If you read the headlines and listen to conventional physicians, you’ll be convinced that aspirin is the miracle drug of the century. Not only does it banish pain and reduce inflammation and fever, it prevents heart disease. And now we’re hearing that it prevents colon cancer. Yes, aspirin is a wonder drug. For short-term use there’s nothing like a couple of aspirin to knock out a headache, to reduce the pain of a sprain, and even to quickly reduce heart disease risk while working on safer and more effective long-term solutions.
Used long-term, aspirin often does more harm than good. It causes gastric bleeding and ulcers, suppresses the immune system, and promotes macular degeneration, an irreversible eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that the risk of gastrointestinal hemorrhage (bleeding) with aspirin doesn’t change whether the dose is 50 mg or 1,500 mg. In other words, lowering your dose won’t decrease the risk of this adverse effect. Taking buffered aspirin slightly helps counteract these side effects, but not significantly enough to make it safe to take long-term. And while aspirin decreases the risk of some types of strokes, it increases the risk of other types. Research has shown that taking ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) with aspirin can negate the heart benefits of aspirin.
Aspirin essentially works by blocking the production of hormonelike substances called prostaglandins, which constantly regulate every cell in the body in many of their complex interactions. Some prostaglandins, when made in the body in excess, play a role in promoting heart disease, inflammation, and pain. The fact that aspirin very effectively blocks these prostaglandins would be good news, except that it blocks the formation of both “good” and “bad” prostaglandins, and in the process of suppressing the good prostaglandins, it also suppresses the immune system. (A little aside: Some of aspirin’s benefits may also come from the use of magnesium in buffered aspirin, the form most often used in heart disease studies. A little magnesium every day could provide major benefits to the heart.)
While the bad prostaglandins can make your blood more likely to get sticky, clump together, and cause a stroke or heart attack, good pros-taglandins lower blood pressure, inhibit blood aggregation and the production of cholesterol, and reduce inflammation reactions. Hmmmm. Sounds like “good” prostaglandins provide the same heart benefits that aspirin does—and they do. Much of heart disease has to do with the fact that bad prostaglandins are outweighing good prostaglandins.
Elsewhere in this website you’ll find natural alternatives to aspirin that can reduce bad prostaglandins and increase good prostaglandins.