Naproxen sodium is the ingredient of Aleve, an over the counter pain reliever. If you have read the label of an Aleve bottle, you may be tempted to leave the medicine at the store. Naproxen is infamous for its potential side effects, with stomach bleeding at the top of the list.
The most prevalent side effect with naproxen is the chance for some serious stomach issues. The bodily chemical that naproxen blocks to reduce inflammation is the same chemical that protects the stomach. By taking naproxen, you are at risk of damaging the stomach lining leading to bleeding of the stomach. I’ve found that if I take Aleve with food and/or a full glass of water, that I can avoid the stomach pain. But I have felt strong stomach pain and heart burn when taking Aleve without food in my stomach OR with food AND coffee or tea. In a situation where grabbing something to eat before taking Aleve is not an option, taking an antacid counters the pain. Both Tums and Pepcid Complete work, but the benefits of Pepcid Complete last longer than Tums.
Additional side effects that have been associated with taking naproxen are increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In 2004, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made an announcement regarding cardiovascular ailments following a medical trial that included taking naproxen as a supposed preventation of Alzheimer’s disease. To add to the scare factor, the chance of a cardiovascular event, according to study results, increased 50% when taking naproxen.
But then, cardiologists shot back saying nay, not so. Naproxen offered the same benefits as low dose aspirin for heart health. In addition, a United Kingdom study in 2005 found that there was no apparent increased risk of heart issues, even for long term use (over one year) with moderate doses. In fact, the study showed a slight decrease in heart attack risk with long term use. A low dose of Naproxen, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery, is 220mg twice a day.
As a long term user of naproxen for arthritis with a family history of heart disease (both parents), I was hesitant on starting a daily regime with naproxen after hearing of the FDA warning. However, I felt it important to weigh the benefits. Increased mobility and reduced pain from using Aleve makes it an elixir too hard to ignore. And how marvelous to hear from the medical community, discounting the FDA announcement about increased cardiovascular incidence with the use of naproxen.
On the Horizon
The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas, released a research article in late 2008 about naproxen-pc (phosphatidylcholine). This form of naproxen comes with its own built it GI protection, making it a safer version of naproxen. The article states that they are still in testing stages, but the results look promising that naproxen may someday be available in a formula that does not cause stomach or intestinal bleeding.