How to Protect and Restore Gut Health after taking Pain Killers

How to Protect and Restore Gut Health after Pain Killers

Pain killers seem harmless enough, right? We’re accustomed to popping pain killers whenever we have an ache or pain, but here are some reasons to think twice before taking these drugs.

You’ve heard of the negative effects of antibiotics on gut health, but did you know that pain killers like Ibuprofen, Aleve, and others damage your gut microbiome?

NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are associated with increased harmful bacteria, decreased beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, as well as overall gut dysbiosis, inflammation, and even ulcers.

I do recommend avoiding them as much as possible. While they offer short-term relief, they are covering up symptoms that ultimately need to be addressed, not covered up. The damage they are causing your gut microbiome is significant and can lead to more health issues. As we know, we’re only as healthy as the health of our gut, which is why it’s important to do everything we can to keep it healthy!

I understand, however that sometimes they provide relief when we need it most, so if you are not able to completely avoid them, here are a few ways to protect and restore gut health during and after NSAID use.

  1. Use the right probiotic during and after using pain killers.

    There are a few probiotics in my online dispensary that are specifically targeted for reducing NSAID damage. To learn more about this, click here and send me a message.

    Related: The Most Common Myths about Probiotics 

  2. Eat a variety of fermented foods often.

    Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, probiotic beverages, etc promote the healing of ulcerations. Look for options with little or no added sugars. You don’t have to consume large quantities of these foods. Start with 1 forkful/day if you’re new to fermented foods.

  3. Make sure you’re consuming gut-healing foods daily.

    I recommend a variety of whole plant foods each day. Aim for at least 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Rice (black, brown, or red rice ideally), legumes, and (gluten-free) oats are beneficial if you tolerate them well. Nuts (almonds, pecans) and seeds (flaxseed) are also beneficial. Raw cacao (which I like to add to smoothies) is rich in polyphenols, which are known to improve gut health and the microbiome. Green tea has also been shown to improve gut health by increasing beneficial bacteria and decreasing harmful bacteria.

    The top gut-healing fruits include:

    Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, grapes, red apples, and plums. These are rich in polyphenols!

    The top gut-healing vegetables include:

    A variety of purple vegetables (purple carrots, purple potatoes, red cabbage) spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes.

While it is best to avoid agents (such as NSAIDs) that damage the gut microbiome, these steps that I’ve outlined will promote a healthy, balanced gut if pain killers are absolutely necessary.

Related: Gut Healing For Candida and Leaky Gut 

If you’re looking for natural pain-relief, I’m planning a more detailed article on this! For now, my top recommendations include reducing inflammation by incorporating ginger and turmeric daily, reducing / eliminating trigger foods (often eliminating dairy and gluten will help tremendously) and incorporating high quality supplements that are known to help with pain such as magnesium, vitamin B2, butterbur, and Vitamin D – (more to come on these!)

Did you know about the harmful effects of the seemingly innocent pain killer? Which of these strategies do you plan to start incorporating first?


Hannah Smith

Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.


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