MAGNESIUM & TURMERIC VS IBUPROFEN & ACETAMINOPHEN
What are The Benefits vs The Risks?
I’m guessing almost everyone has experienced a headache at some point in their life, for one reason or another.
There are many causes of headaches: Dehydration, Hormonal Imbalance, Illness, Physical Trauma, Tension, Eye Strain, Sinus Pressure, Migraine – are some that come to mind.
And there are many treatments too.
As a pharmacist, my go to headache remedy was always ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). This worked for me most of the time and logically made sense. Most causes of headaches create some type of inflammation in the body and ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID). NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, temporarily reduce the amount of prostaglandins made by your body.
What are these things called prostaglandins?
Your body releases prostaglandins when you have an injury. These hormone-like substances contribute to inflammation, which includes swelling, fever, and increased sensitivity to pain.
Great! Ibuprofen! – A simple solution for a simple problem. Right?
BENEFITS VS RISKS OF IBUPROFEN
I’ve been taught to weigh the benefits versus the risks for any medication or treatment. This is good advice for anyone contemplating a health decision.
So the next logical question:
Does the use of ibuprofen to treat a headache outweigh the risk?
Getting rid of a headache is definitely a benefit but ibuprofen has many potential side effects.
COMMON SIDE EFFECTS OF IBUPROFEN
The more common side effects of ibuprofen are related to the GI (gastrointestinal) system: :
- Stomach Pain / Irritation of the Stomach Lining
- Constipation or Diarrhea
SEVERE SIDE EFFECTS OF IBUPROFEN
There are other side effects, they are more uncommon but more severe, and definitely more concerning risks:
- Heart attack and stroke
- This is a rare side effect, but your risk increases if you use too much ibuprofen or use it for too long.
- Your risk is even higher if you:
- Have other risk factors for heart attack or stroke
- Have a clotting disorder
- Take other medications that affect how your blood clots
- Decreased Kidney Function and Increased Blood Pressure
- This is related to ibuprofen’s effect on prostaglandins.
- Prostaglandins help keep the pressure in your kidneys at the right level to filter the fluids in your body and maintain blood pressure.
- Since ibuprofen changes your body’s production of prostaglandins, this can cause an imbalance in your body fluid pressure, which can decrease kidney function and increase blood pressure.
- Your risk is even higher if you:
- Are an older adult
- Have kidney disease
- Take blood pressure medications
- Your risk is even higher if you:
- Ulcers and Bleeding in the Stomach and Intestines
- Prostaglandins again! – they help maintain the constant repair of your stomach lining, which protects it from the stomach acid.
- Since ibuprofen decreases prostaglandin production, it increases your risk for stomach damage such as bleeding and ulcers in the stomach and intestines.
- This is not a common side effect, but the risk increases the longer you use ibuprofen.
- Other factors that increase your risk include:
- Again, older age
- History of ulcers or bleeding in your stomach or intestines
- Use of oral steroids or blood thinners
- Alcohol use
IS THE BENEFIT WORTH THE RISK?
That is a lot of potential risk for the benefit of getting rid of a headache!
What are your other options?
There is acetaminophen (Tylenol). This has not worked well for me personally for getting rid of a headache, but it is a top recommendation of many doctors and pharmacists, especially if there are reasons that a person should not take ibuprofen or NSAIDs.
It’s not fully known how acetaminophen works. It doesn’t reduce swelling or inflammation. Instead, it’s thought to block the release of certain chemicals in your brain that signal the sensation of pain.
CONCERNING SIDE EFFECTS OF ACETAMINOPHEN
Acetaminophen doesn’t have many of the more common side effects like ibuprofen but the potential harm it can do to your body’s liver is very concerning and worth considering before taking a dose for a headache.
Your liver is your main detox pathway in your body. It processes environmental toxins, pesticides or other toxins from your food and water, medications, alcohol and everything else that you put into or onto your body.
- Severe liver damage
- Acetaminophen poisoning can happen from taking too much acetaminophen.
- Your liver processes acetaminophen and converts it into a different substance. If you take large amounts of acetaminophen, your liver produces more of that substance. And when there is too much of it, that substance can damage your liver.
- Permanent liver damage is not likely if you take it at the recommended dose for a short period of time.
- Unfortunately acetaminophen overuse is more common than you think. This can occur in:
- Adults who take more than 3 g (3,000 mg) of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period – That is just 6 tablets of 500mg each.
