There are a lot of unpleasant side effects to heartburn medications. They can actually cause life threatening conditions.
Over-the-counter and prescription drugs for heartburn shouldn’t be used for longer than 3 months. These drugs can actually cause life threatening conditions.
Taking PPIs longterm can contribute to magnesium and B12 deficiencies.
Regular bowel movements are important for preventing heartburn. Constipation can back things up and push them back upwards.
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Transcript: The dangers of heartburn medication
Dr. Heather Tick: Why do I have GERD? Let me talk to you about heartburn. Now a lot of people like to call it GERD – Gastro Esophageal Reflex Syndrome. It’s a fancy name but it doesn’t really mean much beyond heartburn other than it tends to be an automatic reach for a prescription pad or an over the counter drug to counteract it. Instead of what you’re grandmother would have told you if you came to her and said, “Grandma I have heartburn”. What would she have said? She would have said, “Well, what did you eat? What bothered you?” or her next steps might be “Here have some bicarbonate soda and be careful what you eat”.
So I want to take it back to the pre-drug days because the drugs actually have a lot of unpleasant side effects. Right now the drugs called PPI’s or Proton Pump Inhibitors which are available over the counter as well as by prescription have a warning on them that you shouldn’t take them for longer than 3 months. Now the FDA put that warning on the prescription drugs, when asked why that warning was not put on the over the counter, same drugs but in slightly different doses, the FDA said “Well those drugs already say you shouldn’t take these for longer than 2 weeks without consulting a doctor”. However in my experience people don’t follow that recommendation because there is no warning about it saying, “Hey don’t take these longer than 3 months because they can actually cause life threatening conditions.” Yes! You got me right. These drugs can cause life threatening conditions.
So let me tell you a little about it. Stomach acid is essential for life. It sterilizes our food and it’s the first step in digestion as well. So when you don’t have stomach acid available, certain things don’t get absorbed like magnesium, like calcium, both of those are needed for bone health. Magnesium is needed to control your heart rhythm and some people may get life threatening abnormal rhythms in their heart. You also may be missing vitamin B12 which can cause pain when you’re deficient in it and it can also cause brain damage that is reversible if you catch it early enough and get B12 into your system. There are other deficiencies that can be caused and so these are drugs that you have to be really careful about it.
I strongly recommend you find out how does your body want you to eat? The other part of this is that constipation is a factor because when things are not flowing through your gut well, your stomach has nowhere to empty its contents so if you’re constipated things back up and they want to go back upwards so it’s much better to have regular bowel movements and then not have heartburn. So watch what you’re eating and don’t get constipated.
By the way, it is okay to take one of these drugs once in a while. If you’re going out for a big dinner, if you’re at a wedding, if you’re doing something and you know you’re eating food that’s going to disagree with you and give you heartburn, go ahead and take one of those PPI’s but don’t do it on a regular basis.