Acid Reflux or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) affects 60% of the adult population in some way over a 12-month period.  In the U.S. alone, $10 billion a year are spent on over the counter and prescription medications to help treat acid reflux. However, these medications only treat the symptoms of GERD, rather than addressing the root causes. That means that you could be stuck taking these medications forever if you have chronic acid reflux, and your condition would never improve.

These medications also carry some negative side effects that can impact other areas of health. Let’s look at some of the medications, how they work, and potential side effects.

PPIs & Other Medication

For patients struggling with acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophogeal reflux disease), many doctors will prescribe PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) or recommend over the counter medication such as Tums, Rolaids, Pepcid, or Zantac.

The active ingredients in PPIs work to turn off acid-producing cells in the stomach. The PPIs prevent the cells in the lining of the stomach from producing too much acid. They do this by directly blocking the enzyme system that helps to make stomach acid, and it can lead to potentially damaging side effects.

Examples of common PPIs are: Omeprazole (Prilosec), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), Dexlansoprazole (Dexilent), Rabeprazole (Aciphex), Pantoprazole (Protonix), and Esomeprazole (Nexium).

Side Effects

Some common side effects of PPIs are headaches, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, flatulence, fever, vomiting, nausea, and rashes. However, these are short-term side effects. Taking PPIs for long periods of time can cause even more serious side effects. Because PPIs do not offer a solution to the root problem of GERD, it is relatively common that a patient stays on them for long periods of time in order to manage their symptoms.

Mineral Malabsorption:

PPIs have been shown to be related calcium malabsorption in long-term use. This can lead to serious conditions like osteoporosis and increased incidences of bone fractures. In other words, long term PPI use can be related to weaker bones. It has also been shown to impair absorption of magnesium. Magnesium is important to bone health and density. Osteoporosis is a serious condition and should be treated with the help of a qualified physician. 

B12 Deficiency and Anemia:

PPIs can also cause vitamin B12 deficiencies and anemia. This occurs because vitamin B12 found in natural sources is usually bound to protein when consumed. In order for B12 to be absorbed by the body, it needs to be broken apart from this protein, however if the stomach is not producing enough acid, then this bond cannot be broken. This lack of B12 can cause anemia, or low red blood cell count.

SIBO:

Chronic PPI use can also cause a condition called SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). In SIBO too many bacteria take up residence in the small intestine as opposed to the large intestine or colon where they belong. Stomach acid is one of the ways your body protects itself from potentially harmful bacteria. Reduced stomach acid makes it more possible for bacteria that enter through the mouth to survive deeper in to your GI tract. This can cause symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, malnutrition, weight loss, fatigue, and joint pain.

Alternatives

There are other ways to treat GERD. The highly trained specialists and physicians at the Tampa Bay Reflux Center are up to date on all the latest advances in reflux management and treatment. The variety of reflux related surgical procedures that they offer address the root causes of GERD rather than just the symptoms.

Ask a doctor about TIF, Linx, and Lap Nissen Fundoplication procedures to treat GERD. To learn more about their procedures and information regarding GERD you can schedule an appointment at the Tampa Bay Reflux Center website here.

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