Over-The-Counter Painkillers: Issues & Alternatives

Written by Alessia Cantale, Haberfield Health

Have you ever wondered why people say over the counter (OTC) drugs are harmful to your stomach?

In the stomach, we have an enzyme called Cyclo-oxygenase (COX) with two pathways, COX-1 and
COX-2. Both pathways create prostaglandins. Additionally, Prostaglandins act as different signals for
where they are in the body. They can signal inflammatory and immune responses when the body is

COX-2 pathway is an inducible pathway meaning this enzyme is only made in response to
inflammatory stimuli, and the prostaglandins in this pathway cause immediate pain, inflammation,
and fever.

COX-1 pathway is a physiological/ constitutive process in the body and protects the GIT mucosal
lining. The prostaglandins in this pathway increase mucus secretion and decrease stomach acid,
maintaining the protective layer.  Moreover, Ibuprofen blocks COX-1 and COX-2 pathways, inhibiting the COX-1 pathway to have its physiological GIT protective mechanism. Whereas Paracetamol only blocks COX-2, which allows COX-1 to have its physiological GIT protective mechanism.

Which is better?

Ibuprofen and Paracetamol have adverse effects which need to be considered when taking for long
term use. Paracetamol may look safer, although it can negatively affect the liver at high doses or
long-term use. Ibuprofen with long term use can cause gastritis, leaky gut, infections and more.

This article is not about why you shouldn’t take COX inhibitors but education on the science of how
they work in the body.

Alternatives to OTC

Please consult a healthcare professional to guide you before taking new supplements or using
essential oils, as this can interact with current medication.

1. To help repair your stomach lining, if you take these OTC drugs, use food as medicine – bone
broth, berries, teas, soups, kiwi fruit and whole foods.
2. Clove oil and/or gel can help relieve needle pain and toothaches.
3. Ginger tea, tablets can help recovery and inflammation from exercise or sickness.
4. Turmeric is effective in managing pain and inflammation if taken up to 4 weeks.
5. Inhaling and/or rubbing peppermint or lavender essential oil on the temples can help relieve
6. Acupuncture can target different conditions by working on specific parts of the body.
7. Argital Clay for first aid – insect bites & stings, mild burns, mild sunburn, toothache, sprains,
cold sores, painful arthritic joints, mild food poisoning. (for specific directions, please check
www.argitalaustralia.com.au for more).

Haberfield Health
Alessia Cantale
1. www.argitalaustralia.com.au
2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324572