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Purple Pill Hazards That You Need to Know About, Discussed at Dr. Oz

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Heartburn is one of Dr. Oz’s 8 warning signs that your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong with your health. According to a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Americans spend up to 14 billion dollars a year on heartburn medications for the convenience of not having to stop eating spicy and acidic foods such as those found in many Italian dishes. However, does this convenience come at the price of good health?

“The purple pill for heartburn topped the sales chart last year. It’s just one in a class of blockbuster heartburn drugs. But these drugs come with dangerous risks and may not be right for you,” says Dr. Oz who warns viewers about the hidden dangers of using heartburn medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

“You know the names: Prilosec, Prevacid and, of course, the little purple pill Nexium. But now there are growing concerns that billions of people are taking these medicines needlessly—triggering dangerous side effects. Is your heartburn medication safe?” asks Dr. Oz who warns viewers about new studies that have shown that taking many heartburn medications is far riskier than previously believed.

In these studies, Dr. Oz points out that researchers have found that side effects from taking proton pump inhibitor (PPI)-based heartburn medication can include:

Heartburn Medication Health Hazard #1: Pneumonia

According to Dr. Oz, heartburn medications under the class of proton pump inhibitors work by decreasing the amount of stomach acid in your gut. Less stomach acid means less acid reflux that can eat away at your esophagus. However, the downside to this is that stomach acid is responsible for destroying many types of bad bacteria that you inadvertently consume and as a result may open yourself to that bacteria making its way to your lungs and causing pneumonia.

“Having less stomach acid allows bacteria to grow, which would normally be killed by the acid. So those bacteria can climb up and get into your lungs,” says Dr. Oz.

Heartburn Medication Health Hazard #2: Bone Fractures

An increased risk of becoming susceptible to bone fractures is another heartburn medication health risk Dr. Oz warns that can result from decreasing your body’s normal amount of stomach acid by taking that simple purple pill and other similar medications.

“Suppression of the stomach acid may reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium—without that you cannot build strong bones,” says Dr. Oz.

Heartburn Medication Health Hazard #3: Rebound Acid

Dr. Oz states that one problem of taking heartburn medications is going off the medication. He explains that when you decide to stop taking the pills for a while that your body―which has been working overtime to increase the amount of stomach acid it produces to counter the effects of a proton inhibitor―will now have an excess of stomach acid, which will rebound and cause even worse heartburn symptoms.

“When you try to get off these proton pump inhibitor pills, sometimes you’ve kind of gotten hooked on them and the body can’t separate that so easily because it is trying to overcompensate for having been on the pill,” says Dr. Oz.

Cancer Risk from Heartburn Medications

With Dr. Oz is special guest “Cindy” who states that she has been taking heartburn medication on a daily basis for the past 12 years.

As a demonstration of why taking heartburn medication for many years like Cindy does can be detrimental to health, Dr. Oz shows healthy and diseased cadaver specimens of a human esophagus and explains that the diseased specimen is a sign of a growing problem in the U.S. with the increasing prevalence of esophageal cancer cases.

“Esophageal cancer is rapidly increasing in this country. The reason, is that people are taking these pills for years on end and the pills actually reduce the acid enough that you don’t feel a lot of symptoms,” says Dr. Oz.

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3 Ways People Manage Their Heartburn

When it comes to managing acid levels in your stomach, Dr. Oz tells viewers that most people follow one of three ways that range from slightly effective to highly effective:

1. The first way is through taking regular antacid pills with a meal that will help neutralize the acid, but not make it completely non-acidic.

2. The second way is by taking H-2 blockers that will temporarily reduce or shut down acid production in the stomach. Dr. Oz lists examples of this type as being those like Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac, which reduces the amount of “acid sloshing around in the stomach.”

3. The third way is by taking the aforementioned PPI-based medications that unlike the previous two heartburn medication types, will completely shut down acid production in the stomach.

“What makes these proton pump inhibitors so fantastic is that they completely shut down acid secretion…in theory, there’s no acid there to burn the esophagus. This miracle drug seems to help everybody and it changed the equation―it became the drug of choice, and it heals the esophagus when used correctly. But I don’t think that we are using them right in this country,” says Dr. Oz.

If your physician says that you need to take proton pump inhibitor-based heartburn medication, Dr. Oz offers the following recommendations for taking them safely:

• Take PPI meds for no longer than 14 days at a time.

• Take the meds for no more than three 14-day cycles in a year.

• Do not take PPIs on an empty stomach.

• Taper off over 2-4 weeks to avoid rebound reflux.

Breaking Your Heartburn Med Habit

To get off heartburn medications, Dr. Oz recommends 3 solutions for managing your stomach acid:

Stomach Acid Management Tip #1: Avoid eating trigger foods that bring on your heartburn.

Stomach Acid Management Tip #2: Eat Manuka honey which many people swear by as a natural way to control your stomach acid.

Stomach Acid Management Tip #3: Drink Chamomile tea, which has stomach-relaxing abilities and is a healthy alternative to drinking carbonated beverages that actually increase gastric reflux and heartburn.

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: The Dr. Oz Show