NSAIDs are the side-effect laden drugs that America loves. The average thirty- to fifty-something soon realizes that if he or she pops a few Motrin, it’s possible to exercise with less pain, so the addition begins. Before long, the patient notices that he or she can’t function without the drugs. Despite this widespread use, NSAID drugs are some of the most dangerous you can buy and consume. Now a new reason to avoid the drugs has been reported: they can make men infertile!
Before I review the newest study on NSAIDs and male infertility, let me define NSAIDs and explain what some of the research has revealed to date.
What Are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and if you take a peek in your medicine cabinet, there’s a good chance you have a bottle. Why? Because many of the most common over-the-counter painkillers are NSAIDs: Advil, Motrin, Aleve, and so on. Generic names include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, and there are also prescription versions as well. While they are powerful drugs known not just for their ability to knock out pain, their key feature is also being able to tackle inflammation. Many people, however, will pop an NSAID for a simple headache, when they only need to relieve pain, not inflammation. In this case, more is not better; it’s just more dangerous.
Additionally, even if you do have acute inflammation, due to a sprained ankle for example, inflammation is beneficial as it is your body’s way of healing itself. So stifling that process with an NSAID disrupts the body’s ability to heal itself. Chronic inflammation is a whole different issue but still one where we typically recommend avoiding NSAIDs.
If you follow this blog, you know NSAIDs make the rounds every few months, and you know I’m not fond of them. Why? Where do I start?…
Study After Study Giving Us Reasons to Toss the NSAIDs
The research hasn’t been kind to NSAIDs in recent years, and for good reason: they are dangerous drugs linked to a long list of disturbing and even deadly side effects.
If you are taking NSAIDs for arthritis pain and inflammation, this may be progressing your arthritis damage in your joint. The potential mechanism for this may be the effect of certain NSAIDs on cartilage due to their interaction with stem cells. It seems these NSAIDs may prevent healing by encouraging stem cells to produce abnormal cartilage.
There’s also, of course, the well-known risks that are required to be printed right on the NSAID medication labels: gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attacks, and strokes that could lead to sudden death. NSAID warnings for these deadly risks have been issued by both the American Heart Association and the FDA. While the NSAID label warnings suggest the risk of heart attack is with long-term or excessive use, one study found that NSAID use for only one week can increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 50%!
Kidney damage is another well-known risk of NSAIDs. Researchers attempting to answer their hypothesis that long-distance runners who rely on NSAIDs have no increased risk of kidney damage actually disproved their theory, finding that there was an 18% increase in kidney damage in runners who took NSAIDs before and after their race. In this case, ibuprofen fared the worst as kidney damage was more severe in runners who took this NSAID.
This leads us to the new study that reveals disturbing findings on ibuprofen use by young (age 18–35) males.
NSAIDs and Male Infertility? The Ibuprofen Study
The new study consisted of 31 men who were randomly divided into two groups. One group (the test group) took 1200 milligrams of ibuprofen per day, which is the recommended maximum daily dosage, for two weeks. The second group (the control group) took a placebo.
The results? A hormonal imbalance occurred only in the ibuprofen group that researchers attributed to a correlation between the circulating ibuprofen and the luteinizing hormone produced by the pituitary gland. Luteinizing hormone in males stimulates the production of testosterone. This imbalance caused a decrease in testosterone, creating a condition called compensated hypogonadism, which is known to impair male fertility. Incidentally, it is also associated with an increased risk of heart failure and stroke. Their conclusion? Ibuprofen induces compensated hypogonadism. With this comes the increased risk of male infertility.
The upshot? Please get off of these drugs as a new year’s resolution. Get your pain problems diagnosed and fixed rather than continuing to pop drugs that may seriously injure you!