I know what it feels like to have pain. I have experienced the 10th degree of pain when I was first diagnosed with Stage 4 Endometriosis. Those nights of lying on the bathroom floor, rocking my body for some kind of weird maternal comfort, just waiting those 15 minutes for the pain relief to kick in, are still memories that drive me to share what I do. They were horrible, torturous nights that felt like far too many for someone in their early 20s, supposedly in the prime of her life. The world was supposed to be my oyster and yet, all I could focus on was Endometriosis and trying to work out how to get through another day, with varying levels of pain.
So, I get the desire for painkillers. I get that they alleviate the pain, even if it is just for a few degrees or for a few hours. I get that they offer comfort on a weird kind of psychological level because they are always available and can somehow make life more bearable. What I don’t get is that no one ever told me about the dangers and long-term side effects of taking them, including my doctor.
I want to share these long-term side effects with you today, so at least you are aware of the dangers for yourself. I am also going to share some insights on how to truly manage pain with your Endometriosis.
The real dangers of Tylenol/Paracetamol
Tylenol/Paracetamol is advertised as a non-habit forming painkiller. Their website indicates it is a great pain reliever and will help you sleep better. What’s scary is that there is even a dosing option to give to children.
Here’s what they don’t tell you:
- A number of studies have indicated acetaminophen (the generic name for Tylenol/Paracetamol) as a toxin. (Moore, 1985) It is included in a “toxicology panel” to detect poisons.
- In studies that examined mortality risk, the death rate for men and women who used acetaminophen was 90% higher than those who didn’t use the drug. (Roberts, 2015)
- In a systematic review of 1,888 studies in the U.K., adverse events reported included deaths, as well as toxicity to the heart, GI tract and kidneys. (Roberts, 2015)
- It has been proven to affect liver health in rats. (Moore, 1985)
Why does this matter?
Endometriosis and our liver health are closely related. The more stagnant our liver becomes, the more our hormones are thrown out and the more our bodies will struggle with Endometriosis. Anything that is a toxin will affect this liver health, including taking acetaminophen. Poor liver health will contribute to more hormone disruptions, more skin break-outs, thyroid issues, inflammatory responses etc. (Cabot, 2008)
What about NSAIDs?
This umbrella of drugs includes ibuprofen (ACT-3, Advil, Brufen, Motrin, Nurofen), naproxen sodium (Aleve, Naprogesic, Naprosyn, Naproxen), ketoprofen (Orudis KT), Mefenamic acid (Ponstan).
The way that these drugs work is by inhibiting the prostaglandins which trigger pain and inflammation we experience with Endometriosis. There are essentially two prostaglandins we want to concern ourselves with, the ones which trigger inflammation and pain and the ones which reduce it. The “good” ones enhance immune function, block inflammation, relax muscles, maintain the integrity of our stomach lining and dilate blood vessels. The “bad” ones pretty much do the opposite. With Endometriosis, we tend to produce more of the “bad” prostaglandins, also called PGE2, which results in an increase in inflammation, pain and uterine contractions.
NSAIDs block the production of ALL prostaglandins. This means, they block the “good” and the “bad”. The trick, however, for them to be truly effective is to take them before that response even starts. This means, taking them before we experience ovulation pain or period pain and try to predict when we might experience pain.
The trouble with taking a drug which inhibits ALL prostaglandins is that it causes the “good” prostaglandins to stop their important work too. This includes:
- Making sure our stomach lining is protected. (when experiencing nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, irritation in the stomach and stomach ulcers.)
- Reducing our immune function. I have personally made a connection with Endometriosis and our immune function over the years and know that this is counter-intuitive to truly heal Endometriosis. (Kyama, 2003)
- Obviously, the reduction of pain and inflammatory responses within the body.
Prostaglandins are hormone type responders in the body. We can certainly turn off the “messenger” but ultimately we are not working on why that “messenger” is informing us of pain. Pain is a message from our bodies, sent to tell us to listen. Dulling it with drugs is not a treatment, it is merely stopping the “messenger” from working.
Are you inhibiting ovulation with NSAIDs?
What’s interesting is that I recently found a study that indicated that taking NSAIDs can affect our ability to ovulate. This is really interesting! The figures were quite alarming! Women on NSAIDs for only 10 days experienced dramatically low figures for ovulating! Only 6-27% of women ovulated! (Science Daily, 2015) For some of us, we may think that ovulating is not that important if we are not trying to get pregnant, but when we don’t ovulate, we are throwing out a range of other hormones in the process.
What is the solution to alleviate the pain?
Okay, so we don’t want to take painkillers if we can help it because ultimately we are affecting our liver health and not really aiding our body by simply blocking the “messenger” of pain. So, how do we reduce pain and inflammation with Endometriosis without them? The key thing to know is that we also have “good prostaglandins” which will help reduce pain and inflammation. What we want to do is encourage these guys!
Take in more of these:
- Healthy fats like Krill Oil, Chia Seeds and avocados
- Eat plenty of wild fish
- Coconut oil and Olive Oil
Have less of these:
- Bad fats like Canola Oil and deep fried foods
Pain is not the enemy. We need to know that it is just a signal, a message from our bodies that is crying out for help! So tell me your story… what level of pain do you currently experience on a scale of 1-10? How many painkillers do you currently take? You can find a copy of my Pain Relief Strategies guide to get some more natural options to reduce pain.
Cabot, S. (1999). The Healthy Liver & Bowel Book. Scb International. Science Daily. (n.d.). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit ovulation after just 10 days. Kyama, C. M., Debrock, S., Mwedna, J. M., & D’Hooghe, T. M. (2003). Potential involement of the immune system in teh development of endometriosis. BioMed Central, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov–pmc–articles–PMC305339–pdf–1477–7827–1–123.pdf. Moore, M., Thor, H., Moore, G., Nelson, S., Moldéus, P., & Orrenius, S. (1985). The toxicity of acetaminophen and N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine in isolated hepatocytes is associated with thiol depletion and increased cytosolic Ca2+. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 260(24), 13035–13040. Roberts, E., Delgado Nunes, V., Buckner, S., Latchem, S., Constanti, M., Miller, P., et al. (2015). Paracetamol: not as safe as we thought? A systematic literature review of observational studies. – PubMed – NCBI. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. http://doi.org/10.1136/annrheumdis-2014-206914