Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, which is a return of stomach contents up into the esophagus and frequently causes heartburn, is typically treated with a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPI) such as Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium. The commonly know side effects include diarrhea, headaches and even hip fractures.
A recent study published in the World J Gastroenterology found that patients on PPIs gained an average of 8 pounds over 2 years of use compared to those receiving a placebo.
This is a significant problem. The study goes on to say that “patients should be encouraged to manage body weight through lifestyle modifications.” That is good advice, but many patients already battle with weight gain so another card stacked against them is not ideal.
I have been able to improve GERD symptoms through natural supplements which are supported by research that they do not have this negative side effect. When I work a patient up from a functional medicine approach, this is a common problem that quickly responds favorably to conservative care. Even if a person is on a PPI, the natural supplement that I use has been commonly shown to decrease heartburn and the need for the medication. The patient’s medical doctors are often shocked but excited about the improvement because typically a person is on a PPI for life.
These drugs are commonly prescribed prophylactically when a patient has pain that is being managed by NSAIDs due to gastrointestinal events (or bleeding in the patient’s gut). Very often a person’s pain can be managed through chiropractic care so the need for both the PPI and the NSAID will be dramatically reduced.
Bottom Line: Drugs should be utilized short-term while the health care provider and patient search for the cause of the problem. Too often patients are put on drugs for life (e.g., NSAIDs or PPIs) and the cause of the problem is then forgotten about. EVERY drug has a side effect, many of which we don’t know yet. So utilize medications conservatively and just for short-term periods of time so you can cope while a more sustainable solution is found.