It’s one of the most popular over-the-counter pain meds.
In 2013 the name-brand version of the drug grossed over 200 million in sales. And despite the massive amount of evidence to the contrary, most people still believe that it’s mild and completely harmless.
I’m talking, of course, about the drug acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol).
In fact, it’s acetaminophen’s reputation for being “safe” that’s made it the go-to choice for pregnant women the world over. Here in the USA, according to the CDC, it’s estimated that an incredible 65 percent of pregnant women use Tylenol.1
With a shocking statistic like that, it’s really no wonder that researchers once referred to it as “the pain reliever of choice during pregnancy” in the journal American Family Physician.2
One recent study out of Norway found that acetaminophen is often used for fevers, pain and to relieve flu symptoms during pregnancy.3 However, the truth is, it’s actually far better to avoid taking any drugs during this time if at all possible.
Acetaminophen use by pregnant moms has already been linked to a growing list of potential health hazards for their babies, and now researchers have added another one to the list, asthma.
Mom’s acetaminophen use linked to asthma in children
When researchers crunched the numbers from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, which followed 114,500 moms and their babies, a clear threat emerged. Babies born to moms who took acetaminophen before they were born—as well as babies who were given the drug during infancy—had an elevated risk of asthma at ages 3 and 7.
If mom had used acetaminophen while she was pregnant her child was 13 percent more likely to be diagnosed with asthma by 3 years old. Even worse, the risk rose the more of the drug mom had used during her pregnancy.
The researchers even ruled out other factors which could have been connected to the risk such as the symptoms the moms had been treating with the drug including fever, flu, and pain. But the link remained.
The children with the biggest risk were those whose mothers had used acetaminophen for more than one reason during their pregnancies.4
Women who reported using acetaminophen for more than one reason during pregnancy had children with the greatest risk of asthma at age 3.
Earlier research has already suggested there was a link between asthma and acetaminophen.5 Yet, despite the new findings, the researchers still stopped short of saying that pregnant women or babies should stop using the drug.
The ADHD link to acetaminophen
Asthma isn’t the only condition with a potential link to acetaminophen use during pregnancy, of course. In 2014 JAMA Pediatrics published a study that followed over 64,000 moms and babies. The research highlighted the possible association between the drug being used during pregnancy and ADHD in children.6
More than half of the women in the study had taken the drug during pregnancy and the data showed a:
- 30 percent higher risk for ADHD up to age 7
- 37 percent higher risk of hyperkinetic disorder (HKD), a severe form of ADHD
Once again, it appears the more often mom took the drug during her pregnancy the more chance her baby would one day suffer from ADHD symptoms. In fact, if mom had taken acetaminophen for 20 or more weeks while she was pregnant her child had nearly twice the risk of having HKD and 50 percent more chance of being put on an ADHD drug.
Acetaminophen is a known hormone disruptor and can cross from mom to baby through the placenta.7 In fact the drug has already been linked to undescended testes in boys.8
According to researchers, the new data appears to confirm that the drug can cause hormone disruptions. When these hormone disruptions occur during pregnancy it’s possible they can have an effect on the development of a baby’s brain.9
Potential link to fertility problems & cancer in boys
Children born to moms who use acetaminophen may not just be at a higher risk for asthma and ADHD. There’s also a potential link to fertility issues and perhaps even cancer in boys.
An animal study suggests that when male babies are exposed to a certain amount of acetaminophen before being born, it could slash the levels of testosterone they’re exposed to in mom’s womb by almost half.10 This is a problem because reproduction issues in men later in life are typically traced back to low testosterone exposure before they’re born.
The acetaminophen-linked drop in this critical hormone could potentially lead to infertility, genital birth defects, and testicular cancer.11
Although here in the U.S. the FDA appears to have turned a blind eye to the risks, refusing to warn women about possible risks of taking the drug during pregnancy, in the U.K. things are different.
The Royal College of Midwives reportedly encourages pregnant moms to talk to their doctors about the drug before considering using it. And The Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health warns that pregnant women shouldn’t use the drug for an extended period of time.12
Try one of these 9 natural pain relievers instead
Of course, it’s not just unborn babies that can be harmed by acetaminophen, children and adults alike are at risk for accidental poisonings.
Calls to poison control centers reveal that acetaminophen is the drug involved in the most accidental poisonings in babies under 6 months.13 In addition, the drug causes almost 50 percent of all acute liver failure cases in the United States.14
Adults taking only 25 percent more than the daily recommended dose of the drug for two weeks—in other words just 2 extra pills a day—can cause liver damage.15
Alcohol can amplify the liver-damaging effects.
For example, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) relieves pain very effectively and safely. In fact, it’s safe for both children and pregnant women.
The following natural alternatives are excellent choices to relieve your pain without any of the health hazards that you risk from using acetaminophen or other pain-relieving drugs. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to talk with your health care provider before taking any medications, herbs, or supplements.
Astaxanthin is a very potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. In fact, in many cases, it works better than NSAIDs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day for effective pain relief.
A natural anti-inflammatory herb ginger provides both pain and nausea relief. Try steeping fresh ginger in boiling water as a tea or grating it into a vegetable juice.
The spice turmeric provides us with the potent anti-inflammatory curcumin. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.16 In fact, curcumin has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce acetaminophen-associated adverse health effects.17
Another potent anti-inflammatory herb, Boswellia or “Indian frankincense”—has been prized for its health benefits for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful.
6. Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO):
You’ll find CMO in fish and dairy butter. The compound serves as a “joint lubricant” as well as an anti-inflammatory. I’ve used this on myself to treat mild carpal tunnel syndrome and ganglion cysts that pop up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
7. Evening Primrose, Black Currant & Borage Oils:
All of these oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
8. Cayenne Cream:
Cayenne or capsaicin cream is made with dried hot peppers. The cream relieves pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
9. Non-drug therapies:
Practices such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation, hot and cold packs, and even holding hands can be amazingly effective pain relievers.
International Journal of Epidemiology February 9, 2016
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology February 10, 2016
The New York Times February 11, 2016
Medical News Today February 10, 2016
Benzinga February 11, 2016
1 The New York Times February 11, 2016
2 Am Fam Physician. 2003 Jun 15;67(12):2517-2524
3 International Journal of Epidemiology February 9, 2016
4 Medical News Today February 10, 2016
5 Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2016 Feb;25(2):188-95
6,9 JAMA Pediatrics February 24, 2014
7 Forbes February 24, 2014
8 J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Nov;98(11):E1757-67
10 Sci Transl Med. 2015 May 20;7(288):288ra80
11, 12, 25 Daily Mail May 20, 2015
13 Pediatrics January 13, 2016
14 WebMD January 13, 2016
15 JAMA July 5, 2006: 296(1); 87-93
16 Altern Med Rev. 2010 Dec;15(4):337-44
17 GreenMedInfo.com Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Toxicity
New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mercola graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1982. And while osteopaths or D.O.s are licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery just like medical doctors (M.D.s), they bring something extra to the practice of medicine.
Osteopathic physicians practice a "whole person" approach to medicine, treating the entire person — rather than just the symptoms. Focusing on preventive health care, D.O.s help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it too.
Dr. Mercola is passionate about natural medicine and strongly believes that the current medical system is largely manipulated and controlled by large corporations whose primary focus is profit. His website, Mercola.com, which started as a small hobby interest in 1997, has now grown to today’s number one natural health website educating and empowering millions to take back the control over their own health.
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