What’s that burning in my chest?
Reflux is a common symptom that many individuals suffer with at one point or another. Whether it be in response to a big meal, that greasy burger that you had on Friday night, or maybe you suffer daily. Most often the with an occasional episode of reflux, an over the counter antacid does the trick.
With chronic reflux pharmaceuticals called “proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s)” are used to block acid production and prevent symptoms, something they are very effective at doing. In the medical literature the use of proton pump inhibitors (ie. prevacid, nexium) are indicated for short duration use (up to 8 weeks). I find in my clinical practice, I see individuals who have been utilizing a proton pump inhibitor for much longer then that, sometimes even years.
There has been a enough evidence in the medical literature over the past few years demonstrating that long term use of proton pump inhibitors have been found to have the following risks:
Increased fracture risk – because stomach acid is required to for absorption of some nutrients, namely calcium. *PPI use is not the main cause of fractures, but can be a contributor*
Pneumonia risk – stomach acid is responsible for keeping bacteria out of the stomach, if the bacteria are not destroyed and there is reflux back into the esophagus, the contents may spill over into the windpipe and into lungs.
C. difficile risk – although the cause of this link has not been determined, the theory exists that low acid environment caused by the PPI’s cause a change to gut bacteria making it more susceptible for C. difficile.
B12 and iron deficiency risk – this risk comes back to basic physiology, both vitamin B12 and iron require an acidic environment to be broken down and absorbed into the body, with PPI’s this does not take place in the same manner.
The take home message is that proton pump inhibitors serve a purpose but long term use could result in long term effects on the body.
Naturopathic Medicine has many effective treatments for acute and chronic reflux that will not cause increased health risk or deficiency.
An individualized visit can determine the root cause of your reflux. Some of the more common causes include; food sensitivities, low stomach acid, excess stomach acid, and bacterial overgrowth in the GI tract.
This post does not take the place of a visit with a health care practitioner, and is for educational purposes only.
Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology 2013 6:4 , 443-451