Injuries play a big role in the life of an athlete. Transitioning from “injured athlete” back to “active athlete” takes time and does not always occur without complications. In many instances athletes turn to over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin to help aid recovery and speed the process of becoming an “active athlete,” without knowing that these medications can prolong an injury or cause significant damage to the kidneys, heart and gastrointestinal tract.

Upwards of 50% of Endurance athletes (i.e. runners, cyclists, basketball or soccer players etc.) can experience exercise related gastrointestinal problems that may impair recovery, performance and in some cases cause long-term health problems. Research shows that NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) that are commonly used by athletes for managing pain prior to and following exercise can actually worsen exercise induced GI problems.

One study examined the GI health of long distance runners to determine the effects of prolonged exercise (2-4 hrs) and NSAID ingestion on gastric and intestinal permeability. The results of this study indicate that consuming ibuprofen prior to prolonged exercise can increase gastrointestinal permeability and contribute to significant GI distress.

The affect of NSAIDs on GI health have been examined in additional studies as well. In a 2007 study looking at the affect of ibuprofen on GI permeability during exercise, researchers found evidence of increased gastroduodenal permeability associated with NSAID use among long distance runners. A 2012 study examined the affect of ibuprofen on the intestinal health of male long distance cyclists. Researchers found that ibuprofen consumption greatly contributed to increased small intestine permeability among the cyclists, and identified a significant correlation between the extent of intestinal injury and ibuprofen use.

According to pain management expert Dr. David Silver and author of  Playing through Arthritis, “Endurance athletes should  be wary of using NSAIDs in pre and post training routines.” According to Dr. Silver, “NSAIDs like Ibuprofen and naproxen have a myriad of negative GI side effects, and may actually make recovery more difficult for athletes.”

Marcus has over a decade of experience in the medical foods and dietary supplement industry and currently serves as Managing Director for Physician Therapeutics.

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