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Getting Off Drugs for GERD Requires Strategy

Acid-suppressing drugs used to treat GERD can cause rebound heartburn, making it difficult to stop taking them.

Q. I have GERD and I have been on Nexium for several years. Before Nexium I took Tagamet, Zantac, and Prilosec, in that order.

I have tried to get off of this medicine several times, and I have been unsuccessful due to the symptoms returning. I saw on the news recently that people on Nexium might be at higher risk for hip fractures. This has me worried.

Will I have to keep taking some form of GERD medication the rest of my life? Or can you recommend some kind of herbal or alternative treatment instead?

A. Millions of people take acid-suppressing drugs such as Nexium, Prevacid or Prilosec for heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While these drugs are often very helpful, there is growing concern that they may have unexpected side effects over the long term.

Research has linked such drugs to an increased risk of fractures (Osteoporosis Int., online March 31, 2009), pneumonia (Annals of Internal Medicine, Sept. 16, 2008) and intestinal infection (American Journal of Gastroenterology, Sept. 2007). They can be hard to stop (Gastroenterology, July, 2009).

We are sending you our  Guide to Digestive Disorders with tips on quitting acid-suppressing drugs and natural solutions for heartburn symptoms. Many people report less reflux with a low-carb diet, persimmon-ginger tea, over-the-counter antacids, mustard or chewing gum.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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