Could Your Anti-Inflammatory Destroy Your Brain?

I was teaching a class to doctors this weekend and, on a break, heard one of the doctors on the phone talking about a patient with costochondritis and telling the person on the other end to take an anti-inflammatory to fix the inflammation.

This is THE response in society and in medicine today.  Sure, most physicians and patients are aware of the risk of ulcers with anti-inflammatories but rarely understand the risks beyond this.  As the author of an ebook that covers the vast array of side effects from anti-inflammatories (click here to view the book on, I am always happy to add new, unexpected side effects to this dangerous class of drugs that we take so blissfully.

Diabetes and prediabetes is very bad for the brain.  This is one of the reasons we are seeing an increase in the rates of cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinsons disease.  These conditions are very strongly related to the diabetic spectrum.  Given the rate of prediabetes in this country, that means that well over half of us are already at risk.

This increased risk is likely due to some combination of blod flow to the brain (the diabetic spectrum is very bad for the health of your blood vessels) and a disruption in the way brain cells are able to use energy (brain cells require lots and lots of energy made from glucose in their mitochondria).  So, you can envision that anything that is going to negatively effect blood flow in the brain will be a bad thing ON TOP OF being diabetic.

Enter anti-inflammatories, specifically a particularly nasty one called indomethacin (Indocin).  This particular study looked at what happened to blood flow in the brain of a small group of diabetics in response to the administration of indomethacin.

Here’s what they found:

  1. Mean flow velocity (a good thing, higher = more blood flow to the brain) was reduced after indomethacin use.
  2. The researchers, however, seemed happy that, when indomethacin was taken, the blood flow in the brain was improved when the patients held their breath multiple times in a row.

Certainly I can see where the researchers may view the improvement in the brain blood flow with breath holding as a good thing.  However, given that most diabetics (or prediabetics, for that matter) don’t go around holding their breath multiple times in a row, I’m not entirely sure this overshadows the negative side of indomethacin’s effects on overall blood flow.

The bottom line is that, while indomethacin may show a benefit in those holding their breath, this is not a commonly done behavior in diabetics or prediabetics that I am aware of.  However, merely taking indomethacin slowed the flow of blood into the brain–a clearly damaging action that will do long term harm to the brain cells.

While I’ve said it before, let me re-iterate that you need to view taking ANY pill, although in this case we are looking at indomethacin, as a risk benefit scenario.  Is the reason you are taking this drug going to outweigh the long list of side effects that will inevitably come as a result of taking the drug?  Better yet, is there another route you could take (such as, maybe…chiropractic?) that does not have the associated side effects?

On the other hand, if your brain is not that important to you, than pop away.


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.