Thursday, January 04, 2007

Is Cure for Heartburn Hazardous to Your Health?

news you may not know

I Can Get You Pills...

Maybe it's the stress. Or, it maybe it's the pizza, pasta, pretzels and peppermint schnapps. No matter. The food was fabulous, the friends fantastic and the cure close at hand.

You grab your cane - yeah, still hobbling a bit after that fall and hip fracture a few months ago - and you head across the street to your neighborhood pharmacy. You shake off the cold, smile and chuckle as a new clerk asks if you need help finding anything, "Me? Nah, I could find my way to the heartburn stuff with my eyes closed!" Hmm... Sounds interesting, actually. Deciding to give it a go, you take a quick look about to get your bearings, close your eyes and ohh... The flamethrower in your chest erupts and, now desperate, you abandon foolish games and make a beeline to aisle seven - your home away from home.

Aisle seven... Home to Prilosec OTC and just a hop and skip away from the pharmacy window where its cousins, Nexium and Prevacid, are available by prescription. You've been coming here for years. First, it was the occasional foray following a particularly stressful situation or an especially spicy sit-down. Then, though you can't really remember why, it became part of your routine, like picking up the laundry. Hey, it's no big deal, especially if it helps you feel better. Right?


Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, and other drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI), are used by millions of patients worldwide. Because the drugs inhibit the production of stomach acid they are effective in combating the stuff of modern day living: indigestion, heartburn and GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease). A simple pill to calm life's ills - it would seem to be a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, recent research indicates the power of the pill may have a dark side as well.

A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine indicates that use of the popular PPIs significantly raises the risk of hip fractures. The study found that patients who used PPIs had a 44% greater risk of hip fractures than patients who were not using the drugs. In a world accustomed to interpreting single-digit differences, 44% is a big number. The scientists speculate the increased risk is due to the drugs reducing the body's ability to absorb calcium, a mineral that is vital to maintaining healthy bones.

What to do?

Well, the first step is to simply step away - from aisle seven. Find a quiet place, get comfortable and... listen. Your body's speaking to you. It's telling you it doesn't do well with the high-powered, push-it-to-the-max lifestyle and the spicy-is-special diet. It wants you to treat it with a dose of kindness instead of a dose of Pepto. Take it out - really out, as in the great outdoors. Take a walk, breath deeply - eat simply.

It may take some time, but it will be worth it. After all, it's the only body you have.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters Health.


Anonymous Suzanne said...

Hey, Tim,

Gosh. This is really good information to know. Especially since so many people now take Prilosec and other OTC drugs for heartburn and Acid Reflux.

Thanks for the tip.

The Working Writer's Coach

11:31 AM  

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