There are many conventional medicines that doctors prescribe for treating pain and inflammation. These medicines can cause depletion of certain nutrients.
The three most common categories of pain and inflammation medications are:
1. Analgesics – They reduce pain, but do not reduce inflammation.
- Acetaminophen – Brand name Tylenol®. Nutrients depleted: Glutathione, which plays a critical part in the detoxification and anti-oxidation processes of the enzyme system. Follow the product label’s instructions carefully. Taking higher doses than what is recommended on the label may lead to possible liver damage.
2. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – These are the most widely used and prescribed medications, since they reduce pain as well as inflammation.
- Prescription COX-2 Inhibitors – Generally, NSAIDs inhibit two naturally occurring enzymatic reactions: Cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2), which triggers pain and inflammation; and Cyclo-oxygenase-1 (COX-1), which prevents blood platelets from clumping together and forming clots, and also helps maintain the stomach lining. Because COX-2 inhibitors selectively block the COX-2 enzyme and not the COX-1 enzyme, these drugs are uniquely different from traditional NSAIDs and may cause less severe gastrointestinal problems. However, the incidence of cardiovascular disease increases significantly when using these drugs.10They include:
- Over-the-counter NSAIDs– These are the most commonly used NSAIDs. They inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. Inhibition of the COX-1 enzyme results in damage to the stomach lining and causes ulcers and bleeding. Nutrients depleted: Folic acid, which harms DNA metabolism, thus causing abnormal cellular development, especially in cells that have a higher rate of turnover. These include red blood cells, leukocytes, epitheral cells of the stomach, intestines, vagina, and uterine cervix. These drugs include:
- Ibuprofen – Brand names Advil®, Motrin®, and Nupren®
- Naproxen – Brand names Aleve®, Anaprox®, Naprelan®, and Naprosyn®
- Aspirin – Aspirin reduces inflammation, suppresses fever, and acts as an anticoagulant. Nutrients depleted: Folic acid, iron, potassium, sodium, and vitamin C. More importantly, studies have shown that use of aspirin, especially over the long term, comes with an increased risk of bleeding in the stomach and other medical complications.
WARNING: Before taking any NSAID, consult your pharmacist for specific instructions on their proper use and risks. In April of 2005, the FDA issued warnings and made changes to protect the public against the risks of taking prescription and over-the-counter NSAIDs. In particular, NSAIDs can carry an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal bleeding.
3. Corticosteroids – These are synthetic forms of naturally occurring hormones produced by the adrenal glands that provide powerful and immediate short-term relief of inflammation. Some brand names are Cortisone®, Hydrocortone®, and Prednisone®. They can be given as injections into the joints to treat flare-ups, administered through use of inhalers (as in the case of asthma), administered orally (in pill form), or topically (in cream form).