heartburn drugs

Row of pill bottles half-way filled with pills inside a pharmacy.

Taking Medicines Changes Your Gut Health

Any medicines you take every day should improve your overall health for the better.

However, does your doctor consider how your gut health may be affected by what he/she prescribes for a specific health issue?

We remind you often about the many problems that occur when doctors treat a problem, like heartburn, by prescribing an over-the-counter proton pump inhibitor (PPI) like omeprazole magnesium (Prilosec) that also may be harmful to your gut health when you overdo using it.

If you follow our blog regularly, you know similar gut health complications arise when you’re prescribed an antibiotic too.

Unfortunately, antibiotics and heartburn medicines aren’t the only ones that alter your gut health…

19 kinds of medicines

Dutch researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen found 19 kinds of drugs that may be harmful to your gut health, according to a study that appeared recently in Nature Communications.

Scientists analyzed nearly 1,900 fecal samples from three sets of patients: A general group with no specific health issues and those treated for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disorder (IBD).

(The majority of patients participating in this study took at least one medication and some took as many as 12 of them.)

Among the categories of medicines researchers detected in analyses of fecal samples, PPIs and antibiotics were linked to gut health changes, but not all of them.

These medications attracted attention from researchers too, depending on the kind of analysis conducted and the patient group.

  • Metformin, the go-to drug for type 2 diabetes patients.
  • Laxatives used to treat constipation.
  • Vitamin D supplements.
  • Steroid inhalers for asthma.
  • SSRIs and other antidepressant drugs.

Protecting your gut health balance

Whether it’s the foods you eat, the medicines you take, the sleep you get (or don’t) and the exercise routine you follow, all of these variables affect your gut health based on your calendar.

Depending on the day, you may need to take some medication for a brief health problem, adjust your diet, work longer hours to meet a deadline or skip the exercise you need.

Your best insurance policy to maintain the health of your gut — the center of your immune system — no matter what life throws at you: Take a probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

Resources

Nature Communications

United European Gastroenterology

Medical News Bulletin

UPI

various liquid medicines in syringes, measurement spoons and cups.

“Helpful” Drugs Expose Your Child’s Gut Health To Obesity

There’s no question obesity rates are growing sharply across all age groups of Americans.

So far, nearly 40 percent of all adults age 20 and older have lost the battle with obesity, based on statistics collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

As with many health problems, however, problems with obesity start very early. According to the NCHS, some 14 percent of young children as early as age 2 may already be obese, and the numbers keep climbing to 20.6 percent by the time kids reach young adulthood.

These statistics appear to be pretty close to the mark, if not a little low, according to data collected by Harvard University that we cited recently.

What could trigger that slide to obesity so quickly?

Exposure to antibiotics and heartburn drugs in the gut may be the culprits, according to a recent report appearing the journal Gut.

Too many “helpful” drugs?

Researchers examined the records of more than 330,000 children enrolled in the U.S. Department of Defense’s TRICARE health system, looking specifically for antibiotic and heartburn drugs (H2 blockers and PPIs) prescribed to kids during the first two years of their lives.

Nearly every child in the study had been prescribed at least one round of antibiotics (72.5 percent) or a heartburn drug (15 percent), and nearly 6,000 kids were prescribed at least one round of all three drugs.

Roughly 37,000 of the 47,000 of children who became obese over the eight-year study were prescribed a heartburn drug or antibiotic. A single round of prescribed antibiotics elevated a child’s obesity risks by 26 percent.

Another gut-related factor to childhood obesity discovered by scientists — C-section births — was a difference-maker, too.

The good news about this study: health providers are becoming more aware by the day about the damage common “helpful” drugs like heartburn meds and antibiotics can do to the bodies of our little ones (and their parents too), often through harming their gut health.

My probiotic protocol

There are times your children just can’t avoid taking an antibiotic or heartburn drug.

My best recommendation to protect the health of your kids and yourself safely and effective: Follow my simple protocol for taking a probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria.

One more thing to remember about taking a probiotic: Give your child’s body at least a two-hour break between taking an antibiotic or heartburn drug and a probiotic to allow those beneficial bacteria to do their work to protect his/her gut.

Just a reminder that EndoMune Junior Advanced Probiotic contains four key strains of helpful bacteria and a prebiotic (FOS) that helps feed the good bugs in their gut.

