A great number of our patients utilize NSAIDS, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and others to help alleviate their pain. While we recommend addressing the cause of the pain—which Dr. Haggquist would be happy to assess and explore with you, we also realize that on the way, pain medicines can allow patients to deal with the pain until the root cause can be addressed. 

Many people are now familiar with the damaging impact that continued use of NSAIDS can cause on the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. These issues can include gastritis, esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and bleeding ulcers (1). That being said, when taking NSAIDS it is important to recognize significant symptoms, such as sour stomach, abdominal pain, dark stools, bright blood in stools, vomiting blood, which can signal GI trouble. To curb the impact of NSAID effects, the FDA recommends limiting over-the-counter (OTC) use of NSAIDS to no more than 10 days (1). 

Another way to protect the stomach is by using slippery elm bark. Slippery elm has long been utilized by humans, with many Native American tribes using the tree for various purposes, including medicinally to heal body sores, sore throats, and as a soothing eye wash (2). There are also reports that George Washington and his troops survived for 12 days on slippery elm porridge at Valley Forge, and that Civil War soldiers subsisted on the bark of slippery elm for weeks (3).

As highlighted by the University of Maryland’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide, slippery elm is often suggested for a variety of GI complaints, including GERD, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) (4). Slippery elm has the effect of stimulating your digestive tract to produce extra mucous, which coats and protects your stomach and intestines (5). While care should be taken with any medication regimen, taking slippery elm in conjunction with NSAID use can be helpful in protecting your digestive system.

You can purchase slippery elm at your local or online health food store, or there are several options on Amazon, including the Solaray and Nature's Way brands. 


(1)    Davis, J.L. (2006). Taking NSAIDS? Protect your tummy. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/features/anti-inflammatory-drugs-rheumatoid-arthritis#1

(2)    Anderson, M.K. (n.d.) Slippery elm. Retrieved from: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_ulru.pdf

(3)    Smith, T. (2012). American herbal pharmacopoeia releases new monographs on American Ginseng Root and Slippery Elm Inner Bark. Herbalgram, (94), 27-28.

(4)    Ehrlich, S.D. (2014). Slippery Elm. Retrieved from: https://umm.edu/health/medical/almed/herb/slippery-elm

(5)    Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. (2014). Slippery elm. Retrieved from: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/slippery-elm


 Authored by Anna Clements