If you’re wondering, “Is ibuprofen bad for you?” let me ask you another question, “Is ibuprofen good for you?” Nobody has a deficiency in painkillers. But every day there are millions of people who turn to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen for headaches, fevers, and other pains. By taking ibuprofen you aren’t fixing anything but masking the pain with a drug. Here’s the deal — drugs like ibuprofen come with side effects and the problem that is causing your pain is still there.

That’s why so many people take ibuprofen and other NSAIDs so often. They aren’t helping their body heal and they are causing long term effects. 33 million Americans take NSAIDs regularly. Ibuprofen which includes common brands like Advil or Motrin is an NSAID. Aspirin is another example of an NSAID. One study found that more than 15% of regular users of ibuprofen took more than the recommended dose of NSAIDs during a 1-week period and 37% used multiple NSAIDs. (1)

How Does Ibuprofen Work?

Because it is non-steroidal and non-addictive, some forms of ibuprofen are readily available over the counter, so many people don’t recognize the dangers. Ibuprofen is a drug that works by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase enzymes (cox-1 and cox-2). These enzymes have many jobs including production of prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are what go to work when your body needs to heal by causing inflammation which means fever, pain, and swelling. (2) So, by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzymes you are keeping prostaglandins from doing their job. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s a good thing.  I know we talk about how bad chronic inflammation is but inflammation itself isn’t bad. Signs of inflammation like fever, pain, and swelling aren’t a mistake. They are your body working to repair itself.

Why is Ibuprofen Bad for You?

Ibuprofen comes with many common side effects because of how it works. The body is like a Swiss Watch and everything is connected so you can’t impact one physiological process without affecting others.  Cyclooxygenase enzymes and prostaglandins also play a role in the integrity of the body’s gastric mucosal protection. (3) They play multiple roles in mediating processes that keep your gut lining healthy. Taking ibuprofen can add inflammation to your gut and increase intestinal permeability.

That’s why it shouldn’t be a surprise that the most common side effects of ibuprofen are:

  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Gas

More Serious Concerns of Ibuprofen

The more you take ibuprofen (and the more you exceed dosage), the more you are at risk of the less common but more serious side effects of ibuprofen. Long term use is known to cause stomach ulcers and bleeding because of the damage caused by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase enzymes and prostaglandins which support the repair of your stomach. This added inflammatory insult leaves you even more susceptible to other inflammatory conditions. Isn’t less inflammation why you took the ibuprofen in the first place?

NSAIDs like ibuprofen increase your risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke. (4) This is now coming straight from the FDA, WEBMD and other common sources. But many people still believe that taking aspirin will reduce their chance of heart attack. Even short-term use can increase your chances, so avoid taking this unnecessarily. And, like we talked about, nobody has a deficiency in ibuprofen.

Prostaglandins also play a role in maintaining your kidney function and blood pressure which is why ibuprofen can cause damage to the kidneys and increase your blood pressure. See how everything is connected?

Your liver does a lot of the heavy lifting in cleaning out toxins from your body and drugs are a toxin. They don’t belong there. Liver damage is known as a rare side effect of using ibuprofen, but we are learning more everyday about the stress we put on our liver and what that leads to. A recent study on mice shows ibuprofen’s adverse effect on liver health could be more significant as 300 proteins were changed over a week’s time. (5) Researchers found that moderate ibuprofen use added more stress than previously thought. Your liver needs support to keep you healthy, not stress. It has enough work with all the toxins we run into every day.

Avoid Using Ibuprofen and Stop Avoiding the Problem

If you have a fever the body is trying to fight illness – support that. Don’t take ibuprofen. If you regularly have to take ibuprofen for headaches, menstrual pain, joint pain, or other pains caused by inflammation, then work with a proficient provider to find out what the causes are. By using ibuprofen and other NSAIDs you are only masking the concerns, not fixing them and you are likely causing long term damage. Avoid ibuprofen, not the problem.

Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn

Resources:

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/pds.4391
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3081099/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16184416/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455842/
  5. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-60053-y