Antacid heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) work by reducing the amount of acid in your stomach. While this might sound like the key to alleviating heartburn and acid indigestion, these conditions may actually be due to sugar fermentation in your stomach – not excess acid.
Meanwhile, there are serious side effects of blocking your stomach’s natural production of acid, including interfering with your body’s ability to digest food and absorb vital nutrients, such as amino acids, vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
The problem is so pronounced that acid blockers such as Nexium carry a safety warning that states they may lead to low magnesium levels in your body. According to the officially published literature:
“This problem [low magnesium levels] can be serious. Low magnesium can happen in some people who take a proton pump inhibitor medicine for at least three months. You may or may not have symptoms of low magnesium.”
Magnesium is known to play a beneficial role in heart health, blood sugar metabolism, premenstrual syndrome, bone health and even aging. It is also necessary for your body to properly use calcium and prevent it from being deposited into your soft tissues, where it could do harm. Magnesium levels are difficult to measure, however, so if you’re deficient your symptoms – fatigue, sleep disturbance, low blood pressure, irritability, poor nail growth, seizures, muscle aches and more – may be your only indication.
If your stomach acid is suppressed by antacids, your body may also have trouble absorbing vitamin B12, and, indeed, research shows that people taking PPIs for more than two years had a 65 percent increase in their risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Heartburn drugs may also harm your bone health and increase your risk of serious infections like that from Clostridium difficile.
PPIs are among the most widely used drugs in the United States, with sales of more than $7 billion per year (plus $4 billion per year for over-the-counter antacids). Yet it’s important to remember that, despite their commonplace status, they can result in serious problems to your health. As Dr. Carolyn Dean stated:
“With all of these health consequences in mind, if you must take PPIs, I highly recommend supplementing with a high-quality, highly absorbable form of magnesium [such as magnesium citrate] on a daily basis. Take magnesium from four to six hours after taking your heartburn drug to minimize your risk of magnesium loss.”
Finally, if you have heartburn here are 11 tips for soothing it naturally.