An estimated 15 million Americans use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are sold by prescription and over-the-counter under a variety of brand names, including Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid. The PPIs lower the acid in your body and help fight off heartburn or acid reflux disease. A study was published on Jan 11 2016 in JAMA Internal Medicine that highlighted the relationship between taking heartburn medications and the possibility of developing long and short-term kidney disease. Previously, PPIs have been tied to short-term kidney problems like acute kidney injury and an inflammatory kidney disease called acute interstitial nephritis. The new study was focused on people who ranged from ages 60+ who suffered from heartburn or other digestive issues.
The downside is that because these medications work, many people are now abusing them at every feeling of heartburn. Chronic kidney disease is increasing in the United States, with more than 20 million Americans now suffering with it, according to the American Society of Nephrology. This occurs when a person’s kidneys become damaged and cannot filter blood as they should. Diabetes and high blood pressure are two common risk factors for kidney disease, the society said. Elderly people are at a higher risk for developing diseases due to their bodies not being able to function on their own. By adding in PPIs to your medication routine, you are increasing your chances of developing long and short-term kidney problems. There is also some evidence that PPIs are linked to cognitive decline: “The avoidance of PPI medication may prevent the development of dementia. This finding is supported by recent pharmacoepidemiological analyses on primary data and is in line with mouse models in which the use of PPIs increased the levels of β-amyloid in the brains of mice.”
These are not the only concerns. Morgan Grams, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, helped explain to NPR “When PPIs were first approved in the 1980s, the drugs appeared to be very safe. Since then, concerns have been rising about their safety. Evidence has emerged that the drugs may increase the risk for a variety of problems, including fractures, infections and possibly even heart problems.” People assume it is a quick fix and they are very safe. But in actuality, they are associated with a range of side effects that you should be cautious about if you are taking these PPIs long term.
Other options than PPIs
There are other things people can do to fight off heartburn and acid reflux. Exercising daily, changing your diet, and consuming more water and tea can help fight the problem. This is not to say that you cannot use a PPI on occasion; the issues start when people rely solely on these meds for chronic, continuous use. You can find a more complete list of medications linked to kidney disease here.
The study does not necessarily show a cause and effect relationship, but chronic use of PPIs can lead to adverse side effects.