August 21

Why You Need to Stop Treating Your Heartburn Symptoms

You May Need To Stop Treating Your Symptoms with Medication

Acid reflux medications have severe side effects: anemia, heart problems, hypertension, osteoporosis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition, there was some talk about it being associated with dementia, but there is insufficient evidence of that so far.

This article will discuss the side effects of acid reflux medication and why you should stop treating your heartburn symptoms and stop taking these medications.

Acid reflux medication only treats the symptoms and not the underlying cause.

These medications are very good at neutralizing the symptoms, which worsens the problem with extended use. This is evident in the fact that most patients increase their dosage of these drugs over time. So, as a result, it would be legitimate to say that acid reflux medication reduces your stomach acid and makes your acid reflux worse!

What you will learn

Why do you need to stop treating your heartburn symptoms? Because so-called acid reflux medications are actually making your acid reflux worse. Most people suffering from acid reflux or GERD are never properly tested to determine if they have excess stomach acid. In most cases, their doctor prescribes proton pump inhibitors, H2 Blockers, or other antacid medications to reduce the symptoms

The symptoms of low stomach acid and excess stomach acid are nearly the same. So while these medications reduce the occurrence of heartburn and acid reflux, over time, they will worsen the problem.

Stop treating your Acid Reflux symptoms! Find the root cause and treat that!

  • Acid Reflux is caused by low stomach acid. Acid reflux medications reduce and, in the case of PPIs, stop stomach acid production - these medications only treat the symptoms for a very short time.  
  • Long-term use of acid reflux medication will make your acid reflux worse   
  • Some Acid reflux medications have some severe side effects

Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), H2 Blockers, and Antacid medicine provide relieve the symptoms of Heartburn, Acid Reflux and GERD. Please make note that I said they offer relief from the symptoms and do NOT resolve the cause.

If anything, these medications worsen the problem because they neutralize or stop the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Acid Reflux, GERD, and Heartburn are symptoms of not having sufficient stomach acid (or at least less acidic than a normal level).

But because these drugs hide the symptoms, people think they are helping. It says so in the ads on TV.

How Do They Work?

Protein Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) do exactly what the name implies, inhibiting hydrochloric acid (HCl) production by blocking the receptor site of the parietal cells producing HCl. PPIs are the third largest-selling class of drugs, with more than 119 million prescriptions written annually. They generate nearly $14 billion in sales per year. This total does not include the sale of OTC versions of these products.

PPIs are the most potent inhibitors of acid secretion available.

Some examples of PPIs are:

  • Nexium (Esomeprazole) - It decreases the secretion of acid through inhibition of the H+/K+-ATPase in the parietal cells of the stomach. By inhibiting the functioning of this transporter, the drug prevents the formation of stomach acid.

  • Prevacid (Lansoprazole) - It inhibits the stomach's production of acid. There is no evidence that its effectiveness differs from other PPIs.

  • Prilosec (Omeprazole) - Is used in the treating gastroesophageal reflux diseasepeptic ulcer disease, and Zollinger–Ellison syndrome.

  • Zegerid (Omeprazole) - see Prilosec above.

  • Protonix (Pantoprazole) - Used for short-term treatment of erosive esophagitis associated with GERD, maintenance of healing of erosive esophagitis, and pathological hypersecretory conditions including Zollinger–Ellison syndrome.

  • Aciphex (Rabeprazole) - It suppresses gastric acid production in the stomach. Used in the management of conditions that involve excess gastric acid production (e.g. Zollinger–Ellison syndrome), conditions that are worsened by gastric acid (e.g. ulcerations of the gastrointestinal tract), and conditions involving prolonged exposure to gastric acid (e.g. symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux disease).

  • Pantaloc (Pantoprazole) - originally sold under the name Protonix - see above.

H2 Antagonists/Blockers

Histamine H2-receptor antagonists reduce the amount of acid produced by the cells lining the stomach lining. They do this by blocking the action of histamine at the histamine H2 receptors of the parietal cells in the stomach. This decreases the production of stomach acid. Also referred to as H2 Blockers and histamine H2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs). 

Some examples of H2 Blockers include:

Antacid Tablets and Liquids

Antacid medications use a combination of aluminum, magnesium, or calcium with hydroxide or bicarbonate ions to neutralize stomach acid.

Some examples of Antacid medications include:

Table of Possible Long-Term Side Effects from Taking Acid Reflux Medications

Possible Side Effect

PPIs

H2 Blockers

Antacids

Headache

YES

YES

NO

Nausea

YES

YES

NO

Severe Stomach Pain

YES

YES

NO

Dizziness

YES

YES

NO

Confusion

YES

NO

NO

Fast or uneven heart rate

YES

NO

NO

Jerky Muscle Movements

YES

NO

NO

Feeling Jittery

YES

NO

NO

Diarrhea that is watery or bloody

YES

NO

NO

Muscle Cramps

YES

NO

NO

Muscle weakness or limp feeling

YES

NO

NO

Cough or choking feeling

YES

NO

NO

Seizure

YES

NO

NO

Mild Diarrhea

YES

NO

YES

Constipation

YES

NO

YES - for products that contain magnesium

Gas

NO

YES

NO

Decreased appetite

YES

NO

NO

Dry mouth

YES

NO

NO

Sore throat

NO

NO

NO

Runny Nose

NO

NO

NO

Aluminum intoxification

NO

NO

YES - for products that contain aluminum

Proton Pump Inhibitors: headache, nausea, severe stomach pain, dizziness, confusion, fast or uneven heart rate, jerky muscle movements, feeling jittery, diarrhea that is watery or bloody, muscle cramps, muscle weakness or limp feeling, cough or choking feeling, seizure, mild diarrhea, constipation, decreased appetitie and dry mouth.