For convenience, EndoMune Junior comes in two forms: a powder to sprinkle on your toddler’s soft foods (for children up to age 3) and a chewable, berry-flavored tablet (for children ages 3-8).

Older man selecting medication from a store shelf.

Relying on Heartburn Drugs Too Much?

You may have experienced a big jolt when you saw the news about the FDA alerting consumers to the presence of a human carcinogen in the over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn drug ranitidine, most commonly known by its brand name, Zantac.

N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is the very same carcinogen that prompted a recall of some prescription medications containing the generic drug valsartan (used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure).

Although the FDA was quick to say the amounts of NDMA found in ranitidine were barely above what may be found in common foods, that didn’t stop Sandoz/Novartis from halting the distribution of Zantac, pending a deeper investigation.

In the meantime, national drug store chains — Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS — have removed Zantac and its generic counterparts off their shelves.

A lot of heartburn drugs are sold via the OTC route, including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like omeprazole magnesium (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid) and H2 blockers like ranitidine and famotidine (Pepcid).

It’s no stretch to say that many of the 15 million Americans who are prescribed these heartburn drugs and the countless numbers of people who take them via the OTC route, do so for far longer than they should, even after their health problem has cleared up.

Even years!

Previously, we’ve warned you that taking PPIs creates unhealthy imbalances in the bacteria in your stomach that can leave you vulnerable to serious Clostridium difficile (C. diff) superbug infections.

Imagine side effects that are far worse…

Death due to heartburn drugs

A recent report featured in The BMJ tracked the mortality rates among more than 200,000 U.S. soldiers who had been newly prescribed either a PPI or H2 blocker drug for a decade.

Overall, long-term use of PPIs was associated with a 17 percent greater risk of death compared to H2 blockers. The uptick in mortality rates among PPI users was attributed to cardiovascular disease, stomach cancer and chronic kidney disease.

Two more factoids that should catch your attention, especially if you take PPIs or other heartburn drugs, either over-the-counter or by prescription:

  • More than 80 percent of PPI users were taking low doses of their prescribed drug, about the same as doses offered in OTC versions.
  • More than half of the patients were taking a PPI for no medical reason, even though it was prescribed to them.

“Most alarming to me is that serious harm may be experienced by people who are on PPIs but may not need them,” says Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, senior author of the study and assistant professor at Washington University’s School of Medicine. “Overuse is not devoid of harm.

“For those who have a medical need, PPI use should be limited to the lowest effective dose and shortest duration possible.”

What can you do?

Are you taking heartburn drugs based on your doctor’s advice or doing it on your own?

Have you been taking them longer than two weeks?

Do you schedule breaks between rounds of taking a heartburn drug by at least four months?

If you aren’t able to answer those questions immediately, it’s time to see your doctor for some advice.

In the meantime, here are some steps you can take to ease your heartburn symptoms without taking a drug:

  1. Cut out smoking for good.
  2. If you’ve been putting off losing weight, the time is now.
  3. Leave about two hours between the time you eat an evening meal and the time you go to bed.
  4. Before hitting the sack, elevate your pillow slightly to avoid a nighttime surge of stomach acid.
  5. Prevent disruptions in the critical balance of healthy bacteria in your gut — and avoid superbug infections — by taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic containing 20 billion CFUs and 10 strains of beneficial bacteria.
illustration of C Diff bacteria

Protecting Your Child From C. Diff Diarrhea

When health experts talk about Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections in the news — the most common superbug that causes life-threatening diarrhea — it’s largely associated with overprescribing antibiotics to older people in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Those concerns are warranted, considering about 500,000 Americans are sickened by C. diff infections and nearly 30,000 die from them annually.

However, C. diff infections are equal-opportunity offenders that can be a serious problem for young children too, according to findings published recently in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Based on a meta-analysis of 14 studies and 10.5 million children, prior exposure to antibiotics was the main culprit, nearly doubling the risk of C. diff infections in young children, compared to kids who hadn’t taken antibiotics.

But that’s not all…

Researchers also cited exposure to heartburn drugs — better known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) — as another C. diff risk factor for children. That’s not surprising given many adults rely on them too often and for too long at the expense of disrupting the healthy balance of their gut bacteria.

