Is Your Heartburn Medication Putting You At Risk Of Infection?

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With any luck, you have a chronic case of eupepsia.

‘Eupepsia’ means good digestion, the opposite of dyspepsia. But eupepsia may be an elusive condition for some patients who treat heartburn or acid reflux with one of the popular drugs now on the market.

Suppressing gastric acid can lead to the bacteria C-diff

If you believe the commercials, gastric acid is bad. And if you suffer from chronic heartburn, you probably agree. But as HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., has pointed out in several e-Alerts, gastric acid is indispensable: you can’t digest food without it. Problems arise when this acid makes its way into the oesophagus, triggering heartburn, acid reflux and similar conditions.

But gastric acid isn’t just a digestive tool; it also protects the stomach from a bacterium called Clostridium difficile (abbreviated as ‘C-diff’), which can trigger digestive inflammation and diarrhoea so severe that some cases result in death.

Suppress gastric acid, and the stage is set for C-diff to flourish.

A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association carries a study from Montreal’s McGill University. Using information from the United Kingdom General Practice Research Database, The McGill team identified more than 1,600 cases of C-diff and matched each case against ten control subjects.

Results showed that people who used a class of drugs known as H2 receptor antagonists such as Zantac (ranitidine) and Pepcid (Famotidine), had twice the risk of C-diff infection compared to nonusers. And the results were even more worrying for users of proton pump inhibitor drugs like Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Prilosec (omeprazole): They were three times more likely to experience a C-diff infection compared to those who used no heartburn medication.

Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) was also associated with an increased risk of C-diff infection. Overuse of antibiotics is already a known factor in the alarming rise in the number of C-diff cases.

And here’s the kicker: If you don’t use antibiotics or any of the popular heartburn medications, you’re not out of the woods. The US newspaper, the Washington Post, printing an article about C-diff, offers this disturbing note: ‘It spreads easily through contact with contaminated people, clothing or surfaces.’

Acidophilus may help protect your oesophagus

In an interview with the Associated Press, lead author of the McGill study, Sandra Dial, M.D., noted that heartburn can often be treated with less potent drugs. She could have added that heartburn can be treated without using any drugs at all.

In the e-Alert ‘Natural relief from the pain of heartburn’ (18/11/04), Dr. Spreen shared details about an effective natural therapy he’s used for years to treat heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion. ‘Ridiculously simple and cheap’ is how he describes a protocol that consists primarily of acidophilus and digestive enzymes.

Dr. Spreen: ‘Acidophilus supplements (powder form, the liquid tastes awful) protect the oesophagus without killing acid (while killing the pain almost immediately). The hassle is, you have to keep it handy and take it often if you don’t solve the whole problem, which involves tightening the gastro oesophageal sphincter.

‘That can be done using the English herbs (Potter’s Acidosis) or by improving the environment of the stomach, which then tightens the junction on its own but requires a bit more effort.’


Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
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  • after taking prilosec for over 12 years i have found a better way. I cut dairy and flour from my diet. I added whole vegetables and fruits in abundance. I cut way down on meat. I’m not sure what combination of these changes worked but I know for sure the acid reflux is gone.
    The ongoing question has to be asked again: Why don’t our pompous, f-ing, AMA, medical doctors tell us about alternatives to their sacred pharmaceutical medications? $$$$$

  • My mother has been taking ranitidine, priolosec, prevacid for several months. She contracted pneumonia 1st and then c.diff. She has had diahrrea for weeks now and has lost a lot of weight. She is 73. 5’5 and now 120 lbs. She is still having acid reflux, difficulty breathing, difficulty sleeping, anxiety. She also takes thyroid as she has had cancer treatment in the past that destroyed her thyroid. Not sure what to do about the acid reflux. Not sure she is being treated correctly or with correct meds. Now taking lorazapam for anxiety and anti-depressants. What to do? Scared for her.

  • C diff led to my mother’s eventual demise. She was on omeprazole. (of course, she caught it in hosp in the first place!) Dad caught C diff in hosp after three days. Stubborn case, as they all are. Started yeast and lactobacillus – some improvement. Stopped Omeprazole after reading on the internet – IMMEDIATE CHANGE!!!! (Nov 2009) Why don’t the docs know about this???

  • Thanks,for the information, I will use with my patients to improve their life style.

  • Thank you for this informative article. I have been on Nexium for 18 months and have had concerns about how long I have been on it. My doctor has prescribed Previcid instead since he says it is cheaper. I really don’t want to be on any drugs as three of my friends have recently had c-diff. All were on antibiotics in the hospital and two have colostomys, one permanent and the other temporary. Needless to say I am willing to go the natural route to treat my GERD and have begun today. Thank you again for writing this article. My MD told me there is no greater chance for me to get c diff while on this Nexium and I don’t believe it. It is a business the drug companies do not want to lose for sure.

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