Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) 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. Concern has been increasing that Americans might be overusing PPIs to treat minor cases of heartburn or acid reflux. And, a new study published in the journal JAMA Neurology, shows heartburn drugs and dementia are linked, in that these drugs may raise a senior’s risk of developing dementia.
Researchers collected data from a large German health insurance firm on almost 74,000 seniors aged 75 or older. The data ran from 2004 to 2011, and included diagnoses and drug prescriptions. About 2,950 patients regularly used PPIs, which for this study was defined as at least one PPI prescription in each quarter of an 18-month interval. Regular users of PPIs had a 44% increased risk of dementia compared with those not receiving PPI medications.
PPIs appear to effect levels of amyloid beta and tau, which are proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the German authors said. PPI use can also lead to vitamin B12 deficiency, which has been associated with cognitive decline.
Beyond increased dementia risk, overuse of antacids could have other harmful effects on health. For example, these medications have been linked to a higher risk of bone loss and chronic kidney disease. In addition, earlier studies have also linked another type of antacid, H2 blockers (Tagamet, Pepcid and Zantac) with an increased risk of dementia.
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.