A study published last fall in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection backs up this link between severe cases of C. diff related to children taking PPIs.

The concerns about PPI use are so critical and obvious that the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (connected with the National Institutes of Health) felt it was important enough to devote a detailed section to treating acid reflux in children and teens.

The good news: There’s growing consensus among health experts that taking a daily probiotic can be a very safe and effective solution for preventing C. diff infections altogether.

Additionally, recent scientific evidence has shown the benefits of treating patients with probiotics made with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria were very effective in preventing C. diff infections.

One safe and natural way to protect your young child from C. diff infections, especially if they are taking an antibiotic: Talk to your doctor about giving him/her a probiotic, like EndoMune Jr. Powder (recommended for children to age 3) or EndoMune Jr. Chewable Probiotic (ages 3-8).

Both varieties of EndoMune Jr. contain four strains of beneficial bacteria, along with a prebiotic (FOS).

Heartburn Drugs Harm Your Health

Once upon a time, treating chronic heartburn problems often required a visit and a healthy amount of monitoring by your family doctor.

That was certainly true until a few years ago when the FDA deregulated specific classes of heartburn drugs to over-the-counter (OTC) status: Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like esomeprazole (Nexium) omeprazole magnesium (Prilosec) and H2 blockers like famotidine (Pepcid).

As their prices have fallen, heartburn drugs have become some of the most overused and over-prescribed products on the U.S. pharmaceutical market.

With this overreliance on heartburn meds – Americans spend about $11 billion annually on PPIs alone — reports of related health problems have risen too, especially for people have taken these drugs in large doses for more than year.

Some of the more widely reported problems with taking PPI heartburn meds have been related to unhealthy disruptions of gut bacteria that leave patients vulnerable to serious C. diff superbug infections.

A pair of recent studies have raised new and possibly deadly concerns about the health risks of taking PPIs.

Altering gut bacteria worsens liver disease risks

In previous research conducted at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, scientists observed changes in the composition of gut bacteria that affected a patient’s risks of chronic liver disease.

Their latest study on mice featured in Nature Communications took it one step further, adding gut-disrupting PPIs that suppress gastric acid in the stomach to the mix.

UCSD researchers discovered suppressing gastric acid that triggered an overproduction of Enterococcus in the guts of mice. (Health problems related to Enterococcus include urinary tract infections, diverticulitis and meningitis.)

This increase of Enterococcus promoted a worsening of three types of chronic liver disease: Alcohol-induced liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

In a second phase of their study, scientists confirmed a connection between PPIs use and alcohol-related liver disease in a review of more than 4,800 human patients who abuse alcohol. Of that total, about 1,000 took PPIs actively and nearly two-thirds didn’t.

Not only did PPIs increase the amount of Enterococcus in stool samples, the risk of alcoholic liver disease soared by more than 20 percent among patients who used them regularly. Plus, for people who had used PPIs but stopped taking them, the risk for alcoholic liver disease was still elevated at about 16 percent.

Can PPIs kill you?

The health outcomes collected from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs database of nearly 350,000 American vets who used PPI or H2 blocker heartburn drugs, then reviewed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine revealed even more sobering results.

Compared to an H2 blocker, using PPIs for at least a year increased the risk of death among vets by 25 percent. In very simple terms, that’s one extra death for every 500 patients taking a PPI, according to the study appearing in BMJ Open.

In addition, that risk of death was nearly as high among patients who took a PPI drug versus an H2 blocker at 24 percent even though they didn’t have the proper symptoms.

Also, the longer patients took a PPI, the greater their mortality risks. For people taking them for 1-2 years, the risk of death spiked by 50 percent.

Unfortunately, too many patients just keep taking PPIs even though the recommendation duration of treatment shouldn’t exceed 8 weeks. “A lot of times people get prescribed PPIs for a good medical reason, but then doctors don’t stop it and patients just keep getting refill after refill after refill,” says senior study author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, according to a press release.

The good news is that you can take safe steps to reduce your need for heartburn drugs by taking some simple healthy steps:

  • Eat smaller meals with reduced amounts of fat.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and rich foods that trigger heartburn.
  • Work on keeping your weight down.
  • Make sure you leave a two-hour gap between eating an evening meal and bedtime.
  • Take a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that maintains the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
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