Is Medication the Best Answer for Heartburn?

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New research indicates that medicating your heartburn may put you at risk for more serious medical problems. While prescription medications, especially proton pump inhibitors, have been extremely successful in treating heartburn symptoms over the last several years, a closer look at the side effects suggests that lifestyle changes may be more appropriate and less risky for some patients.

People who are hospitalized for any reason while taking a proton pump inhibitor, may be as much as 74% more likely to become infected by the Clostridium difficile bacteria. More commonly known as C. difficile, this intestinal infection is very hard to treat and can result in severe diarrhea or, in more severe cases, colon removal. Proton pump inhibitors suppress the production of stomach acids that are believed to help protect against the bacteria.

Other studies suggest that taking proton pump inhibitors may increase your risk for pneumonia and bone fractures, including spine fractures.

The question experts are now proposing is no whether or not proton pump inhibitors are effective in treating heartburn symptoms, but whether or not some patients are considering lifestyle and dietary changes before turning to medication.

Obesity, for example, can contribute to frequent heartburn. Losing weight has been shown to be an effective treatment for many people who suffer from heartburn or GERD, as has exercise, low-fat diets, high fiber diets, and eating smaller meals more slowly.

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