Popular Acid Reflux Medication Linked to Chronic Liver Disease

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Acid reflux medication liver disease - Dr. Axe

Proton-pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the world. In fact, one study estimates Americans spend $11 billion on PPIs each year. (1) These popular pills are prescribed for the prevention and treatment of acid-relation conditions like acid reflux. But you may or may not be surprised to learn that these pills may do more harm than good.

This conventional treatment works to reverse acid reflux by reducing the amount of acid in your stomach, in turn blocking the enzyme responsible for production. Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that acid reflux symptoms are a result of excess gastric acid. In fact, it’s normally quite the opposite. There isn’t enough stomach acid. So, not only are these medications not getting to the true root of the problem, they’re also putting you at an increased risk for liver disease, according to a 2017 study published in Nature Communications.

Acid Reflux Medication & Liver Disease

Our stomachs produce acid to kill ingested microbes. By taking a medication that suppresses the secretion of these gastric acids, it changes the composition of the gut microbiome.

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine uncovered evidence in mice and humans suggesting that stomach acid suppression may promote liver injury and the progression of three chronic liver diseases: alcoholic liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), as a result of these microbiome changes.

Specifically, researchers found that the lack of gastric acid promotes the growth of the bacteria Enterococcus in the intestines. When this bacteria translocates to the liver, it worsens inflammation and chronic liver disease. To confirm the increased Enterococcus bacteria was behind the effect on chronic liver disease, the team colonized mice with Enterococcus faecalis to mimic the overgrowth they had observed with acid suppression. The results? Increased Enterococcus alone was sufficient to induce mild steatosis and increase alcohol-induced liver disease in these mice.

A large, randomized, controlled clinical trial is needed to definitively show the link between PPIs and the risk of chronic liver disease in humans, but this introductory data brings to light a major concern with these all-too-common acid reflux medications. (2)

Other Acid Reflux Med Side Effects

While the risk for liver disease causes enough concern to toss aside this conventional acid reflux “remedy” for good, PPIs pose a number of other health risks. The most common, milder side effects of taking proton-pump inhibitors include: (3)

  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flatulence
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Rash

But it doesn’t stop there. Long-term, high-dosage use of acid reflux PPI medications may result in:

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