By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
April 16, 2014
- The OTC pain-reliever that could send you to the ER
- Why it’s so easy to accidentally overdose on this drug
- Natural relief for your aching head, joints and muscles
If you have a headache, backache, cold, flu or achy muscles, it’s easy to reach into the medicine cabinet for some Tylenol or Advil. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relievers like these can bring instant relief. And, we’ve been taking them since we were kids.
No big deal, right?
Well, a few weeks ago, you learned about some of the problems that come with NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil). These pain-relievers increase your chance of a heart attack or stroke. They also speed up the progression of arthritis.
Since then, I’ve received a lot of emails asking about acetaminophen. Acetaminophen isn’t an NSAID, so a lot of folks are wondering if it might be safer to take.
The answer is a resounding, “No.” In fact, it may be the most worrisome OTC pain-reliever of all.
We’ve known for years and years that just a small amount of acetaminophen can damage the cells in your liver. And today, acetaminophen overdose is one of the most common poisonings worldwide. Worse, it’s the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.
Let me fill you in on the biggest mistakes people make with acetaminophen… and share some tips on how you can get fast pain relief naturally.
My job isn’t to scare you. But I have to be honest. Acetaminophen is one downright scary drug… and there’s no way I can hide that fact.
I think the media has done a pretty good job of alerting people not to take acetaminophen with alcohol. Both are damaging to the liver. Put the two together and you can do an incredible amount of damage to your liver in a very short amount of time.
In fact, it took many years for acetaminophen to make it in the European markets, because they really drink over there… wine in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, and beer/whiskey in the U.K. If someone suspected they were going to have a hangover, or they took acetaminophen because they already had a hangover, more often than not they wound up in the ER with liver failure after combining both.
But there’s another mistake that’s less widely reported: Accidental acetaminophen overdose.
Most people already know that too much acetaminophen can hurt the liver. But what they don’t realize is that “too much” can be a relatively small amount. And today, it’s easy to get a lot more of this pain-reliever than you realize.
You see, acetaminophen isn’t just found in Tylenol. You’ll also find it in over 600 additional medications. Some of them are over-the-counter meds, others are prescription.
Here are just a few everyday products that contain acetaminophen…
• Nyquil and Dayquil
This is a big problem and makes accidental overdosing very easy. Take a few Excedrin for a headache… Benadryl for your allergies… prescription Tramadol for your chronic back or knee pain… Tylenol P.M. to get to sleep… maybe some Nyquil if you have a cold… and, what if you also have a glass or two of wine with dinner?
You get the point.
Even if you’re conscientious, you may not be aware that there’s another name for acetaminophen. It’s often labeled as APAP, or N-acetyl-para-aminophenol. This makes it even more difficult to monitor how much you’re taking.
Thankfully, there are many natural alternatives that work just as well as OTC pain-relievers. Here are a few you might want to try…
Headache – If you have a headache, try taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is known as the “relaxation” mineral and helps increase your brain’s blood flow. And it’s highly effective when it comes to relaxing muscles and relieving tension that can trigger a headache. Just take 300 mg. of magnesium the next time you get a headache. (It also works for muscle cramps!)
Dehydration is another common cause of headaches. In addition to magnesium, try drinking unsweetened coconut water. It has a lot of electrolytes, especially potassium, which can help remedy the dehydration faster than plain water. This, then, relieves the headache.
If you suffer from migraines, try feverfew. It can reduce both the frequency and severity of migraines. It works especially well when combined with magnesium. Take 250 to 325 mg. of a feverfew supplement that’s standardized to contain 0.2 – 0.4% parthenolides four times per day.
Chronic pain – A great choice for relieving chronic pain is the amino acid phenylalanine, or DLPA. Athletes and people with chronic pain often supplement with DLPA regularly, since it builds up in the system and becomes more effective over time.
Most people can begin with 300 to 500 mg. twice a day and see relief, while others may need to reach 2,000 to 3,000 mg. a day. Be sure to take vitamin B6 and vitamin C along with DLPA, as they must be present in the blood for the DLPA to be absorbed.
Joint, muscle or nerve pain – Capsaicin formulations used on the skin (topically) can help ease pain. They work by blocking nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. You can get even better results if you look for one that includes menthol – which is often referred to as “nature’s anesthesia.” Look for a maximum-strength formula that contains 0.75% capsaicin.
While both of these ingredients will offer soothing relief, they can also be irritants, especially if you get them in your eyes. That’s why I prefer a roll-on formula. You can apply it exactly where it’s needed without getting it all over your hands.
Other topical remedies include tiger balm and arnica.
Tiger balm is a blend of Chinese herbs that has a mentholated quality and can be used in a number of ways. For headache, rub on the temples. For muscular pain, rub on the affected area. For coughing or breathing difficulty during a cold, rub on the chest. And for nasal congestion, place beneath the nostrils.
Arnica is from a plant related to sunflowers and has been used for sprains, strains, bruises and swelling for centuries. However, make sure not to apply it on broken skin or an open wound. It can be toxic if it gets inside the body.
When you have a headache or any other minor aches or complaints, turn to your natural medicine cabinet first. Not last.
Larson AM, Polson J, Fontana RJ, Davern TJ, Lalani E, Lee WM et al. “Acute Liver Failure Study Group (ALFSG). Acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure: results of a United States multicenter, prospective study.” Hepatology, 2005 Dec; 42(6):1364-72