Ibuprofen and the gut.

Posted by & filed under Health and Fitness.


This is the first in a series of three blogs on things we take or do that have a bad effect on the gut- the flora,gut permeability and general health – namely take Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) such as Ibuprofen or aspirin; take a variety of anti-biotics and get stressed.

Taking some kind of over the counter pain killer is extremely common.  The pain goes or is reduced and we carry on as before.  However, taking these things places a heavy burden on the body, for example, in an attempt to stop us causing ourselves liver damage, paracetamol is now only available in small packets.  Other types of pain killers,such as aspirin and ibuprofen, types of NSAID, put less stress on the liver but do damage the guts. Some of this damage is caused by the way these products work on the pro- and anti-inflammatory system of the body.  Classic side-effects of even low doses of aspirin are bleeding and stomach ulcers.

Ibuprofen, taken occasionally in low doses, has the least side effects of the NSAIDs.  But start taking it regularly and in increased doses then the story changes.  The damage from aspirin tends to be in the stomach whereas other NSAIDs cause damage further down the guts

These untoward effects include increased mucosal permeability, mucosal inflammation, anemia and occult blood loss [blood in the stool], malabsorption, protein loss, ileal dysfunction [imperfect absorption of food in the small intestine], diarrhea, mucosal ulceration, strictures due to diaphragm disease as well as active bleeding and perforation. 1

This sorry tally of side effects happens if the NSAID – or its metabolite – interacts with the surface of the gut walls and they happen within 12 hours of taking the pills.  The footnoted study found that these side effects, which are very like those of Chron’s disease, can last for up to three years after stopping taking the NSAIDs.

The above list includes increased mucosal permeability – in other words the gut wall becomes more permeable.  This means that larger molecules pass through than should and this leads to food intolerances developing, because the immune system regards these as alien invaders. And the problem with food intolerances is that they cause great damage in the vulnerable parts of our body;  so for some, they may play a part in an under active thyroid, for others a part in developing arthritis and so on.  And, to add the sting, a common sign of food intolerance is addiction to the food causing the problem, making giving it up a challenge.  The story with wheat goes into some detail about wheat/gluten addiction – but the problem food could just as easily be porridge or eggs.

Pain is not pleasant.  Generally, it is there for a reason.  Before reaching out willy-nilly for the pain-killers, it is worth asking if we can put up with the pain or take a better alternative, like putting a soft scarf around a sore throat – or seeing a good therapist, which includes Z health.  If we have persistent pain, this really is a sign that all is not right in the body and a call to action to work out the cause and a proper cure – believe me, this can be a very interesting journey.  Taking any pain killer regularly may cause temporary relief, but a quite a long term price. 2

  1. Lanas A, Scarpignato C.  Microbial flora and NSAID-induced intestinal damage: a role for antibiotics?  Digestion. 2006;73 suppl1:136-150 Abstr []
  2. There are better pain killers around.  Poliquin does one called Flame Quench, which is based on the herb rosemary, and works on a different pain pathway than the NSAIDs do. []

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)