So….it would seem that some people think I may have an Advil problem.

(Ahem!  BrightSide.)

And I have to admit that, if pressed, I’d be unable to even begin to estimate the amount of Advil I’ve taken over the years.  For real, it’s immeasurable.  (That’s bad, right?)

I still vividly remember the time we were checking in at an airline counter and the agent blurted out that she’d never seen an Advil bottle as large as the one I had packed in my carry-on.  (To be fair, we were leaving town for an entire week.  And I’m a big believer in traveling prepared, especially when it comes to pain meds that handle everything from headaches to sore muscles to hangovers.)

Sadly, I’ve got a long (imagine that word drawn out for about five seconds) history of headaches in my dossier.  Migraines, tension headaches, allergy headaches, TMJ headaches…I know I sound like a total hypochondriac but seriously, there was probably a good ten years in there when I literally had a headache every single day.  That was before the dentist diagnosed my TMJ — he made an interesting comment that he could easily identify patients with TMJ because their faces had a pinched look from being in constant pain.  So apparently I looked pinch-y.  But whatever.

On a side note, I recently had an intriguing conversation with a friend who studies Eastern philosophy and medicine.  She’s been reading a book about the mind-body connection, and how our physical illnesses are really manifestations of our underlying issues.  The fancy name for this would be psychosomatic illnesses.  Considering my very long history of health problems, it does give me pause.

But I digress.

When I assess my pattern of Advil consumption I have to wonder…am I going to be hit with some surprise down the road from my cumulative exposure to this drug?

The common side effects are pretty typical.  I understand they have to cover their butts liability-wise, but honestly!  If I had a dollar for every time a medication warned me that it might make me vomit, visit the bathroom excessively, not visit the bathroom at all, or be dizzy/drowsy I’d be a millionaire. And does anyone else find it highly ironic that a possible side effect of Advil is a headache?

The “serious” side effects look discouraging — hearing changes, mood/mental changes (um, yes, but what mom doesn’t have these?  or am I the only one?), unexplained weight gain (really? I’ve got an excuse for that?), and unusual tiredness.  (Could someone please explain to me at what point the typical 44-year-old mom-of-two tiredness becomes “unusual?”)

The possibility of rare but potentially fatal liver disease is another winner on Advil’s list.  Along with kidney problems and stomach bleeding.  But what I really want to know is whether the chance for all this awfulness increases based on your level of exposure over time.  I mean, am I at greater risk for these complications because I’ve been popping Advil for about 30 years?  And if I stopped, say, tomorrow would that start reversing whatever damage I might have done already?

I can’t exactly write Pfizer and ask if three decades of Advil use should keep me up nights focusing on my internal organs.  (Do you suppose you can sense if your liver or kidney aren’t feeling well?  It doesn’t feel like anything’s wrong, but what do I know?  My body lies to me all the time.)

Thinking about all these negative consequences for popping pills made me google homeopathic headache remedies, but some of these suggestions in and of themselves made me furrow my brow. Just a few of their recommendations:

  • Applying diluted cayenne powder to the insides of my nostrils.  Well…there’s something different to consider.  They’re saying an ingredient of cayenne inhibits pain perception in our bodies.  I figure that they’re counting on the fact that I’d be too distracted by the intense burning in my nose (“a bit unpleasant,” my ass) to focus on my headache.
  • Apparently almonds can help suppress your typical tension headaches, albeit with a note added that they may be a trigger food for migraine sufferers.  So I could end up wiping out my tension headache only to trade up to a migraine…sorry, no deal.
  • Another suggestion is to (and I quote) “stretch, relax, and breathe.”  (Sorry, kids, hold that thought.  I’ll keep you from killing each other over the go-kart as soon as I finish my yoga session.)  Okay, I scoff, but I do actually get this one.  I have to tell myself to drop my shoulders all the time; it’s a miracle the damn things don’t touch my earlobes permanently. I’m also not great about deep breathing, and that oxygen thing can be pretty important.
  • The hot or cold compresses sounded simple enough, until the directions stated you should “find a quiet place to lie down, preferably where you can dim the lights or turn them off.”  Bwa ha ha ha ha!  I figure I’d have approximately four minutes before 1) the dogs start barking madly, 2) T-man and Bear start World War III over (gee, anything), or 3) Gracie eats/steals something and the kids begin screaming at her.
  • EAT LESS CHOCOLATE.  (Ack!  Ack!  Runs screaming from the room.)

Well, I’m not sure where all this leaves me.  Sometimes my writing circles around to a neat little conclusion, but this one has me flummoxed.

Too much Advil = the chance for some not-so-pleasant repercussions.  But some of the homeopathic remedies are sounding a bit, well, difficult to execute, and others just sound plain old gross.

Decisions, decisions.