Proton Pump Inhibitors Suck

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In news from stupid-land: The FDA cautions against high dosages or prolonged use of acid inhibitors.

It's kind of criminal that these medicines are still in use, given that the latest studies published in journals show that the cause of GERD is not too much acid. So while proton pump inhibitors might mask the symptoms, they get rid of stomach acid, which we kind of evolved for a reason- to help digest food and to protect against pathogens.

The agency said it would order revised labeling on packages of the drugs to reflect the fact that they have been associated with an increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist and spine…The drugs have previously been linked to an increased risk of contracting pneumonia and the troublesome bacterium Clostridium difficile, as well as to an increased risk of dementia. A recent study found that the drugs increase the risk of bone fractures by about a quarter. It is not clear what the mechanism of the increased fractures is. Most researchers believe it is due to decreased absorption of calcium from the diet because of the reduced stomach acid, but it is possible that the drugs interfere with bone maintenance.

I am particularly incensed because last year my younger sister started having problems with GERD. She is only 19 and the doctor's recommended Prilosec. Instead she is now paleo and her symptoms have resolved. It's lucky that she knew that the paleo diet could treat GERD and she didn't get on the PPI wagon of dooooom like I did. Here is what I can remember:

It started when I was 18 or so. I was overweight and had terrible stomach problems. My internist gave me Zantec but my mom thought it was unnecessary and I never took it. Over the next two years I lost some weight on a vegetarian and then vegan diet, but the heartburn just got worse and worse. I couldn't sleep or concentrate on my school work. My school doctor finally convinced me to get on Prilosec. The spiel for these pills is that you take them for a month and it helps heal your esophagus, but of course it never works. I try to go off them after a month and the heartburn returns with a vengeance.

So I stay on them, but my IBS just gets worse. My allergist, who is treating me for severe asthma gives me an anti-spasmodic for my IBS and tells me not to worry about the PPIs. He says I'll probably be on them for the rest of my life, but not to worry since they are mostly harmless. At least I can eat pizza as much as I want now...

At some point I get really really sick. My doctor at school thinks it's just my IBS, but when I collapse and end up in the E.R. I finally get diagnosed with chronic salmonella. What should have been a one day bout of food poisoning decided to settle down in my weak digestive system. I take heavy antibiotics and recover...sort of. Now pretty much EVERYTHING upsets my stomach and even worse....I get chronic burping "attacks" all the time. I'm sickly in general- I get yeast, urinary tract, and sinus infections constantly. I get tested for all sorts of things like celiac and Crohns, but no dice. I do some research and find that PPIs might be causing some of my problems. Through looking at Pubmed I find out about a small study that effectively treated GERD with a low-carb diet. I try that for awhile, but using foods at the dorm cafeteria. I just end up feeling crappy... and no wonder with the factory farmed meat and gluten-laced sauces.

When I encounter Art De Vany's site through Marginal Revolution, I am intrigued by a more vegetable-heavy version of low-carb. I try it and it helps my IBS, but I'm still on the PPIs. When I try to go off I feel really terrible. I find a site where people tout apple cider vinegar as a cure. I start eating mostly paleo and taking apple cider vinegar diluted in water after every meal. I start eating a wide variety of vegetables and trying fish for the first time. It's not perfect, but I'm finally at the point where I can at least function without PPIs. I do an egg fast for a week. It takes about six months, mostly very low carb, but eventually I find myself...not taking any medicines at all. 

A journey to get rid of heartburn fixed much more than that. At my worst I was on thirteen different medications and dependent on antibiotics every month. I haven't taken antibiotics in two years now...nor had to go to the doctor for IBS, GERD, or asthma. PPIs are hard to kick, but it was worth it.

My sister and my father have been sucessful with this approach as well, though they were lucky that they never took PPIs. PPIs alter your digestive system and it can be hard to get it in working order again.