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Vitamin C Can Protect Stomach from NSAID Injury

Taking vitamin C with an NSAID pain reliever may help protect the digestive tract from irritation and ulcers.

Q. I read that taking vitamin C at the same time as aspirin can reduce stomach irritation. Does this protective effect of vitamin C also apply to other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen?

A. One of the drawbacks of using aspirin or any NSAID for more than a few days at a time is the risk of gastrointestinal irritation, which can lead to bleeding ulcers. Almost a decade ago, researchers determined that taking vitamin C (ascorbic acid) together with aspirin could reduce the damage (Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, Nov. 2006, Suppl. 5).

Little research has been done on whether vitamin C provides similar protection from gastrointestinal damage due to other NSAIDs. Taking vitamin C at the same time as naproxen, however, seems to generate compounds less likely to cause ulcers (Archives of Pharmacal Research, Suppl. 1, Mar. 2012).

Other possible approaches to reducing stomach irritation from NSAIDs or aspirin include deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) or SAMe (Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Sep. 1983; American Journal of Medicine, Suppl. 1, Nov. 20, 1987).

photo credit: Jeffrey Beall cc cropped

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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