If you’re someone who takes medicine daily, any medicine, it’s important to step back and consider whether you still need to be taking it. I’d also brush up on the side effects. While I’d love doctors to focus on getting patients off unnecessary meds, let’s face it medicine is a business. But if you, or someone close to you, are one of the 15 million Americans who take a certain type of acid blockers, there are some serious side effects.
There is a class of acid blocking (“heartburn”) meds called PPIs. Examples of PPI’s are Prevacid, Nexium and Prilosec. The concerns about taking these meds long-term have been out there; however, almost daily I have a client in my office who feels they’re totally safe.
Whenever I see one of these meds in a new client’s chart I ask a few questions.
How long have you been taking this medication?
Have you tried going off of it?
What modifications do you make in your diet for your reflux or heartburn?
The answers are quite similar. Most clients have been on their acid blockers for a while- usually years. They haven’t tried to discontinue them and they “can eat anything on these meds so there’s no need to change their diets.” Sigh. It’s so backward. The meds are like pain killers; they aren’t improving the condition. And just because you “can eat anything” doesn’t mean you should.
Stomach acid has important functions. We need an acidic environment for maximum vitamin and mineral absorption. On PPIs you see more bone fractures because calcium absorption is compromised. There have been cardiac side effects researched as well. There is an increased heart attack risk on PPIs. There’s also less gut diversity or less “good” bacteria when there’s less acid. Our gut flora is connected to mood and food cravings. Stomach acid helps digestion and prevents infection.
These meds should be used short term or occasionally. If you are interested in going off of your PPIs, you need to wean yourself gradually you can have rebound symptoms. As you decrease your dose, address your diet. For starters, try decreasing alcohol, sugar and caffeine. You can try a spoonful of apple cider vinegar diluted with water before meals. I also like a probiotic, vitamin D and glutamine supplement to restore your gut health.
While I only focused on these acid-blocking medications, talk to your physician if you are interested in discontinuing a particular drug. And yes, there are certain cases where you absolutely need a particular med, even the acid blockers. More often than not, this isn’t the case.