In the world of medicine, it’s no secret that painkillers are a double-edged sword. The question is are painkillers killing more than your pain, could they be killing your good gut bacteria too? On one hand, they’re our “get out of pain” free card. Often allowing us to continue work, family commitments or just get on with our day. On the other hand, research is starting to show that we may not be getting out of pain for free at all. Painkillers and anti-inflammatories (often taken in conjunction with or included in the painkiller itself) are not only affecting our livers but our gut microbiome as well.
If you’ve been on my page for a while you’ll know our gut microbiome consists of a vast ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms living within our digestive system. It plays an extraordinary role in our overall health. Influencing everything from our digestion and immune system to our mental well-being. But what happens when we introduce painkillers into this intricate biological landscape? Let’s start by defining what painkillers are.
Painkillers, also known as analgesics, are a diverse class of medications primarily designed to ease pain and discomfort. They come in different forms, including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and prescription medications, each with its own set of active ingredients and mechanisms of action. Here are the differences between OTC and prescription painkillers for you to identify:
Dr Kirsten Becker commented on how alarmed she is at just how many people ages 6 – 96 use painkillers daily. It seems like painkillers really are the pill for every ill. This includes both OTC painkillers and prescription painkillers, with the scarier side effects being from prescription painkillers. For a graphic depiction of just how harmful they can be, I recommend Painkiller on Netflix since we’re focusing on their effects on gut health today instead.
It’s essential to acknowledge that pain relief doesn’t come without potential side effects and risks, especially in the short term. Here are some of the key concerns:
My primary concern came from this UK article: “Opioids can slow the whole digestive tract’s motility (the movements inside the gut). Reduced motility is one of the root causes of constipation and other symptoms of opioid-induced bowel dysfunction (abnormal functioning of the gut)”. This is where we get into the crux of what the title of this article is about. If we are reducing our gut motility, we’re running the risk of harming or killing off some of the essential gut bacteria we need to thrive.
You might think constipation is just not being able to have your regular number two ;). Did you know that you could be pooping every day and still be constipated? More than that, symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, severe PMS, low sex drive, low mood, and even anxiety have all been correlated with too much o-estrogen. This might occur during constipation because we cannot get rid of the excess o-estrogen, which is reabsorbed as a result.
There is a crucial role for modern medicine in the world. I genuinely believe doctors are doing the best they can with the resources they have. Know that these side effects depend on the dosage, type, and duration. Using the occasional painkiller is safe for most people. But I am passionate about highlighting that it’s more important now than ever to stop using medicine as a “band-aid” for what’s truly happening. At the Gut Health Agency, we focus on getting to root causes instead of providing temporary fixes. I’d also love to show you some of the lifestyle interventions women can try instead of (or in conjunction with) painkillers to manage their pain.
My go-to saying for my team and clients is that “clear is kind.” The best way to make a good choice is to be informed of the effects AND all your options. I do hope you’ll give these natural routes a try next time you’re experiencing pain. Most importantly, I hope you’ll take a second to ask WHY. To breathe into the pain, listen to your body and try to see what it is you truly need. This connection is invaluable and is another benefit of working with someone who is dedicated to YOU healing you.
Stay informed loves
Chelsea interviews professionals to bring YOU today’s most updated knowledge on nutrition and wellness.