More than 60 million adults in the US have acid reflux, or heartburn, and approximately 15 million of them are taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) daily, as prescribed by their physicians. Proton pumps are tiny pump-like structures in the stomach that secrete acids that help digest a wide variety of foods. In some people, these pumps work zealously, secreting too much acid, which results in painful, burning sensations. PPIs calm them down, and regulate their action, lessening the amount of acid in the gut.
Two recent studies have shown that long-term use of PPIs (Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec, and others) are linked to development of serious kidney problems and risk of ischemic stroke (blood clots in the brain).
In a study published this year in Kidney International (“Long-term kidney outcomes among users of proton pump inhibitors without intervening acute kidney injury” Xie, et al), researchers evaluated 125,000 people who take PPIs, and noted that of those who developed chronic kidney damage during PPI therapy, more than half did not experience any acute symptoms, and thus may not have been aware of their kidney dysfunction. During five years of follow-up examinations, the team found that more than 80 percent of those who took PPIs didn’t develop acute kidney problems, but more than half of those who did develop kidney damage while taking PPIs did not have any kidney issues prior to the pharmaceutical therapy.
(Kidney issues are characterized by hampered urine excretion, fatigue and edema (swelling in the legs and ankles) – but they are often reversible.)
In late 2016, preliminary research from the American Heart Association suggested that long-term use of PPIs may increase the risk of ischemic stroke. Lead study author Thomas Sehested, MD, said, “PPIs have been associated with unhealthy vascular function, including heart attacks, kidney disease and dementia.” He added that his research team wanted to discern if this drug can also be associated with ischemic stroke.
His team evaluated data from 244,679 people who had an endoscopy, and how many were taking Prilosec (omeprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole) or Nexium (esomeprazole); they were followed for nearly six years. By the study’s end, 9,489 individuals had their first ischemic stroke.
The researchers found that stroke risk increased by 21 percent in those taking a PPI.
If you or a loved one are taking a PPI, we at Herbsea encourage you to talk to your physician, and perhaps renovate your diet even further to reduce acid secretion. We also believe you may want to engage in activities that lessen stress (a reduced-stress lifestyle), as stress can certainly provoke the proton pumps to release excess acid.