“As to diseases, make a habit of two things — to help, or at least, to do no harm.” – Hippocrates
If you wonder whether is safe to take aspirin every single day, I strongly advise you to consult with a health professional beforehand and find out if you have any condition that would contraindicate this.
So probably most of you know by now the dangers of NSAIDs and I can suppose most of you do whatever is in your power to avoid their usage – but why don’t we apply the same care for aspirin?
Part of why I think we’re thinking of aspirin as more ‘’mild’’ or ‘’beneficial’’ drug is because we associate it with inflammation reduction by reducing substances that act as hormones in our body, together with prevention of blood clotting.
There has been ongoing new research about the usage of low-dose aspirin (80-100 mg) and the observations were regarding only mild benefits when used to treat cardiovascular disease.
- Aspirin was made in 1853 after extracting its most active compound, acetylsalicylic acid, from the bark of European Willow tree (I have an Instagram post about this right here). Aspirin’s other ingredients aside acetylsalicylic acid can be cornstarch, triacetin, powdered cellulose, among other
- Aspirin has greatly been used to treat/prevent heart conditions
- Aspirin has also been recommended to prevent the risk of colorectal cancer, marking an important step on cancer prevention (PMID: 26868177) while further investigations are ongoing
- Aspirin has became one of the 3 most used drugs worldwide nowadays with a whooping 120 billion tablets taken per year
Aspirin works by reducing/blocking prostaglandins (hormone-like substances that control the body’s inflammatory responses and processes such as blood flow and blood clotting formation).
Aspirin has been a subject of talk online in certain health communities also due to Ray Peat’s take on this drug, some still valid and some based on outdated research, he says
‘’Aspirin, like progesterone or vitamin E, can improve fertility, by suppressing a prostaglandin, and improving uterine circulation.’’Ray Peat
More recent research on aspirin usage on low-dose (which is the safety dose, under 100 mg) has actually concluded that there was no significant arterial uterine blood flow (PMID: 10776008, PMID: 15817582, and https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-1050-2-8)
Pay Peat also mentions:
“Aspirin protects against iron toxicity, clot formation, and reduces lipid peroxidation while blocking prostaglandin formation. Aspirin and other antiinflammatory drugs, taken for arthritis, have been clearly associated with a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Aspirin reduces the formation of prostaglandins from arachidonic acid.”Ray Peat
Recently in 2021, a Chinese meta-analysis concluded that a low-dose aspirin might reduce incident dementia in older adults. This is believed to be possible due to the fact that Aspirin might reduce toxic plaque of beta-amyloid in the brain. Aspirin works supposedly by clearing lysosomes and reducing the accumulation of toxin. This was studied in mice, however, and further research is needed to indeed conclude (Journal of Neuroscience 25 July 2018, 38 (30) 6682-6699; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0054-18.2018).
The idea behind taking aspirin in daily doses, baby aspirin in such case, lays in the fact that aspirin blocks the production of prostaglandins and thus, stopS mild inflammation and treats mild pain. Prostaglandins are chemicals produced by your body in response to injury or inflammation (and fever, a subsequent).
It is key to understand the importance and role of PROSTAGLANDIN PRODUCTION, however. They:
- promote inflammation in the damaged tissue in order to encourage healing
- regulate ovulation, menstruation and labour induction
- promote blood clotting
- repair damaged blood vessels
- control blood flow
- remove blood clots
- cause pain and fever as a result of inflammation
- regulate contractions and relaxation of muscles in both gut and airways
- regulate body temperature
There are 4 bioactive types of prostaglandins, made of a fatty acid called ‘’arachidonic acid’’ that is converted into prostaglandin type H2 which is the precursor of all 4 types of prostaglandins. They all have different purposes and even opposite functions – so they are highly sensitive substances.
Here is where we need to point out that inflammation is usually portrayed as a ‘’bad’’ symptom in our body, however, there are cases when inflammation is needed to resolve certain health issues.
