Are Too Many People Taking Heartburn Drugs?

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If you suffer from heartburn, you’re not alone in experiencing the painful symptoms that can accompany acid reflux. You may be willing to try anything that would alleviate the burning and pain associated with heartburn, but be aware of the risks involved with trying common heartburn medications.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPI), a relatively new type of drug that acts to suppress the creation of stomach acid, can be beneficial to people who suffer from ulcers or Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition that results in significant damage to the esophagus; and were previously considered to have little to no negative side effects. However, over the last few years, studies have shown that there is indeed the risk of serious side effects from proton pump inhibitors. Patients who take PPIs are at a much higher risk of fractures, C. difficile infection, and pneumonia. In fact, a study of more than 161,000 postmenopausal women showed that taking PPIs resulted in a 47% higher chance of spine fractures and 25% higher chance of forearm and wrist fractures.

Researchers say that as high as 70% of people who are prescribed a PPI don’t need one. Before taking a proton pump inhibitor for indigestion or heartburn, you should eat smaller meals, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, and reduce your consumption of fatty and spicy foods. Making lifestyle changes may alleviate your symptoms completely, eliminating the need to take any medication at all, and reducing your risk of side effects to zero.

If you are prescribed a PPI, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about it. Ask about alternatives, lifestyle changes, risks, and long-term preventive solutions, including GERD surgery to alleviate your heartburn.

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