Heartburn Drugs Linked to Liver Disease

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heart-burnIt seems new studies about proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and their side effects come out every few months. Just over a year ago, a study linking them to kidney disease came out. And earlier in the same year, a link between PPIs and dementia was made. This week, a study was published where researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found a link between PPI use and chronic liver disease.

Proton pump inhibitors are a popular class of heartburn medications that includes Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid. These medications, which are available over-the-counter (without a prescription), lower the amount of stomach acid produced by the stomach.  The researchers found that these drugs may cause changes to gut bacteria that can promote liver disease.

The lowering of, or absence of gastric acid promotes the growth of Enterococcus bacteria in the intestine. This bacteria then moves to the liver and promotes liver inflammation and liver injury, which in turn can lead to the progression of alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and steatohepatitis.

Further studies found a link between the use of PPIs and alcoholic liver disease among people who abuse alcohol. Researchers strongly recommend avoiding the use of PPIs unless absolutely necessary. It is estimated that currently as much as 10% of the population uses PPIs.

People who want to ease off PPIs can take a number of steps to reduce excess acid or prevent acid reflux. Recommendations include eating smaller meals, eliminating fried foods, spicy foods, processed foods, tomato-based foods, chocolate, caffeine, nicotine, as well as alcohol. In addition, it is best to avoid eating right before bed, lose weight, and manage stress levels. It is also critical to get to the root cause of the reflux. Consider doing micronutrient testing, food sensitivity testing, and testing to check for overgrowth of bad bacteria or yeast or H. pylori.

In addition, nutrients and herbs can be a safe and effective approach to supporting gastrointestinal health. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), glutamine, aloe, zinc carnosine, magnesium, digestive enzymes, and probiotics can all promote digestive wellness and help with reflux. One of my favorite digestive supplements is Pathway GI Optimal Support. Available in both capsule and powder form, this product provides comprehensive support for gut health.

For most people, diet is still the most effective way of preventing heartburn and acid reflux. Avoid foods, such as those mentioned above, that can trigger heartburn and acid reflux, and eat small meals, chew well, and eat slowly so that you do not swallow excess air. By eating slowly (and enjoying your food!), the release of digestive juices will be stimulated, aiding in digestion.

If you have any questions or concerns about the medication you are taking, we encourage you to talk to your doctor. We also invite you to call our health experts at Village Green to discuss natural ways to support your gastrointestinal health.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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January 2023