Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc) is a commonly used painkiller and fever reducer. It is the painkiller that I prefer for kids, breastfeeding mothers, and adults who don’t have medical reasons to refrain from using ibuprofen.
Medical reasons not to take ibuprofen (or to take it with caution) are allergy, gastrointestinal tract conditions, cardiovascular conditions, and kidney conditions. That is because ibuprofen is particularly hard on these body systems. For a full list of contraindications to ibuprofen use, see this article.
Luckily, there are options available to help protect the organ systems most at risk from damage.
*If you have been advised by a medical professional not to take ibuprofen or other NSAIDs because of a gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, or renal condition, please follow their instructions. Taking ibuprofen along with ginger or other protective herbs will not necessarily make it safe for you. Always follow your doctor’s advice.
**Taking Tylenol? Read this post instead.
Protect Your Gut With Ginger
Protecting your gut while taking ibuprofen (or other NSAIDs) is a smart idea. For people with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts, I often recommend adding ginger alongside the very first dose of ibuprofen to help manage the nausea that it can cause.
Enteric coated preparations are available, and are advertised as being easier on the gut, but it appears that they may not actually be safer.
Ginger is one possible gut protecting treatment out of many. This is my preferred choice because ginger also has anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties. In one study comparing ginger to ibuprofen, they were equally effective at reducing pain and swelling after dental surgery. Animal studies show that ginger protects against aspirin-induced gastrointestinal tract damage.
For infants who are still exclusively breast or formula fed, I prefer making homemade gripe water from chamomile, fennel, and dill seeds. Probiotics are likely helpful as well, but more research is needed.
Protect Your Heart And Kidneys
Cardiovascular and kidney (renal) side effects are a serious concern with ibuprofen use; however, this tends to be with long term ibuprofen use for chronic pain conditions like arthritis rather than short term pain or fever relief.
It is worth discussing cardio and renal protection with your doctor if you’re taking NSAID painkillers like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve), or others long term.
Some good supplement ideas for cardioprotection are hawthorn, CoQ10, fish oil, and vitamin C. Good supplements for kidney protection include stinging nettle, CoQ10, green tea, and medicinal mushrooms. The best diet to protect the kidneys and heart is the Mediterranean diet.
Natural Options for Pain And Inflammation
It’s important to note that there have been many studies comparing the efficacy of ibuprofen with natural anti-inflammatories like turmeric and ginger. These natural anti-inflammatories are just as effective in managing arthritis pain and are much safer for long term use. These herbs have different drug interaction and side effect profiles than ibuprofen, so it is important that you always discuss their use with your primary care physician.
Manage Nutrient Depletion
Nutrient depletion to watch for with ibuprofen and other NSAIDs are folate and iron. These are considerations for chronic use of these painkillers over months rather than short term for acute pain or fever. In many cases, these nutrients can be maintained by being mindful of consuming iron and folate-rich foods but supplementation may be required. Iron supplementation should be managed by a physician because taking too much can be toxic.
Ibuprofen is a safe and effective anti-inflammatory, fever-reducer, and painkiller when taken in the recommended doses for the recommended time period. Long term or excessive use can cause damage or irritation to the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and cardiovascular system. The gastrointestinal system can even be irritated with short term use.
Ginger is a good protector for the gut when taken with ibuprofen or other NSAIDs. Other herbs and nutrients can provide longer term protection against kidney or cardiovascular damage.
Turmeric and/or ginger are safer long term anti-inflammatory and pain relieving alternatives, which may be substituted for ibuprofen or other NSAIDs when treating chronic inflammation and pain.
Nutrient depletion to watch for include iron and folate.
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