Could Your Stomach Pill Be Making You Ill?

( – Acid reflux and ulcers are painful conditions that can become very severe if left untreated, causing permanent damage to the lining of the esophagus and stomach. A common medication called a proton pump inhibitor provides relief by addressing excessive acid, but studies have found that these meds can increase the risk of chronic disease.

More specifically, the risk of dying of chronic disease, such as cancer or heart disease, is increased with long-term use of proton pump inhibitors. Is your stomach pill making you ill? Here’s what you need to know.

Acid Reflux, PPIs and Death

A 2019 study in BMJ examined the effects of taking proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, for ten years. They did this by selecting a group of 177,496 veterans who had recently begun using PPIs like Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid.

After 10 years, researchers followed up with study participants to gather additional data on how their use of these medications affected their health. They found that PPI use was associated with a 17% increase in the risk of dying from a serious disease or chronic condition like stomach cancer, kidney disease or heart disease.

More recent studies, such as this 2023 AJHB piece, support the initial findings and discuss the pros and cons of the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors.

An Alarming Revelation About Over-The-Counter Medication

In addition to the increased chance of death, researchers became aware of another alarming piece of information about proton pump inhibitors. What they found was that over 50% of the participants taking PPIs didn’t have a medical need for the over-the-counter medication.

The crucial take away from this study is that being able to easily access medication by walking through the aisles of the pharmacy doesn’t mean it is safe for long-term use. A proton pump inhibitor is intended for short-term use of no more than 14 days. Patients should be aware of the risk of continued use and visit with their doctor to discuss other options. Those who don’t have a medical need for a PPI should discontinue use, and those who are reliant on them should stick with a low dose for no more than 14 days.

Lifestyle changes may help individuals with conditions caused by acid control their symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether or not things like avoiding carbonated beverages, watching portion sizes, taking your time while eating and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms may help you to manage your acid without a proton pump inhibitor.

~ Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension

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