Hope or Hype: Ibuprofen (Vitamin I)

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Vitamin I is all the rage—at least that is what you would think if you took a careful look into the medicine cabinet of any athlete, recreational or professional. The term Vitamin I is the new slang for Ibuprofen, or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a common staple in many American's diet.

Many people take NSAIDs before exercise, following a hard session at the gym, or daily along with a multi-vitamin. Indeed, acute injury to skeletal muscle, tendons and ligaments is a common phenomenon in sports. Occasionally there's the need to take an NSAID to help with pain. The problem is that most people are taking NSAIDs on a consistent basis to prevent pain that they don't have.

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Others are taking them to endure a workout. Some take them in the hopes that the discomfort of an impending workout will be reduced.

Unfortunately, chronic use of NSAIDs has been shown to cause more harm than good—and not just to the gastrointestinal tract. The percentage of the population that use NSAIDs is increasing steadily with potentially catastrophic consequences.        

What are NSAIDs?

The potential concern with the use of NSAIDs involves the inflammatory response, prostaglandins and the cyclooxygenase (COX) pathway. In response to injury, the COX enzymes (COX-1 and COX-2) produce prostaglandins which promote inflammation and pain. The reason why NSAIDs have become so widely used is related to their selective inhibition of the COX enzymes. When you take an NSAID, you inhibit the COX enzymes, subsequently reducing inflammation and pain. However, the COX enzymes also increase the production of growth factors that are required to repair tissues, increase hypertrophy, and assist with adaptation.

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