Is your heartburn medication harming you?

It’s easy to turn to your trusty antacid whenever heartburn kicks in, but relying on these popular pills may be hurting your health water war.

Studies show that long-term use of certain heart burn medication, called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can increase your risk for:

Kidney damage

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine discovered that taking PPIs for long periods can put you at risk of serious kidney damage, even if you have no history of kidney problems.. According to Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, the senior author of the study, kidney problems can develop silently and gradually over time, impairing kidney function and leading to long-term kidney damage, and ultimately, renal failure.

Bacterial infections

In a study published in Gut, PPIs were found to alter your gut microbiome (the bacteria that live in the digestive tract), and increase your risk for gastrointestinal diseases including irritable bowel syndrome, obesity and fatty liver disease. Researchers found that regular users of PPIs had a 65% increase in Clostridium difficile (C.diff), a bacteria known to cause diarrhoea. What’s more, the study found the effects of PPIs were greater than antibiotics or other commonly used drugs.

Taking PPIs for longer than a year can increase your risk for hip fractures by an alarming 260%, says Dr. Murray, author of What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know. “Evidence suggests that PPIs may disrupt bone remodelling, making bones weaker and more prone to fractures.”

Heart attack

After examining over 16 million clinical documents on 2.9 million people, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that using PPIs can increase your risk for heart attack. This was especially true for patients who had already suffered a heart attack. Results from the study found a two-fold increase in dying from heart disease in those who regularly took PPIs compared to those who did not.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

PPIs interfere with the absorption of Vitamin B12,. Vitamin B12 is important for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. A vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies found in senior citizens, and has been linked to several health conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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How, then, do I beat the burn?

  1. Never go to bed with a full stomach. Eat at least three hours before you lie down. This will give your food time to digest and empty from your stomach. It will also give acid levels a chance to simmer down.
  2. If your heartburn worsens when you lie down, raise the head of your bed so your head and chest are higher than your feet. Use pillows to elevate your head at least 15cm above your feet.
  3. Don’t overeat. Eat smaller portions or try to eat four to five small meals instead of three large ones.
  4. Take your time when you eat. The faster you eat, the harder your stomach has to work and the more likely you are to suffer from heartburn. Chew your food slowly, and put down your fork between bites.
  5. Onions, tomatoes, citrus fruits, coffee, and spicy foods are known to bring on heartburn. Not sure which foods cause your symptoms? Keep a heartburn diary, and jot down when heartburn hits and the specific things you’re doing when it comes.
  6. The nicotine in cigarettes can weaken your lower oesophageal sphincter. This muscle controls the opening between your oesophagus and stomach, and prevents acid and other stomach contents from going back up the oesophagus.
  7. Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid, which can in turn, lead to heartburn.
  8. Shed some weight. Losing that spare tyre can help relieve your symptoms.
  9. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Tight clothes that constrict your abdominal area can make digestion difficult, and heartburn more likely.
  10. Constant stress can have a negative effect on your digestive system and raise acid levels in your stomach. Go for a walk, meditate or try yoga to help you relax.