More evidence that acid-suppressing medication can sometimes do more harm than good

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Upper digestive symptoms such as indigestion, ‘acidity’ and heartburn are common. The mainstay of medical treatment for these symptoms is a class of drugs known as the ‘proton pump inhibitors’. These drugs, including omeprazole and lansoprazole, inhibit acid secretion in the stomach. They do help control symptoms in some people. However, as I revealed in a blog post back in 2009, they can also cause the very symptoms they are designed to treat.

One of the applications of proton pump inhibitors is as a preventer of inflammation, ulceration and bleeding that can be caused by certain painkilling medication known as ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs’ or ‘NSAIDs’. However, a recent piece of animal research suggests that, again, proton pump inhibitors may do more harm than good [1].

In this study, rats were treated with a proton pump inhibitor for 9 days. During the last four days of this treatment, the rats were also treated with a NSAID drug. The researchers monitored inflammation and ulceration in the small bowel of the animals (the small bowel is the part of the digestive tract immediately after the stomach). They found that treatment with proton pump inhibitors actually worsened the ulceration and bleeding.

Treatment with proton pump inhibitors was also found to be associated with an alteration in the balance of bacteria in the digestion tract. Sometimes referred to as ‘dysbiosis’, this sort of imbalance can lead to a range of digestion symptoms and issues. Very interestingly, giving the rats probiotics (supplements of healthy gut bacteria) prevented the problems associated with proton pump inhibitor treatment.

The authors of the study speculate that treatment with probiotics [in humans] may prevent the small bowel problems seen as a result of proton pump inhibitor treatment.


1. Wallace JL, et al. Proton Pump Inhibitors Exacerbate NSAID-Induced Small Intestinal Injury by Inducing Dysbiosis. Gastroenterology epub 13th July 2011

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