Do you take aspirin regularly to ease the pain and stiffness of arthritis and other conditions? Aspirin is available without prescription at drugstores, but even this commonly used over-the-counter pill isn’t without risks and side-effects. One of the biggest concerns about taking aspirin is the potential for bleeding from the digestive tract. What is the risk of aspirin and bleeding from the stomach?
Aspirin and Bleeding: The Risks of Aspirin and Stomach Bleeding
Aspirin may be effective for pain relief, but it’s a tough to pill swallow for the stomach. Aspirin alters the mucous lining that protects the stomach from the damaging effects of stomach acid. When this protective barrier is “worn down” by taking aspirin tablets, acid can interact breech the mucous lining, leading to ulcers, erosions and bleeding.
How serious is the risk of aspirin and bleeding? In a study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, researchers followed 32,000 aspiring-taking men for 14 years.
They found men who took more than 14 aspirin per week more than doubled their risk of bleeding from the stomach compared to men who didn’t take aspirin. People who have a history of stomach ulcers or a history of bleeding from the digestive tract are at even higher risk for stomach bleeding.
Dangers of Aspirin: What’s the Best Way to Reduce the Risk of Stomach Bleeding with Aspirin?
According to this research, the best way to reduce the risk of aspirin GI bleeding is to take the lowest dose possible. Researchers found that men who took less than 5 full-strength aspirin tablets per week had only a slightly higher risk of bleeding from the stomach, but the risk rapidly rose for those who took more than 14 per week. In fact, the risk of aspirin GI bleeding was 2.4 times greater for men who used more than 14 aspirin weekly compared to men who took none.
Aspirin and Bleeding: How Long You Take It Doesn’t Affect the Risk of Bleeding
Based on this research, taking aspirin for long periods of time didn’t significantly increase the risk of stomach bleeding. Only when men took higher doses or more aspirin tablets did the risk of bleeding go up. So taking a few aspirin tablets every week even over long periods of time won’t greatly increase the risk of bleeding from the stomach unless you have a history of ulcers.
Risks of Aspirin and Stomach Bleeding: The Bottom Line?
The take-home message? If you have to take aspirin, take as few as possible. Keeping the weekly dose low reduces the risk of stomach bleeding. How long you use aspirin seems to be less of an issue. On the other hand, anyone who has a history of stomach ulcers, bleeding or is taking other medications should talk to their doctor before taking any aspirin products.
Another option is to look at food sources that reduce inflammation and pain such as tumeric, ginger, tart cherry juice and omega-3 fatty acids. These foods all help to reduce chronic inflammation that leads to pain – and they won’t raise your risk of stomach bleeding.
Family Practice News. December 2010. page 40