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Are Your Risking Intestinal Damage by Using Ibuprofen During Exercise?

I’ve long felt that it isn’t a great idea to mask pain during exercise by taking an anti-inflammatory drug. Even after exercise, I do so only reluctantly, and I prefer aspirin over things like Ibuprofen or Naprosyn.

New studies suggest that use of ibuprofen during exercise may be harmful:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly used by athletes to prevent anticipated exercise-induced pain, thereby putatively improving physical performance. However, these drugs may have potentially hazardous effects on the gastrointestinal (GI) mucosa during strenuous physical exercise. The aim of the current study was to determine the effect of oral ibuprofen administration before exercise on GI integrity and barrier function in healthy individuals.

Both ibuprofen consumption and cycling resulted in increased I-FABP levels, reflecting small intestinal injury.... small intestinal permeability increased, especially after cycling with ibuprofen.


We conclude that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs consumption by athletes is not harmless and should be discouraged.

From the Dec 11, 2012 New York Times:

...blood levels of a protein indicating intestinal leakage were in fact much higher when the men combined bike riding with ibuprofen than during the other experimental conditions when they rode or took ibuprofen alone. Notably, the protein levels remained elevated several hours after exercise and ibuprofen.

... if someone uses ibuprofen before every exercise session for a year or more, intestinal integrity might be compromised. In that case, small amounts of bacteria and digestive enzymes could leak regularly into the bloodstream.

There is no scientifcally valid reason to use ibuprofen before exercise and many reasons to avoid it.

... ultramarathon racers who frequently used ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory wound up with higher overall levels of bodily inflammation.

Sounds nasty to me. Everything in moderation of course, but even so, it still seems a bad idea to me to mask any pain while actively causing it.

Read more on this topic via a google search.

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