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Popular OTC Heartburn Meds Linked to Dangerous Superbug


People who take common classes of over-the-counter heartburn drugs have a higher risk of suffering from recurrent superbug infections, according to a new study.

The medications involved include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium, as well as H2 blockers like Pepcid, Zantac and Tagamet. Researchers found they increase the likelihood of contracting Clostridium difficile infections — also known as C. difficile. This dangerous microbe can cause diarrhea and serious inflammation of the colon that has the potential of being fatal.

Half a million people are afflicted with this infection every year in the U.S. alone. The incidence has increased, and it has become more serious and difficult to treat in recent years. C. difficile typically affects senior adults in long-term care facilities and hospitals and commonly occurs following the use of antibiotics, lead researcher Sahil Khanna said. However, studies suggest the infections are more frequently affecting younger and healthier people who haven’t been exposed to such facilities and don’t have a history of antibiotic use, he added.

“Gastric acid suppression medications are commonly prescribed and consumed over-the-counter for gastric reflux disease [GERD], peptic ulcer disease or functional dyspepsia, but they are also sometimes prescribed for unnecessary indications, which leads to overuse of these medications,” Khanna warned.

The researcher postulated that reducing the acid in the stomach might affect the bacteria in the gut, leaving it more vulnerable to the infections. Another explanation he offers is that the people who take the medications may be in poorer health, which would raise their susceptibility.

Khanna believes the best strategy for dealing with the problem is to reduce the misuse of the drugs. “Patients with C. difficile should be reevaluated to assess the necessity of using gastric acid suppression medications,” he concluded.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

What Other Problems Have Been Linked to Heartburn Meds?

Unfortunately, the latest bad news is merely one serious effect among an ever-expanding list of problems research has associated with the medications. A study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine indicates PPIs are connected to a 20 to 50-percent increased risk of kidney disease. Other studies link PPIs with a higher likelihood of dementia, an elevated risk of bone fractures and a skyrocketed rise in stroke incidence.

Natural Strategies for Heartburn

Natural health practitioners recommend lifestyle changes for dealing with heartburn. Unlike medications, which merely reduce symptoms, healthful habits — especially dietary practices — can actually get to the root of the problem and enable the body to heal. The entire digestive tract can be nourished through eating a diet comprised of unprocessed foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Fermented probiotic foods will also help, as they contain the friendly type of bacteria so beneficial to the gut. In addition to a healthful diet, other measures can make a difference, such as eating smaller portions, taking apple cider vinegar and avoiding acid triggers like alcohol.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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