Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and its painful symptom, heartburn, plague as many as 25 million Americans every day. But according to a new study, long-term, regular use of acid-blocking proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) may raise overall risk of fractures by nearly 30 percent.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and its painful classic symptom, heartburn, plague as many as 25 million Americans every day. No wonder sales of the most potent stomach acid–blockers, proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, and Protonix climbed to $13.6 million last year, according to IMS Health.
But according to a new meta-analysis study published in Annals of Family Medicine, long-term, regular use of these drugs may raise overall risk of fractures by nearly 30 percent.
Labels on over-the-counter PPIs warn consumers not to use them for more than two weeks at a time. But the lead editorial accompanying the study warned that many doctors don’t follow recommended guidelines—and that although PPI benefits can outweigh risks for those with potentially serious conditions, many patients would be better off taking PPIs on an “on-demand” basis only. Doctors should carefully consider prescribing to women over age 65, in particular, said study lead author Dr. Chun-Sick Eom, a clinical instructor in the Department of Family Medicine at Hallym University Hospital in South Korea.
Researchers attributed the increased fracture risk partly to PPIs’ interference with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, leading to weaker bones that are more prone to break. Moreover, "although blocking stomach-acid production relieves irritation and may give the GI tract a chance to heal, it also allows bacterial infections to thrive (which means food doesn’t get broken down as well) and may lead to more serious problems,” warns Angelica S. Vrablic, PhD, manager of nutrition research for NBTY, a dietary supplement manufacturer.
Now for the good news: Simple (but consistent) changes to diet and lifestyle, along supportive supplements—such as DGL, aloe vera gel, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and the amino acid glutamine—can offer lasting solutions to many digestive woes, without serious side effects.