(NaturalHealth365) The benefits of exercise could be offset by some troubling side effects – especially if you take “after-workout” pain medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), according to two recent studies. Stanford University researchers have determined that the combination of exercise and the use of NSAIDs for pain can overtax the kidneys and actually reduce muscle recovery times.
For millions of people: taking NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, and other over-the-counter pain medication is a normal step – when seeking pain relief. For example, as much as 75 percent of long-distance runners take some type of NSAID before, during or after their workouts.
Taking pain medication – ‘at the wrong time’ – will INCREASE the risk of kidney damage
Conventionally speaking, NSAIDs are designed to suppress inflammation and reduce pain and discomfort. They blunt prostaglandin production in the body that would otherwise dilate the blood vessels and cause inflammation. However, when taking these drugs – after a bout of exercise – the latest research suggests it’s a ‘bad idea’ – especially when you consider there are many (safer) alternatives for reducing inflammation in the body.
Some previous case studies had indicated the possibility of kidney issues in endurance athletes. And, because of this: Dr. Grant S. Lipman, a Stanford University clinical associate professor of medicine, was compelled to look into it further. Dr. Lipman has also been a medical director for several ultramarathons.
For one of the studies, 89 ultramarathon participants from all over the world were asked to take either ibuprofen or a placebo (every four hours) during a 50-mile portion of a race. Afterward, blood was drawn from the participants to check for elevated creatinine, a byproduct of kidney filtering. (the bad results were clear for those taking ibuprofen)
It’s important to note that higher creatinine levels (found in the runners taking NSAIDs) tend to signal an issue of unwanted kidney stress.
Using NSAIDs for pain medication also reduces the benefits of exercise related to muscle development
While nearly half of the runners had elevated creatinine levels, this effect was particularly pronounced in those who had taken ibuprofen. They were in fact 18 percent more likely to have an acute kidney injury. While athletes who demonstrate this effect tend to return to normal creatinine blood levels after recovering from strenuous physical activity, it was determined the risk for serious and permanent kidney damage was elevated in those taking NSAIDs.
The second study looked at the effects of NSAIDs on muscle recovery. The Stanford University department of microbiology examined muscle tissue and cells in mice with minor muscle injuries comparable to those occurring in humans following strenuous exercise.
It was determined that the blocked prostaglandin production – caused by taking NSAIDs – also blocked key stem cell production. This in turn impeded the tissue repair that leads to increased muscle strength following strenuous workouts.
In this way, the presence of NSAIDs impaired athletes from receiving the full benefits of exercise.
Take action today: Find safer alternatives to NSAIDs
As we’ve discussed, NSAIDs are often taken to reduce pain and inflammation after exercise. However, it turns out that some inflammation – following a workout – is actually a natural by-product to one of the top benefits of exercise: increased muscle strength and integrity.
In other words, we shouldn’t view minor aches and pains as a “serious medical condition” – requiring toxic drugs. To safely reduce inflammation: it’s better to take a cold bath or shower; consume lots of antioxidants in the diet; get a massage (if possible) and add nutritional supplements to your routine, like vitamin C and quercetin.
In addition, if you’ve been taking any (synthetic) pain medication after your workouts, consider trying Boswelia, capsaicin, cat’s claw, devil’s claw, curcumin and white willow bark for a non-toxic approach. You’ll help to protect your kidneys and increase the benefits of exercise – at the same time.
Sources for this article include:
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