It started out innocently enough: a little tension in your neck when you left to go run errands. Then while you were stuck in a traffic jam, it turned into a small headache. But now that you are finally in the carpool lane to pick up your kids from school, your head feels like it’s going to explode.
So you reach for a bottle of Tylenol — but not so fast! You might want to think twice before taking a pill or two.
Tylenol contains acetaminophen, a dangerous ingredient found in many nonprescription products and even some prescription medicine. Studies have linked acetaminophen to liver damage. And a recent study has found that if women take it during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, their children are more likely to develop ADHD.
Acetaminophen Is Linked To Liver Damage
Earlier this year, the FDA issued a warning that acetaminophen may cause liver damage. The FDA is now recommending that pharmaceutical companies and doctors discontinue prescriptions that contain more than 325 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen per tablet. Keep in mind that Regular Strength Tylenol contains 325 mg of acetaminophen, while Extra Strength Tylenol has as much as 500 mg of acetaminophen.
The FDA discovered that taking more than 325 mg of acetaminophen did not provide any additional benefit. And those who took more than 325 mg were more likely to suffer liver damage.
In cases where serious injury to the liver had occurred, the FDA found that the patient:
- took more than 325 mg of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.
- took more than one product containing acetaminophen.
- took acetaminophen while drinking alcohol.
Acetaminophen Is Linked To ADHD
Not only has acetaminophen been linked to liver damage, but it has also been linked to ADHD. A study published in Jama Pediatrics in February showed that children whose mothers took acetaminophen during pregnancy were more likely to develop ADHD. This study included 64,000 Danish children born between 1996 and 2002.
Out of the children whose mothers took acetaminophen, the children were:
- 13 percent more likely to exhibit ADHD behavior.
- 37 percent more likely to be diagnosed with hyperkinetic behavior, which is on the high end of the ADHD spectrum.
- 29 percent more likely to be prescribed an ADHD medication.
Natural Headache Relief During Pregnancy
Here are some safe, natural alternatives to reduce headaches during pregnancy:
- Use aromatherapy. Lavender oil is becoming increasingly popular these days to use for relieving headaches; however, women who are pregnant should be very cautious. If you do use it, make sure that you only use it occasionally, especially during the first trimester. Instead of lavender oil, try peppermint oil. To relieve a painful headache, apply peppermint oil to your temples or put a few drops into a warm bath.
- Take a cold shower. This might not seem like the best alternative, but it can help stimulate blood vessels so that they restrict and reduce the pain.
- Apply an ice pack to your forehead. If this doesn’t work, you can also try a hot compress. To make your own compress, fill a sock with rice or flaxseed and heat in the microwave until warm to the touch. It also helps to alternate between a cold and a hot compress every 15 to 20 minutes.
Off-the-Grid Alternative Pain Relief
It may be best to avoid acetaminophen altogether, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. And those who drink alcohol should never consume it while taking acetaminophen. So what are some off-the-grid alternatives to pain relief?
You have probably heard that fish oil may lower blood pressure and cholesterol, but did you also know that fish oil may help with pain management? It has been shown to help people struggling with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, and autoimmune conditions such as lupus. Although it isn’t as effective as other natural remedies to relieve pain, it can be used in combination with other supplements. According to WebMD, the most effective dose is 2 to 4 grams of DHA and EPA daily.
One of the best natural remedies for relieving pain is turmeric. Dr. Tanya Edwards, the medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told WebMD, “It works really well. I’ve had patients with arthritis who start using turmeric and are able to go off their NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen), entirely.”
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It is easy to use turmeric as a spice in food, such as rice, to prevent disease or even to manage your pain. Another way to use turmeric is the capsule form, also called curcumin powder, found in most drug stores. The Chicago Headache Clinic recommends taking 500 mg of turmeric capsules every 3 hours for a headache; however, turmeric may not be safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
For thousands of years, willow bark has been used to treat pain. As long ago as 400 B.C., Hippocrates used willow bark to treat patients with fever and inflammation by having them chew on the bark. Researchers believe that the chemical salicin makes it as effective as aspirin in relieving pain.
Children under 16 should never use willow bark because of the danger of developing Reye syndrome. Neither should women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding, or those who are sensitive or allergic to salicin.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends the following dosage:
- Dried herb used to make tea: boil 1-2 tsp of dried bark in 8 oz of water and simmer for 10-15 minutes; let steep for half an hour; drink 3-4 cups daily.
- Powdered herb (capsules) or liquid; 60-240 mg of salicin daily.
- Tincture: 4-6 ml, 3 times per day.
Whether you are concerned about the damage that it may cause your liver, or are pregnant and don’t want to increase your child’s risk of developing ADHD, why take the chance? If used correctly, alternative pain relief methods can be very effective. But make sure that you talk to your doctor or health care practitioner before using any of these alternative pain relief methods, especially if you are taking any medication.