For anyone who has experienced heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), they would likely vouch for how excruciating it can be. Moreover, they would probably mention how crucial but hard it is to find relief. For many, this relief comes from medication. However, a 2017 study conducted by researchers at Washington University of Medicine found that proton pump inhibitor (PPI) use raised the risk of death.
The following PPIs were included in the study: omeprazole (brand names such: Zegerid, Prilosec OTC, Zegerid OTC, and OmePPi), esomeprazole (Nexium, Nexium IV, Nexium 24HR, and Nexium Packet), lansoprazole (Prevacid, Heartburn Treatment 24 Hour, Prevacid SoluTab, and Prevacid 24Hr), pantoprazole (Protonix) and rabeprazole (AcipHex).
Can PPIs Really Increase Risk of Death?
In his study, lead researcher Dr. Ziyad Al Ayi said something alarming:
“IF 500 PATIENTS TOOK THE MEDICATION FOR ABOUT A YEAR, THEN THERE WOULD BE ONE EXCESS DEATH THAT COULD BE ATTRIBUTED TO USING THIS CLASS OF MEDICATION CALLED PPI.”
What’s most concerning isn’t just the fact that millions of North Americans are regularly using proton pump inhibitors, but an estimated 50 to 69% of patients are inappropriately prescribed PPIs (read more at CBC news).
However, this is not the first research study that has called into question the prescription of PPIs containing ingredients such as omeprazole. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that proton pump inhibitors, a common drug for reducing severe indigestion problems, can actually lead to long-term kidney damage. [i]
Other drugs that contain omeprazole are Losec and Nexium, and researchers say they are causing a silent disease, which slowly deteriorates your kidneys.
Proton Pump Inhibitors Like Omeprazole Have Long-Term Consequences
Heartburn is a deceptive name because the burning sensation starts in the stomach, however, we often feel the pain in the chest area (hence HEART-burn!). The sensation of pain can stem from excess stomach acid that moves through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and up into the bottom of the esophagus. Many common foods can cause or worsen indigestion, often leading sufferers to reach for pain relief from the excessive acid and inflammation.
PPIs are valuable for people with gastrointestinal bleeding and other severe damage to their digestive system to stop the production of acid. PPIs stop production at the source to prevent the acid from irritating more critical issues. However, about 40% of users move to PPIs before trying alternative methods of acid reduction.[ii]
Using PPIs when unnecessary is dangerous. A study done by Pradeep Arora found out that 24.4% of CKD patients out of a 76,462 person sample size was taking PPIs, illustrating how a disproportionate amount of victims of CKD have used PPIs.[iii] A study from CMAJ open involving 290,000 people above the age of 65 found that individuals who used PPIs regularly over a long period were more than twice as likely to have kidney failure.[iv] Kidney’s struggle to filter PPIs, get damaged as a result and, in severe cases, can increase your risk of death.
A recent study, by Yan Xie, discovered that Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) is not necessarily a precursor to chronic kidney disease (CDK).[v] Acute kidney injury would indicate early on that the kidneys are working too hard. Without any warning signs, CKD can occur before it’s too late to recover.
Furthermore, PPIs do not address a common bacterial cause of heartburn called H. pylori. H. pylori eat at your stomach lining and PPIs only mask the symptoms — not treating the cause of the issue. It’s important to take care of this bacteria with antibiotics as instructed by a doctor. Thankfully though, heartburn is the result of a few simple things happening in your stomach that can be dealt with naturally without damaging the rest of your body.
3 Common Symptoms of Heartburn
It’s obvious when you have heartburn. You will feel:
- Burning in your chest and throat
- Feeling an object in your chest or throat.
- After prolonged heartburn, you may have a chronic cough, sore throat, or hoarseness.
8 Simple Ways to Relieve Heartburn (and Acid Reflux)
The damaging side effects of PPIs is an unnecessary burden to relieve heartburn symptoms. That’s why it’s important to understand that there are natural ways to defeat and prevent heartburn. It helps to know your triggers — including diet and lifestyle factors — so you can avoid taking unnecessary medications.
Common Heartburn Triggers: