We all gets aches and pains, especially as we get older. Over the counter (OTC) medicine for any and every ailment is readily available at any drug or grocery store, making it hard to say no to immediate relief if we are in pain. With that being said, even if you have to resort to taking these meds, know that every single medicine (prescription AND over the counter) comes with a myriad of side effects, some more harmful than others. Medication, whether it is a prescription or OTC, is not meant to be taken for a long time. Most consumers don’t even read the dosage or warning labels.

Let me discuss a few of the top contenders.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs…or NSAIDs. These are the most prescribed medications, by far, worldwide. NSAIDs consist of ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. We’ve all taken these, whether it was for menstrual cramps, headaches, muscle pain, etc. I had to be taken to the hospital after overdosing on ibuprofen causing damage to my stomach lining. I had NO idea that I could take TOO much ibuprofen within a certain window of time. NSAIDs are associated with heart failure and gut damage (lesson learned), but bring in $15 BILLION in sales globally each year.

How about acid reflux? Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), more commonly referred to as acid reducers or antacids, are popped into our mouths like TicTacs. Sure, we have all had acid burps after a greasy, crappy meal (remember how smart our bodies are? don’t worry…I’ll keep reminding you)…this is meant as a warning because you ate…well, greasy crappy food. That doesn’t mean keep eating the crap and the grease and keep popping antacids. PPIs are linked to dementia, kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease and digestive disease. It also brings in over $10 million in sales in the US alone. (This is the highest number worldwide because of how unhealthy the Standard American Diet (SAD) is.

Calcium is slowly depleted from our bodies as we get older. Many start taking any old calcium supplement sold on the shelf without even knowing what to look for on the label. Our bodies can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time, so if you’re taking a huge 1200 mg capsule, its doing nothing except passing through your liver causing harm and giving your toilet bowl some extra minerals. In addition, calcium supplements are linked to heart disease, brain lesions and accelerated Alzheimer’s. Globally, these calcium supplements bring in $340 million.

When we feel like we have a cold coming on or in the throes of a coughing spell, it’s natural to want to take some cough syrup to coat the throat and hopefully help us sleep. Little do people know that cold remedies can actually PROLONG symptoms, dry out AND swell the sinuses, and suppresses a productive cough. The body is super smart and knows when there is something invasive in it’s system, so it tries to expel it via fever and other symptoms. Pre-Covid-19, the cold and sinus industry was a $14 BILLION dollar a year industry in the US alone. It has undoubtedly doubled since Covid-19.

I am NOT a good sleeper and haven’t been for 2 decades. I have tried everything. It is not a good feeling to wake up and feel as if you haven’t slept at all. However, I refuse to take another OTC sleep aid. These medications have been proven to suppress natural sleep and REM, reduce the body’s restoration process, increase the risk of cancer and even death. Sleep aids are prescribed to over 15 MILLION people annually.

ADHD medication is a touchy one for me. I have always suffered from ADD and so has one of my children. After researching other ways around medicating, we found what works for us. ADHD meds are linked to abuse and cardiovascular side effects. These meds are given to over 4 MILLION kids in the US (other countries aren’t as eager to prescribe them). Just the diagnosis of ADD alone has risen 500% since 1991. Alarming to say the least.

Lastly, statin drugs. People take statins to help lower cholesterol. Your body needs cholesterol, but too much of it can clog your arteries. These statins can cause muscle, liver and neurogenerative disease and some scientists are questioning their true efficacy. There is a place for these for sure, but make sure you talk to your doctor and find out ways to improve your diet. Then lower dosage accordingly as you make improvements.

As I said in the beginning, these drugs are fine when needed, but never intended for extended or permanent use. If your body is giving you a warning, heed it. Find the root of the problem and do whatever you can to help your body do what it knows and wants to do to fix it. It may need help along the way and that’s ok. Just remember that long term usage may can serious damage or worse, death. Be honest with your doctor about fears and concerns and ask all the questions. Make sure your doctor knows ALL the medication you are on, prescription and/or otherwise. This miscommunication can be dangerous. Mixing meds can be really harmful. Your doctor is employed BY you. If he/she doesn’t listen to you or take the time to HEAR you, fire them and find a better fit.