Will Relieving Your Heartburn Create More Problems?

Will Relieving Your Heartburn Create More Problems?

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a popular method of relieving severe heartburn or acid reflux. However, PPIs have recently come under attack. Can using a PPI to help one health problem actually create another or more health problems?

Jolene Rudell, 33, is fit and healthy and put down her fainting to the stress of being in medical school. However, her physician made her aware that it could be her PPI after she lost consciousness two weeks after fainting. Ms. Rudell has been using PPIs for nearly a decade.


Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium are all examples of PPIs, which help to lower acid in the stomach. Almost 4/10 Americans depend on these drugs to help their heartburn, according to a New York Times article. A PPI works by blocking the acid production in the stomach. As much as they may help to relieve acid reflux, more recently the Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings to the negative effects of using PPIs long term.

Effects of long-term PPI use

Studies and research by the FDA have suggested prolonged use of these drugs can decrease the amount of nutrients absorbed from foods into the blood, as well as increased risks of infection and bone fractures. Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that can cause infection, especially in the elderly. Therefore, it is recommended the elderly only use these drugs for a short period. Stomach acid helps to kill bacteria; therefore, suppressing the production of normal acid levels may cause patients to be more vulnerable to these infections.

Studies have also shown that the longer a patient uses a PPI, the higher the chance of less and less nutrients and minerals being absorbed into the bloodstream. It may also reduce the effectiveness of other medications you may be taking at the same time. Other claims include increased weight gain and even pneumonia.

Stomach acid plays a key role in bodily functions by breaking downs foods, absorbing nutrients, and helping in the correct functioning of the pancreas and gallbladder. The longer the use of PPIs, the more harm they are actually doing to your body than good.


However, many drug companies are dismissing these claims, stating elderly patients are more vulnerable to bone fractures and infections as they age.

PPIs can be very addictive. Some patients stay on the drugs much longer than the recommended period of 8-12 weeks. Dr. Shoshana J. Herzig of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, mentions “Studies have shown that once you’re on them, it’s hard to stop taking them…it’s like an addiction.” The problem here is that the issue is not being prevented or “solved”, but more controlled. If a patient comes off the medication, the problem will arise once again. Instead of making lifestyle changes, which is far healthier than using drugs, patients are opting for the ‘easier’ solution – take medicine while being able to eat the wrong foods, which in reality doesn’t help their acid reflux.

Can you make the lifestyle changes you need to lower your heartburn and prevent additional health problems? If you are having trouble with this, make an appointment with Dr. Darido to discuss your options at the Houston Heartburn & Reflux Center.