Chronic inflammation (also known as the root cause of most usual diseases such as diabetes, neurological issues, hearth conditions, etc) is surely a condition that must be avoided, but short-term inflammation is part of a healing process, which is natural for the body.
This is the main reason why I would like to bring attention to the obsessive though of ‘’all inflammation is bad and must be eradicated’’ or normalising the usage of aspirin for individuals who have not an up-to-date understanding of their body’s health and state (self-medicating and self-supplementing). I highly dislike the trend of losing all faith in medical research.
In the end, prostaglandins are working to achieve homeostasis in the body and their production, type and functions fluctuate very very easily and frequently.
When their levels raise because inflammation has been detected, they (prostaglandins) aid with gathering leukocytes and with the penetration of the immune cells. One could think of them as hormones, however, unlike hormones, they do not travel across the body in the blood stream, but remain in site where they are needed to provoke a healing reaction.
They are helpful for our body when:
- They promote healing in site and repair the tissue
- They induce labour naturally by causing relaxation of the cervical muscle
- They stimulate ovulation and help with uterus contractions when menstruation arrives (hence helps with the shedding of the uterine lining)
- They play a very important role against postpartum bleeding, controlling it
- They are used to treat impotence in men by improving sperm function
- They are used to treat glaucoma
- They stimulate bowel movements
- They aid with treating congenital heart issues in newborns
- They treat stomach ulcers by regulating the natural production of stomach acid
- They regulate mucus production
Prostaglandins can become a threat to our body when:
- They increase pain and inflammation in response to illness or injury (this is when both Aspirin and NSAIDs like Ibuprofen and Paracetamol work by blocking prostaglandins’ production)
- As a consequence of injury or inflammation, they provoke a fever, swelling and redness in the site
- Have been associated with stronger PMS (menstrual cramps) – the higher the prostaglandin production, the stronger the cramps (aka dysmenorrhea)
- They increase autoimmune reactions and can be the culprit for allergic reactions
- The same way they can promote healing, they can also slow it down depending whether they are produced in low or high amount (high amounts of prostaglandins is also known as ‘’chronic inflammation’’)
- Linked to cancer development (when produced in great excess, as a result of long-term chronic inflammation)
- Provoke diarrhoea and bone loss when produced in high amounts
Here is where we must ask ourselves: if we are not able to control low-degree inflammation and therefore need to use a drug to control it (we are talking about cases when self-supplementation is done, in cases that inflammation is suspected yet not confirmed by a health professional) at low-amounts, perhaps the real issue is that we’ve lost the knowledge on how to AVOID inflammation, as a starter.
How can we avoid inflammation (henceforth, live without low-dose Aspirin as a supplement)?
- Smoking, alcohol, excess sugar, processed dairy, highly refined vegetable oils that we consume every day in the many processed foods or when eating out, processed grains, processed poor quality meats (hot dogs, cured meats with preservatives, cold cuts with additives and starches, etc), chips, cookies and everything ready-made from a grocery store, excess caffeine…
- The overconsumption of Omega-6 fatty acids is a key component in how to avoid low-degree and possible chronic inflammation in the body (found in vegetable/seed oils)- this being what prostaglandins are synthesised from!
- Stopping the consumption of highly allergenic foods (here it will be highly dependant on you and you only, what makes you feel good or bad, what you react to or not) – such as conventional poor quality dairy, gluten, certain grains, nuts…
- Help oestrogen detoxification by making yourself to have regular bowel movements (oestrogen is eliminated via your stools) and see how you can avoid constipation naturally – some people do well on fibrous raw foods, others will find it easier with fermented foods, find what is easier and compatible with yourself
- Consume more Omega-3 to counteract the effects of Omega-6s: more wild-caught fish such as sardines, mackerel or choose a good fish oil (cold-pressed fermented cod liver oil) source for Omega3
- Use herbs and spices wisely, especially those with anti-inflammatory properties such as ginger, turmeric, Ceylon, parsley, garlic, cloves, etc.