H2 Blockers: headache, nausea, severe stomach pain, dizziness, gas, sore throat, runny nose

Antacids: mild diarrhea, constipation (from products that contain magnesium), aluminum intoxification (for products that contain aluminum)


What Are the Long-Term Side Effects of Taking Acid Reflux Medications?

Unfortunately, long-term use of these medications brings with them much worse side effects, all related to neutralizing or stopping the production of stomach acid.

Some people are experiencing issues they are blaming on other causes. However, they do not realize these long-term issues result from taking these medications. None of these medications are meant to be taken for more than 2 to 8 weeks. But unfortunately, most patients take them for the rest of their lives, and most increase the dosage over time.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency caused by PPIs and H2 blockers

Usually, Vitamin B12 is obtained from our diet. Stomach acid is required to break down food for us to absorb nutrients. Deficiency in vitamin B12 can produce anemia, depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), osteoporosis (increased risk of bone fracture), hypertension, dementia, and neuropathy (disrupted nerve signaling).

Studies show that most PPIs and H2 blockers decrease the absorption of vitamin B12 from foods because of low stomach acid. In one compelling study, 75% of PPI users were deficient in vitamin B12, compared with just 11% of non-users, a significant difference. Other studies document a nearly 4-fold increase in the risk of B12 deficiency among users of PPIs and H2 blockers.

Based on current information, experts recommend that people taking PPI therapy for extended periods should have their vitamin B12 levels checked and consider supplementation. Vitamin B12 supplied as a crystalline supplement appears to be better absorbed by people taking PPIs than vitamin B12 supplied from food. That is because the crystalline B12 does not have to be separated from foods in the stomach (which, of course, requires normal stomach acid levels).

Overgrowth of gut bacteria caused by PPIs and H2 blockers

Blocking the production of stomach acid also allows for the overgrowth of gut bacteria and disrupts the balance of healthy gut bacteria. Probiotics may help, but the underlying cause must be addressed first. Some doctors prescribe antibiotics to relieve this issue. This may work, but the antibiotics kill all your good bacteria and the bad!  

Decreased resistance to infection

One of the essential roles of stomach acid is to provide a barrier that protects your stomach from bad bacteria. It prevents this harmful bacteria from entering the intestine. This bacteria can originate in the food we ingest. Stomach acid also prevents bacteria from the intestines from moving into the stomach or esophagus.

There is evidence that using PPIs or H2 blockers increases the chances of getting Salmonella, Cholera, C. Difficile, Campylobacter, and Giardia. In addition, other studies have shown that these drugs increase the chances of getting Pneumonia, Typhoid, Dysentery, and Tuberculosis.

Increased risk of cancer and other diseases

A study published in the journal Gut identified an association between long-term use of the drug and 2.4 times higher risk of developing stomach cancer. In the UK, there are more than 50 million prescriptions for PPIs every year, but they have been linked to side effects and an increased risk of death. This study has several limitations that mean we should be cautious about the results: This type of study can’t prove PPIs caused the increased risk of cancer. The increased risk could be down to other factors.

Researchers could not adjust their figures to take account of some relevant confounding factors, such as alcohol and tobacco use, as these weren’t routinely recorded.

Almost all the patients in the study were Chinese. Asians are known to have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer than other populations, so the results may not apply to the general UK population. However, if you’re taking them regularly, it may be worth discussing with your doctor whether you still need to. There could be alternative treatments that would be of more benefit.

The incidence of stomach cancer was 1.0 per 10,000 in people without previous treatment, compared with 8.1 per 10,000 in people who had been treated.

DO NOT attempt to stop taking Your PPIs or H2 Blockers Cold Turkey!!

The discontinuation of long-term PPI therapy often results in a rebound in gastric acid production called Rebound Acid Hypersecretion. Please work closely with your doctor to get off this medication. You must gradually reduce your PPI intake and replace them with H2 blockers or antacid medication until you no longer experience symptoms.

Rebound Acid Hypersecretion

If you do not gradually reduce your PPI or H2 blocker medication, you will have acid reflux symptoms worse than you have ever experienced. There was a 2007 study (see next section for reference) where they gave PPIs to people who did not have acid reflux to see the results when they stopped. Every person experienced severe acid reflux from 4 weeks to 3 months after the end of the study. These people did not have acid reflux before taking part in the study!

References

Two studies have been reported that validate the concept that acid reflux medications induce acid reflux in people who did not have it before taking the medication:

This study determined the possibility that acid reflux drugs are linked to increased stomach cancer risk:

DISCLAIMER

The information contained here does not constitute medical advice and is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease. Please contact your doctor. The information provided is for informational purposes only and are solely the views of the author.

Low Stomach Acid is the Main Cause of Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD

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