Long Term Use of Acid Blockers is Harmful

Many of my patients are taking acid suppressing medications, and have been for a long time. I often find myself explaining to them that “acid blockers can do harm long term”. A lot of patients don’t realize the gravity of the situation, since in many cases, their family doctors are fully aware of their long term use of these acid blockers but hadn’t discussed the long term risks.

What Are Acid Blockers?

Acid blockers aim to reduce the stomach’s production of hydrochloric acid (HCl). Acid is vital in protein digestion, mineral absorption and protection against pathogenic bacteria.

They are actually quite effective in multiple gastro-intestinal disorders including: peptic ulcer disease (and associated bleeding), eradicating H. pylori, Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome, GERD and Dyspepsia [1].

In fact, the safety profile of acid blockers short term, is quite good. Little to no adverse effects when taken appropriately. The problem is when people take these medications for too long.

The Consequences of Long Term Acid Blockers

When a person uses acid blockers long term, a wide range of associated conditions are well documented.

  • reduced mineral absorption [2], including magnesium, calcium, vitamin B12 – acid helps get these out of the foods in which they are in [1]
  • As a consequence of reduced calcium absorption, increased risk of fracture. In fact, research has shown PPIs (one type of acid blocker) increased risk of hip fracture after only 1 year of use [1]
  • Impaired protein digestion [2]
  • Lowered tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine which can be associated with depressed mood [2] (depression occurs more often in those taking acid blocking medications) [2]
  • Increased potential for gastric adenomas (cancer) [3]
  • Increased risk of gut infection (acid helps kill bacteria entering our digestive tract). Salmonella, C. difficile, claustrum difficile.

Can Acid Blockers Do Harm Long Term?

Absolutely, acid blockers are known to have multiple serious long term consequences. If you’ve been on acid blockers for a long time (more than 1 year), consulting a naturopath would be helpful in getting to the underlying cause of your acid reflux or GERD.

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