- Use anti-inflammatory foods in your diet (always use what makes you feel best) such as beef liver (thanks to vitamin A being a strong anti-oxidant), berries (antioxidant resveratrol), cherries, oranges, pineapples (antioxidant bromelain) etc.
- Increase your magnesium and potassium intake (add adrenal cocktails to your diet, you can check my Instagram for my recipe for an Adrenal Elixir in the highlights named ‘’Family Diet’’)
- Add more zinc to your diet, from organ meats, wild-caught salmon, beef, cashews, etc.
- Drinking green tea in the mornings instead of coffee sometimes seems to decrease successfully prostaglandin type E2 in humans (PMID: 10744131)
- Exercise but not in excess and have a routine that mixes aerobic and strength training
- Treat your chronic stress and avoid poor sleep: heal your circadian rhythm
- Lastly, find out (by testing) if you suffer from oestrogen dominance and start treating it
Prostaglandins are made in the body and making more of less of them will depend on your levels for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and how your detoxification system functions (how frequent and effective your bowel movements are).
To Aspirin, there are no good prostaglandins, they are all banished. And that is an issue. One effect of aspirin blocking good prostaglandin types is the degradation of the stomach lining (which can cause stomach bleeding to some, especially individuals that are unaware of their health conditions).
While low-dose aspirin doesn’t seem to come with this effect in most, there is still the risk depending on the individual. Aspirin’s poor effect on stomach can be avoided nowadays – however, why would you only treat your inflammatory issues and not start healing them?
There are new studies praising Aspirin for reducing ovarian cancer risk (https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djt431) which is absolutely amazing (let us not forget that cancer formation is related to chronic inflammation), other studies linking low-dose aspirin with higher pregnancy rates among women with low-grade chronic inflammation (https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2016-2917)
All in all, what we can conclude is that individuals that supplement with Aspirin for a prophylactic effect (protective effect) overall and not due to a health concern that has been diagnosed, tend to rely on this drug for its anti-inflammatory effect.
Inflammation is the basis of all illness – we will find some women believing it will help them ‘’sustain a pregnancy’’, or that it will help them ‘’fall pregnant’’, or others that will supplement it to ‘’aid their metabolism’’, or ‘’to boost their hormonal production”, particularly progesterone and decrease oestrogen, etc.
My recommendation regarding Aspirin usage:
Never self-supplement with a substance considered a drug or capable to change your metabolism, hormonal production or interfere with your body’s natural immune response. Our bodies are more sensitive than we can ever imagine. It is extremely important to learn what means balance for your own body and work towards lowering negative effects resultant from a poor lifestyle or dietary choice, etc. Do always get yourself diagnosed (see if indeed you suffer from inflammation – there are specialised tests that you can ask for if you express concerns) by a health practitioner and do not try to self-diagnosed or self- supplement without knowing if and how your body works.
I wouldn’t recommend Aspirin to any healthy man or woman for the pretext that ‘’it’s low-dose, it can be beneficial for me in this or another way’’.
I would recommend you to go through the list above and see why and how your prostaglandins work and nourish them via nutrient-dense options, scroll up and see again how to avoid inflammatory responses. Promote stress management, inner healing and reassessing your habits and routines, detoxification, healing your gut (probably one of the most important steps to start a toes-to-head healing), abandoning of vices such as excess caffeine, smoking, alcohol, etc., nourish your sexual hormones by addressing the root of your imbalances (poor nutrient absorption, again poor gut health)
Use Aspirin if you have been diagnosed with a heart/blood/inflammatory chronic condition and such is the treatment that you’ve been proposed by an actual health practitioner. Do not take Aspirin thinking it will make you live longer – you must be extremely aware of your health, conditions, risks, predispositions, hormonal production, blood profile, etc, before you take any potent drug used to treat clinical patients.
‘’There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.’’ – Hippocrates