pain (which is prompting you to use NSAIDS) by way of natural means. You can find a naturopath or functional medicine doctor for help if needed.

  3. Try an elimination diet -- usually no gluten or dairy for six weeks is a good place to start. Those tend to be the most common triggers.

  4. Take probiotics -- 50-100 billion organisms a day of mixed probiotic strains OR consume probiotic rich foods

  5. Eliminate alcohol and reduce/eliminate artificial sweetners (the exception being small amounts of PURE stevia)

  6. Minimize or eliminate processed foods. They offer few nutrients, lots of extra sugar, and chemical additives, as well as plenty of genetically modified ingredients, all of which can wreak havoc on your compromised gut lining, making leaky gut and inflammation matters worse. Whole foods, however, have the opposite effect. If your gut is still in a particularly delicate state this CAN be hard because even some whole foods will perpetuate symptoms so you may want to work with a coach on slowly introducing (or reintroducing) more nutrient dense, fiber rich foods into your diet in a healthy, healing way.

  7. Get your greens. Add leafy greens at breakfast, lunch, and dinner as often as you can, and if you can't- due to digestive issues- then I suggest supplementing with a green powder. Greens–and all the nutrients and chlorophyll that go along with them–are great gut helpers.

  8. Use nutrients and herbs to heal a leaky gut including: ginger, digestive enzymes, zinc, glutamine, fish oil, DGL, quercitin, and curcumin.

  9. Manage your stress! Easier said than done for many of us, but even just a few minutes of prayer or meditation can help quiet, calm, and ultimately help heal your gut. Stress has been scientifically linked to GI issues, so don't underestimate the power of maintaining a calm state of mind and inner peace. Stress management goes a long way.

  10. Address any low grade infections that may have resulted from the increase in your intestinal permeability. Very often, low-grade infections like yeast, bacteria, and parasites are present as a result of "leaky gut" and need to be treated. You could simply use an antimicrobial supplement but I always think it's best to find a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner to help determine if there is any infection present and if so, what the best course of treatment is.

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