The FDA just issued a warning that the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – including Nexium, Prilosec, Aciphex, Protonix, and Prevacid – may increase the risk of bacterial infection from Clostridium difficile, which can cause severe diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.

The FDA has previously issued warnings that the use of these same drugs can also lead to dangerously low levels of magnesium, increasing the risk of leg spasms, heart arrhythmias, heart attack, stroke and seizures. More to the point, about 25% of people taking these drugs could not improve their magnesium levels through supplementation and had to discontinue the drugs to remedy this condition.

Furthermore, research has shown that proton pump use over time increases the risk of bone fractures; the longer a person uses these drugs, the higher the risk becomes. This is important information for everyone that considers using these drugs, as they are often recommended for long term use. In particular, people susceptible to osteoporosis are particularly vulnerable.

So what causes all these adverse health effects?

Proton pump inhibitors work by reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach. This helps alleviate the pain caused by acid reflex and ‘heartburn’ but does nothing to alleviate the cause of the pain. Furthermore, adequate stomach acid production serves many purposes in the body, including killing potentially harmful bacteria and virus that come in with our food, maintaining the ideal acid-alkaline balance in the GI tract to prevent harmful bacterial overgrowth and breaking down minerals so they can be absorbed and used by the body.

This means that taking these medications sets a person up for increased infection due to the fact that fewer bacteria and viruses will be killed in the stomach because of the low acid and that the intestinal environment will be more conducive to bacterial overgrowth. In addition, due to lack of stomach acid, it will be difficult if not impossible to properly break down minerals, from food or supplements, which can quickly lead to deficiency. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that taking these drugs over time can have many detrimental consequences for your health.

Addressing the cause and eliminating the need for PPIs

I said before that PPIs didn’t address the cause of acid reflux. Excess stomach acid production is rarely the reason for pain. The vast majority of people that suffer from GERD or heartburn are afflicted by one or more of the following: (1) improper digestion due to inadequate chewing, (2) food hypersensitivities, (3) dehydration, (4) bacterial infection (often from H. pylori), (5) gastrointestinal lining inflammation and/or (6) incompetency in the valve between the stomach and the esophagus.

If you suffer from GERD or heartburn, start by chewing each bite of food until it  is a liquid; this means you will chew each bite of food at least 30 times before swallowing or putting more food into your mouth. In addition, start drinking less water more often throughout the day; aim for 16 ounces of water upon waking and 2-4 ounces of water every 20-30 minutes throughout the day. Doing just these two things has led to the resolution of GERD and heartburn in over 30% of our clients.