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Many people have occasional heartburn issues and some people have them all the time. It’s pretty typical to reach for a medication that will be a “quick fix” for the symptoms. Over the counter drugs like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid are advertised to be that quick fix you can take so you don’t have to make any changes to how you eat. They had been considered safe to take daily and for an ongoing time. But a new study is bringing that into question.
A study that involved more than 250,000 people being published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine states that those drugs, which are known as proton-pump inhibitors (“PPI’s”) appear to significantly increase the chances of developing chronic kidney disease.
PPI’s were originally approved in the 1980’s and were thought to be perfectly safe and free from side effects. But recently there has been emerging evidence that they are not. Some of it suggests they may also increase your risk of infection, bone fractures and even heart problems.
The study was done by Morgan Grams, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health and her colleagues. They examined the medical records for two different groups of people. One group was people who took PPI’s and were in the Artherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study and the other was patients in the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. In both groups the risk of chronic kidney disease. However, the study only looked at individuals who had been prescribed PPI’s and didn’t factor in how long they had been taking them. Grams said the study didn’t prove conclusively that PPI’s can cause kidney disease; more research is needed to look at the association. She did say that the results were worrying and that people should take PPI’s only when necessary.
"Given the fact that so many people use PPI medications, I think it is judicious to exercise some caution," she says.
She isn’t the only one who voiced concern. Dr. Adam Schoenfeld, an internal medicine resident at the University of California, San Francisco, agreed that people should exercise a bit more caution when taking PPI’s. He co-authored an editorial accompanying the study and said "When they first came out they weren't associated with side effects, or we didn't think they were, so we put [people] on this medication thinking: 'It's a quick fix and they're very safe.' But in actuality they're associated with a range of side effects. I think it's a pretty big concern,"
Schoenfeld suggested that people should try other methods before resorting to taking PPI’s such as diet changes, cutting down on alcohol consumption and quitting smoking.
Those are very good suggestions. There are also natural supplements to assist in digestion and help alleviate heartburn such as digestive enzymes, and products designed to soothe and heal the gut such Aloe Vera, glutamine or licorice. Contact your Natural Health Practitioner for more information about natural alternatives.