Common heartburn drugs linked to fatal health condition, plus solutions

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heartburn-pain(NaturalHealth365) Heartburn drugs are among the most popular medications in the world, with an estimated market value of over $5 billion in 2017. Despite their popularity – as many as 15 million Americans take prescription options, many more use over-the-counter options.  But, non-prescription acid reflux medications also have their fair share of controversy, including nationwide recalls and a host of unwanted side effects.

Here’s another thing that’s hard to swallow (pun intended): recent research reveals that heartburn medication may increase the risk of heart disease and stomach cancer, along with a variety of other potentially fatal health problems. This leaves us all wondering: are the harmful drug side effects truly worth the temporary acid reflux relief?

New study: Sobering link found between popular heartburn drugs and premature death

A longitudinal observational cohort study, published in BMJ, followed health outcomes of 214 ,467 veterans associated with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. After following these patients for as much as ten years, the study’s authors determined that individuals who routinely took proton pump inhibitors (a popular class of heartburn medication including household name drugs like Prilosec and Nexium) had a higher risk of death from fatal conditions including heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and gastrointestinal cancer.

This was true even if they were on low-dose or over-the-counter medications. And compared to people who used another popular type of heartburn medication known as H2 blockers, people who used proton pump inhibitors had a 17 percent higher likelihood of death.

Recently, batches of H2 blockers were recalled due to contamination with a probable human carcinogen known as N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).  The authors also expressed deep concern over the high prevalence of people using heartburn drugs even if there was no medical necessity to do so – they estimated more than half of proton pump inhibitor users fell into this category.

This study certainly has its limitations. As an observational study, it can’t prove cause and effect. Plus, the sample were mostly male, Caucasian, and 65 years old or older, so other groups of people should be studied to determine how heartburn drugs affect them.

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But the results are substantial enough to have caught the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and overall the authors concur that there needs to be greater public awareness raised regarding the dangers of taking heartburn medications inappropriately or unnecessarily.

Stomach cancer and heart disease are NOT the only famous drug complications or side effects

Heartburn drugs including antacids and proton pump inhibitors are – to our mind – a classic example of modern day medicine’s philosophy: treat the symptom rather than aim to address the underlying problem. The glaring issue with this approach is that while heartburn drugs may be reasonably effective at treating acid reflux, the short-term relief they provide may incentivize people to use them indefinitely.

And longer term use of these medications are associated with a range of health problems, including (but not limited to):

  1. Gastrointestinal distress, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and decreased sex drive
  2. Increased risk of pneumonia, C. difficile, and other infections
  3. Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  4. Increased risk of bone fractures, as reported in a 2019 literature review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
  5. Decreased absorption of essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin B2, beta-carotene, thiamin, iron, sodium and zinc

With the risk of unwanted health effects plus a hefty price tag – prescription heartburn drugs can cost anywhere from $60 to $375 per month – it’s no wonder so many people are looking for natural solutions to heartburn.

In the past, we’ve reported on a clinical study which showed significant heartburn relief from natural treatment with d-limonene, a compound derived from orange peels. Study subjects took 1,000 mg of purified d-limonene every other day for just under three weeks – and reportedly even this short-term supplementation was enough to provide acid reflux relief for weeks or months.

As you know, taking a more holistic approach to your health will take you well beyond natural treatment of heartburn and other problems. Natural ways to prevent acid reflux include maintaining a health weight, not smoking, not lying down within 2 – 3 hours after a meal, and avoiding known trigger foods like alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, tomatoes, chocolate, vinegar, peppermint, and spicy or fatty foods.

As always, we recommend talking with your integrative physician before starting or stopping any new medication or supplement.  But, the message here is very clear, you can naturally avoid the need for toxic medications with simple (enjoyable) changes to your lifestyle.

Sources for this article include:

Medicalxpress.com
Medicalnewstoday.com
TheBMJ.com
Harvard.edu
WUSTL.edu
Consumerreports.org
Grandviewresearch.com
NIH.gov