Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec® (omeprazole), Prevacid® (lansoprazole), and Nexium® (esomeprazole) decrease stomach acid by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for its production, effectively treating a variety of peptic acid disorders, such as chronic heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Although quite adept at controlling stomach acid, PPIs have been linked to a number of concerning complications, including bone fractures, heart or kidney disease, and dementia.
Since the most serious PPI complications are associated with long-term use, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that people avoid taking more than three 14-day cycles of these drugs each year. As a result, PPI medications may not be the right choice for patients who require heartburn or acid reflux relief continually. Fortunately for those patients, a wide range of other treatment options are available.
Antacids, such as Tums or Mylanta, are a heartburn sufferer's first line of defense. Not only can antacids be taken any time to relieve symptoms on the spot, they're also high in calcium and magnesium.
However, as effective as they are at neutralizing stomach acid, antacids do have their limitations. For example, antacids can't heal inflamed esophageal tissue caused by frequent acid reflux, and frequently taking too many antacids may cause minor side effects such as diarrhea or constipation.
Lifestyle Changes and Dietary Restrictions
When antacids alone fail to do the trick, lifestyle changes may be helpful in combating heartburn. Making an effort to eat more slowly, choosing smaller portions, and waiting at least three hours after meals to go to bed can have huge impact. Losing a few pounds, wearing loose-fitting clothes, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol can also rein in heartburn, as can keeping a heartburn diary and steering clear of foods that trigger your reflux. Common heartburn-inducing foods include onions, citrus fruits and juices, spicy foods, fried foods, and tomatoes.
Regular exercise is an integral part of any healthy living plan. However, as many heartburn and GERD sufferers know, it's not unusual for acid reflux to flare at the end of a workout. To avoid heartburn while exercising, wait at least two hours after a meal and drink a lot of water to stay hydrated.
If acid reflux prevents you from getting to sleep, or wakes you up in the middle of the night, use 6-inch blocks to elevate the head of your bed, so that your chest is higher than your feet. Don't be tempted to try to achieve the same effect with a stack of pillows or you may end up putting more pressure on your stomach, and encouraging the very heartburn you're trying to prevent.
Histamine 2 Blockers
When a combination of antacids, lifestyle changes and dietary restrictions still aren't enough to save the day, you might need a little something more powerful. Histamine 2 blockers (also known as H2 blockers) such as Zantac® (ranitidine) and Pepcid® (famotidine) may help. These medications prevent histamine from reaching the H2 receptors where it signals the stomach to produce more acid. Less acid results in less heartburn.
H2 blockers can successfully treat heartburn, GERD, and peptic ulcers, and are safer than PPIs for long-term use. Other drugs in this class include Axid® (nizatidine) and Tagamet® (cimetidine).
Did You Experience PPI-Related Complications?
PPI medications can provide relief to the nearly 20 million Americans suffering from peptic-acid disorders. However, for some patients, that relief may come at an impossibly high price. If you were diagnosed with a serious complication that's been linked to long-term PPI use—such as heart disease, kidney disease or failure, or dementia—you may be able to seek compensation from the drug's manufacturer.
Should you decide to move forward with a lawsuit, the McGartland Law Firm's team of skilled attorneys will be there every step of the way, providing you with the knowledgeable representation you need and deserve. Contact our office today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your potential PPI case.