With all of the acidic foods in the typical American diet, it’s no wonder why Acid Reflux is one of the most common complaints at the doctor’s office. In 2009 there were over 9 million visits related to it! Acid Reflux has caused millions of people to take PPIs, or Proton Pump Inhibitors, the most common type of medication used to suppress stomach acid production in people with reflux. Most people who take this stay on it for years, or the rest of their lives.
PPIs have some nutrition implications associated with long-term use, mainly with bone and blood health:
- - Bones: PPIs can impair the absorption of calcium from the diet, as well as promoted accelerated loss of calcium already in bones. They can also impair absorption of magnesium, which is another mineral important to bone health. This can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis (abnormally low bone mineral density) and fractures resulting from that illness.
- - Blood: Some nutrients are best metabolized and absorbed in an acidic environment, so when PPIs reduce stomach acidity, they can prevent this absorption from occurring, which can cause anemia. Specifically, anemia can be caused by an iron or Vitamin B12 deficiency. For Vitamin B12 to be absorbed from natural sources, it needs to split apart from a protein, which can only occur in a highly acidic environment. Vegetarian iron (from grains, cereals, etc.) also requires this. However, iron from animal products, and artificial Vitamin B12 can still be absorbed without the acidity.
Taking supplements and monitoring these potential conditions can help the effects of PPIs, but there are also lifestyle changes that can help to reduce the dependency on this medication. Losing weight, eating frequent small meals instead of larger meals, quitting smoking, and eating foods that are low acid can reduce the need for people to take this medication!