Dementia and the Alarming Side Effects of Heartburn Drugs

Heartburn is a form of indigestion felt as a burning sensation in the chest. A symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), heartburn is treated with drugs called Proton Pump Inhibitors(PPIs), some brand names are Prevacid, Prilosec, and Nexium. These drugs help minimize the symptoms of stomach ulcers and GERD by reducing acid production. PPIs are among the top 3 most prescribed class of medications in the U.S. It was estimated that 15 million Americans use these drugs to treat heartburn.

In 2016, there was a study done by German researchers from the JAMA Neurology about the relationship of proton pump inhibitors and dementia. They found out that the patients receiving regular PPI medication had a significantly increased risk of at least 44 percent compared with non-PPI users.

The problem lies in the medication itself. Since it is widely available, prolonged use can be a problem and this is where the adverse effects stem out. The use of this drug longer than its recommended duration can affect the digestive capacity of the stomach which renders it difficult to break down nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for immune function.

Although the studies do not prove that proton pump inhibitors cause dementia, it is worthy to note that it gives us statistical association. Recommendations include routine cognitive function test in health care and avoidance of PPI medication may prevent the development of dementia. Lifestyle changes like losing weight and minimizing consumption of alcohol, fatty foods, caffeine and spicy food will do a great help. As a doctor once said, the best rationale for drug use is sometimes not using any drug at all.

March 15, 2017 • Blog