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. 

Studies show that long-term use of 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’ve never had signs of kidney problems before. 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 or even 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 percent increase in Clostridium difficile (C.diff), a bacteria known to cause diarrhoea. What’s more, the study found the effects of PPIs to be more prominent 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 percent, 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 more apparent in patients who had already suffered a heart attack. Results from the study found a two-fold increase in dying from heart disease compared to those not taking PPIs.

Vitamin B12 deficiency
PPIs interfere with the absorption of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies found in senior citizens, and has been linked to amongst other issues, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. 

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 allow 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. 

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