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Over-Prescribed Heartburn Meds Cause Long-Term Side Effects: Get Natural Relief

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Heartburn (GERD) related image Photo: Getty Images

Heartburn. That burning feeling of regret that torturously reminds you to watch what you eat.

Okay, maybe a little dramatic, but for those who often experience heartburn, that may be a reality! Heartburn isn’t that uncommon, and experiencing occasional heartburn is no reason to worry.

By sitting through some discomfort and making a few lifestyle changes, there is no need to treat your heartburn with prescription drugs. However, according to a series of recent studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 60-70 percent of people taking prescription heartburn medication only experience minor heartburn and should not be taking them!

Sure, unnecessary prescriptions can rack up unnecessary costs, but studies found that in this case, it can also cause unnecessary negative long-term side effects.

The culprits, more specifically, are prescription heartburn relief medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPI), like Prilosec and Nexium. These work by suppressing the production of stomach acid.

One study concluded that individuals who were taking daily, prescription strength PPIs had a 74 percent increased risk for an intestinal bacterial infection (Clostridium difficile).

As if that weren’t bad enough, another study found that postmenopausal women who used PPIs had a 25 percent increased risk of fractures!

Additionally, past research has found that taking PPIs also puts individuals at an increased risk for contracting pneumonia. Especially now that cold and flu season is approaching, it is important to remember that there are natural, alternative ways to deal with heartburn, or to help avoid it in the first place. Many include simple, healthy lifestyle changes.

Maintain a healthy weight or lose a few pounds if you’re overweight. According to Mayo Clinic, “Excess pounds put pressure on your abdomen, pushing up your stomach and causing acid to back up into your esophagus.”

Avoid food and drinks that trigger heartburn. Fast food, spicy food, garlic, onion, caffeine and alcohol are just a few common triggers. Listen to your body to figure out what affects you! Keeping a diary to track food intake and symptoms can help.

Eat mindfully. Eating smaller meals and eating slowly will decrease the chances of heartburn.

Stop smoking. Cigarettes can weaken the muscles necessary to keep acid from coming up.

Avoid lying down after a meal. Let gravity help you by staying upright, assisting the acid to flow down the esophagus, not up.

Relax! Tight fitting clothes like belts or ties can trigger heartburn, as can stress. Take a few deep breaths and take it easy!

Although there are many harmful side effects of PPIs, they are sometimes necessary for the treatment of severe acid reflux and heartburn, especially when there is apparent damage to the esophagus, or in extreme cases including bleeding ulcers, ulcer infections, and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, in which the stomach produces too much acid.

Although it can be uncomfortable, if you’re experiencing heartburn, try your best to fix it without drugs. In the long run, it can be totally worth it!


Heartburn Home Remedies: Herbs & Other Natural Remedies. (n.d.). WebMD - Better information. Better health. Retrieved October 22, 2011, from http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/home-heartburn-remedies-natural-remedies-heartburn

Kotz, D. (2010, March 11). Heartburn Drugs Pose Risks: 12 Natural Symptom Relievers - US News and World Report. Health News Articles - US News Health. Retrieved October 22, 2011, from


Clinic. (2011, May 21). Heartburn - MayoClinic.com. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 22, 2011, from

Reviewed Wed October 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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