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Each year more than 100 million Americans are prescribed acid-blocking drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for heartburn and acid reflux, but a recent series of studies may have PPI users thinking twice about whether or not they really need them—or want them.

CBS this week ran a segment about drugs like Prilosec® and Nexium® that stated that “more than half of prescriptions for these drugs are unnecessary”. What’s more, PPIs often come with serious side effects that many people are unaware of—including a nearly 75 percent greater risk of developing a severe intestinal infection known as C. diff, as well as an increased risk of developing pneumonia, and a greater incidence of bone fractures (due to the fact that PPIs block calcium absorption in the body).

Essentially, taking PPIs upsets the healthy bacterial balance in your intestines (which is where the majority of your natural immune defenses can be found), leaving your body vulnerable to illness and infection. However, experts had some good advice about smarter, safer alternatives to harmful acid-blocking drugs, many of which include simple changes in diet and lifestyle that could reduce the chances of heartburn and reflux happening in the first place:

  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Avoid fatty and/or spicy foods
  • Avoid chocolate
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Quit smoking

A natural heartburn relief supplement made with ingredients such as ellagic acid (from raspberries and pomegranates) may also help ease the pain and discomfort of occasional heartburn, and a daily digestive enzyme with added HCl can help ensure complete digestion and prevent the onset of heartburn and reflux symptoms. Daily supplementation with a high-potency probiotic supplement may also help to reestablish and maintain a healthy bacterial balance in the intestinal tract.

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‡This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.

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