There are millions of Americans taking one of several proton pump inhibitors or PPIs. These drugs are both prescription and over the counter. Taken primarily for heartburn, many versions have simply become part of our lifestyle. Television and magazine advertisements depict their use as a healthy lifestyle change. Most people are unaware of just how detrimental these acid blockers are. They are not the equivalent to taking a calcium-based antacid. While these too may have their issues, they are benign in comparison.
Proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), or lansoprazole (Prevacid), work by shutting off the stomach’s production of hydrochloric acid. This is the goal, unfortunately, for most individuals experiencing heartburn. There is an assumption that, because individuals are feeling the effects of the acid in their esophagus, excessive hydrochloric acid production is the problem. This is just not the case. In fact, most people with GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) do not produce enough hydrochloric acid. As we get older, the stomach tends to produce less acid. Blocking its production can significantly limit our body’s ability to effectively digest and absorb nutrients.
PPIs also create an intestinal environment that is much more conducive to the growth or overgrowth of pathogens. Clostridium difficile infections for instance are much more prevalent in PPI users. This increased risk of infection combined with compromised digestion and/or reduced nutrient absorption can collectively explain many of the most common symptoms experienced by PPI users. These include both diarrhea and constipation, as well as numerous psychological changes such as anxiety, dizziness or confusion, and mental fatigue.
There are however much more serious side effects that can dramatically alter an individual’s life. Recent studies have demonstrated that there is a markedly increased risk for developing dementia, heart disease, damaged arteries, kidney disease, and bone loss, when using PPIs.
Heart burn and most stomach acid issues are caused by acid migrating out of the stomach and into other regions. This is best treated by helping people digest their food better (going for a walk after a meal as opposed to sitting or lying down), eating smaller meals, or eating different foods! Avoiding certain dairy products, gluten, and soy-containing foods is able to help many. Other individuals may need to skip coffee or wine.
While there are no contraindications to using Liquid Hope or Nourish with any PPI, we here at Functional Formularies are always concerned with the health of the World. Check with your physician to see if the PPI you may be using is warranted before trying some other, healthier, lifestyle or dietary changes first.
John Bagnulo MPH, PhD. - Director of Nutrition