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Popular Heartburn Drugs Linked to Chronic Kidney Disease


A popular class of drugs that treat acid reflux and heartburn, which includes Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium, has long been considered effective with few side effects.

Recent research finds this presumed safety is a fallacy. What’s more, studies show that a large percentage of the people who take the medications don’t actually need them.

Researchers at John Hopkins University discovered proton pump inhibitors (PPI), drugs that block the secretion of acid into the stomach, are associated with an increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

The discovery falls on the heels of a Stanford University study last June that linked the medications to a higher likelihood of heart attacks.

PPI Reflux Drugs Raise Risk of Kidney Disease 20 to 50 Percent

In the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers examining the records of more than 10,000 people found the risk of the onset of chronic kidney disease was 20 to 50 percent higher in those who took the PPIs. No increased risk was seen in people who took a different class of heartburn drugs like Pepcid and Zantac, which work by blocking histamine production in the cells lining the stomach.

Some kidney problems are irreversible. In fact, chronic kidney disease can result in kidney failure, a condition that necessitates either dialysis or a kidney transplant. While the results don’t prove PPIs cause chronic kidney disease, the findings are serious enough that people shouldn’t take the drugs unless they really need them, says lead author Morgan Grams.

The research notes that more than 15 million people in the U.S. took prescription-strength PPIs in 2013. However, studies show as many as 70 percent of them don’t need the medications, and 25 percent of those who take them regularly could stop without developing symptoms.

Heartburn Is Caused by Too Little Acid Rather Than Too Much

Just as it is a fallacy that PPIs are safe to take every day for an extended period of time, so it is also a fallacy that heartburn is caused by too much stomach acid, according to noted natural health practitioner Dr. Joseph Mercola. Contrary to what is widely believed, reflux is caused by too little acid. Furthermore, taking drugs that suppress stomach acid merely treats the symptoms rather than attacks the root of the problem. In fact, the medications actually worsen the condition that produces the symptoms, a result that perpetuates the problem. He recommends that people who take PPIs should gradually wean themselves off of them instead of stopping cold turkey. Afterwards, Mercola advises taking natural remedies and adopting lifestyle modifications.

The Non-Drug Approach for Reflux

You can increase the hydrochloric acid in your stomach through natural means.

Many have had success mixing one tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water, and drink it daily to increase your acid content. In addition, using a high quality sea salt instead of table salt will supply your body with the chloride it needs to make hydrochloric acid.

Another important strategy for fighting reflux naturally is to eat food that increases the population of healthful gut microbes. Good sources include yogurt made from raw milk, fermented vegetables, and kefir. A few teaspoons of fermented cabbage juice from sauerkraut will improve your digestion. When looking for fermented vegetable products, make sure they contains live bacteria. You can purchase them from healthy organizations or some health food stores.

Healthy lifestyle practices are also necessary for controlling heartburn. Get regular exercise, and avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. Eat a diet plentiful in vegetables and organic foods while avoiding processed and sugary foods.

For more tips on how you can dodge dangers of reflux and over-the-counter “solutions,” check out Live in the Now’s book The Drug-Free Acid Reflux Solution.


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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