Just because a medication is available over the counter doesn’t mean that you should use it long term and with heavy frequency without consulting your doctor. When you’re suffering from heartburn and you’re looking for a simple solution to heal that discomfort, it can be very tempting to head to your pharmacy and pick up some of these medications, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI), as a quick fix. Although they’re perfectly safe to use for short-term relief, it’s important to consult your gastroenterologist if you’re having long term or serious pain.

Proton pump inhibitors work by blocking the enzyme in the wall of the stomach that produces acid. Excess of acid in your stomach is what causes ulcers in the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, an area in the small intestine. Some of the most common PPIs available over the counter are Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium.

Studies are showing that, while ok for short-term use, these PPIs can damage your health if used for too long. Some of the potential health issues may include vitamin and mineral deficiencies, kidney problems, and even conditions like heart attacks and dementia. While these studies are very preliminary they do call attention to the importance of a physician overseeing long term use of medications. Furthermore, since the PPIs alter the makeup of bacteria in the gut, they are known to impair nutrient absorption, such as calcium, which can also lead to decreased bone density, leading to increased risk of osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures.

The best way to manage chronic heartburn and irritation is to consult your doctor. Keep track of foods you’re eating that set off the condition, any medications you’re currently taking, and talk to a doctor at GI Associates in Jackson, MS about the best course of action to treat your condition. You can make an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists here.

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