- Children who take more than five doses in a 24-hour period
- People who already have liver disease or who take other medications that can damage the liver
- People who drink three or more alcoholic drinks per day, even when they take acetaminophen at the recommended dosage
The risks of ibuprofen or acetaminophen are a lot to consider but those aren’t your only options.
Magnesium is a vital nutrient that plays a part in more than 300 of the body’s processes. Magnesium deficiency can cause many issues, including headaches.
Because of the role magnesium plays in muscle contraction and relaxation, it can be effective for reducing tension headaches and migraines. Magnesium has the potential to both prevent headaches as well as eliminate an existent headache.
NERVOUS SYSTEM REGULATION
Magnesium plays a role in regulating neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout your brain and nervous system. This is part of the body’s stress response system. A reduced magnesium level in the body can decrease your ability to deal with stress, which can lead to headaches, among other things.
DEHYDRATION / SWEATING
Most people aren’t consuming enough magnesium per day and some people may be more susceptible to magnesium loss. When you sweat – due to exercise, menopausal hot flashes or illness – you lose water and electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, etc). This can lead to dehydration if both water and electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, etc) are not replenished.
MAGNESIUM IN YOUR DIET
Adding magnesium rich foods into your diet is essential. These include: dark leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds (almonds and pumpkin seeds), and even organic dark chocolate.
Many people are deficient in magnesium. This can be a result of eating refined and processed food, the increasing prevalence of chronic disease and because of mineral depletion in our soil, and subsequently in our food.
Magnesium is a safe and well-tolerated option for preventing headaches and can be used as an acute treatment option as well.
Magnesium supplementation does have the potential to cause diarrhea for some people. This occurs with certain forms of magnesium that are not well absorbed, like magnesium oxide or when taking high doses of any form.
Too much dietary magnesium is typically not a problem for healthy people, as any excess will be processed by the kidneys and be excreted in urine.
TURMERIC / CURCUMIN
Turmeric is an herb closely related to the ginger family. It is native to India and is one of the main ingredients in curry dishes. The bright yellow color of turmeric is due to the curcumin it contains. Whether you love curry dishes, dislike them or have never tried them, the benefits of turmeric / curcumin are amazing.
Most of the research on turmeric centers on its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This can be helpful with preventing and managing headaches since Inflammation is one of the underlying causes of headaches and migraines. The research is not conclusive but it is promising.
Most studies test the effects of curcumin — the active component in turmeric — because it’s much stronger than the powdered spice.
It’s important to know that curcumin supplements contain a much higher concentration of the beneficial polyphenols than the amount you’d get from eating curry — even if you love curry and eat it every day.
SIDE EFFECTS OF TURMERIC / CURCUMIN
There are many more benefits than side effects with turmeric / curcumin when eaten or taken in typical amounts (turmeric: consumed in teas, soups or curry dishes or curcumin: 400 – 600 mg per day) . When taken at higher doses, curcumin can cause some unpleasant side effects like nausea, diarrhea — and yes — even headache.
Pure turmeric powders are considered safe for most people. When you are consuming turmeric, make sure you are buying it from a trusted source. Your best bet is to choose turmeric that has been certified by a reputable agency. Many powders, unfortunately, are adulterated. This means that cheaper and potentially toxic ingredients have been added and are not listed on the label.
Some commercial turmeric powders may contain fillers like barley, wheat or rye flour, which can cause adverse symptoms in people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Some turmeric powders may also contain questionable food colorants, which are added to improve color when the powder is diluted with flour. Some turmeric powders may also be high in lead, a heavy metal that is especially toxic to the nervous system.
Weighing benefits vs risks is always the best way to decide if this supplement is something that may work for you.
Curcumin has many benefits beyond preventing or treating headaches. It has anti-inflammatory properties; inflammation is the root cause of almost all diseases. It is rich in antioxidants, promotes liver health, improves brain function, improves heart health, lowers cholesterol, lowers blood glucose and helps to prevent blood clots.
The typical daily dosage is 400 to 600 milligram of curcumin per day, this is equivalent to approximately 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder.
You can try this to prevent or manage a headache.
Because of the effect that curcumin supplements have on the different functions of the body they may conflict with other medications you are taking. If you are taking medications for various disease states, consult your physician before taking curcumin supplements.
My go to curcumin supplement is Super Bio-Curcumin Turmeric Extract. It contains 400 mg of curcumin per capsule.
DECIDE WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU
Next time you have a headache or if you suffer from recurring headaches, weigh your options and the benefits and risks they have to offer.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.
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