The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1024: Could Popular Heartburn Drugs Destroy Your Kidneys?

New research suggests that popular heartburn drugs like Nexium or Prilosec are associated with a risk of chronic kidney disease.
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Could Popular Heartburn Drugs Destroy Your Kidneys?

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America’s most popular heartburn drugs might be harming our kidneys. Research published in the February issue of JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that regular use of drugs like Nexium, Prevacid or Prilosec is associated with a higher risk of chronic kidney disease. While the research shows an association and doesn’t establish that the drugs are causing kidney damage, this is such a serious outcome that it is worth paying attention.

We discuss several published studies on both the benefits and lack of benefit of PPIs preventing the progression of Barrett’s esophagus to esophageal cancer. Here are the links.

Gut, Aug. 2014: a meta-analysis of observational studies showing PPIs help reduce the risk of cancer

Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, May, 2014:  Danish nation-wide study showing that proton pump inhibitors may not prevent the progression to cancer

Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, Jan., 2016: safety of proton pump inhibitors related to gastric cancer

Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, July, 2015: presents the esophageal cancer risk attributable to Barrett’s esophagus and other factors, including PPI effects on the gastrointestinal tract

New England Journal of Medicine, Oct. 13, 2011: “Barrett’s esophagus is a strong risk factor for esophageal adenocarcinoma, but the absolute annual risk, 0.12%, is much lower than the assumed risk of 0.5%”

Alternatives to Popular Heartburn Drugs:

Are there other ways to prevent painful heartburn symptoms? Joe and Terry offer some helpful remedies and invite listeners to share their favorites.

Flu Shot Reactions:

Flu season is off to a slow start this year, but now it is underway. What should you do to minimize your chance of flu? Have you ever had a reaction to a flu shot that lasted for months instead of days? Such problems are supposed to be rare, but they should be reported to the FDA and CDC when they occur. Here’s how to make the report to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The CDC and the FDA maintain it jointly. Find it online at Fax a completed form to (877) 721-0366 or mail the form to VAERS, P.O. Box 1100, Rockville, MD 20849-1100.

If you believe you have been injured by a flu vaccine you may be eligible to receive compensation from the federal government for your injuries if certain criteria are met. To learn more visit the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program website or call 1-800-338-2382.

Beet Juice for Better Health:

Could beet juice boost your endurance and lower your blood pressure? A new study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, showed that drinking 2.4 ounces of British beetroot juice for a week improved endurance by 24 percent. It also lowered blood pressure. (Journal of the American College of Cardiology-Heart Failure,Volume 4, Issue 6, June 2016) Are you drinking beet juice?

Call Us:

For this show, Joe & Terry welcome your questions and stories. Call 800-472-3366 between 7 and 8 am EST on Feb. 13, 2016.

This Week’s Guest:

Lisa Gill is deputy content editor of Best Buy Drugs for Consumer Reports. The Consumer Reports web site is:

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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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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Joe and Terry,

I’m not sure why you guys are on this anti PPI campaign. You’ve run a number of stories against these drugs. My experience was an onset of problems with swallowing at age 45. At 47 I had my Schatzki ring expanded with a balloon endoscopy. My gastroenterologist prescribed Nexium 40 daily. It helped me be free of symptoms, and I took it for years. I still take these drugs daily but now Prevacid OTC to save money. I do find I have fatigue, and the lower dose causes me problems with food hanging up in the esophagus. I probably need to have my lower sphincter expanded again. I’m not going to give up the foods I like to eat, especially the ones that are relatively healthy like tomato products and some spices. Raw broccoli can be an instant attack for me, as well as rice.

Richmond, VA

What about other classes of acid blockers, such as ranitidine? Do they have similar adverse side effects?

I had heartburn and my doctors recommended PPI’s for years, and still would, except I just decided to wean myself off, which took two or three months. My heartburn now is very minimal and I discovered two things that work well for me: sugar free gum! And occasionally chewing a tablet of diglycerinezed licorice. Simple and cheap! Also, in the tapering off phase, actually adding acid was helpful.

My husband has developed GERD in the last few years and he couldn’t swallow down
certain food without taking the precription drug similar to Prilosic. Since PPI has so many side effects and could destroy our vital organs we’re seeking alternatives now.
The doctor also recommends him to get off the drug. But we don’t know what causes the onset of GERD. He doesn’t feel heartburn by eating any kind of food. It just locks down his digestive tract and takes him to emergency room occasionally. Do we need to find the cause of the disease to get off the drug or is there a commonly applied remedy?

My doc told me to take Prilosec for 2 weeks and then another 2 weeks. My heartburn returned each time after a few weeks. I’ve found that when I have heartburn for two days in a row that if I take Prilosec for just 2 days I am OK for 3 or 4 weeks.

GERD happens more frequently in overweight and obese people. These are also the people who have insulin resistance, clots, heart attacks, dementia and kidney disease. Teasing out whether the PPI’s cause the problems or if it is just a consequence of bad molecules poisoning the person will take more work.

i had a kidney transplant 3 years ago. i was taking pantaprozole, a heartburn medicine, before. after the transplant the doctor kept prescribing this same medicine. its now been about 8 years that i have been taking this drug! after all the talk about heartburn drugs being bad, this seems counterproductive. thoughts?

Those of us who suffer from H. Pylori bacteria in the stomach cannot go off these meds because of the horrid heartburn caused by the bacteria. I would bet that many of the folks who have GERD are actually suffering from from H. Pylori.

Isn’t any research going on to find a way to kill this very difficult bacteria? If we could kill it, we would be able to go off the very nasty PPI’s.

A possible replacement for PPI?: Korean remedy called Persimmon Tea.
Put 2 quarts water into a pan, add 4-6 sticks of cinnamon, about 4-6 inches fairly finely chopped ginger root, and a cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, add about 4 ounces dried persimmon slices/pieces, and simmer for about 30 minutes then allow to cool. Strain into a couple of bottles and store in the fridge. Take an ounce each morning and evening (tastes great added to tea). By the 3rd day, you may notice you need less and less PPI’s/antacids until you an finally stop them altogether.
I find it takes a couple of days to start working , but will continue to work until, after a few weeks without symptoms, I start to forget to take it. Within a week, my symptoms are back, reminding me to restart the tea.
Don’t know which ingredients fix the GERD and which just make it taste better, but it works.

my husband and I have been taking PPI’s for 2 years. No no doctor had told us of any side effects.

I found pepper mint tea to stop my heart burn.

Ever since I went Vegan almost three years ago, I’ve never had heartburn. Prior to that time, I often had heartburn.

Peppermint tea — I make a peppermint/chamomile tea from the dried loose herb. My mother was on PPIs for years because of all the pharmaceuticals she was taking for a variety of conditions. I was able to wean her off the PPIs (with her doctor’s ok) giving her this tea.

I just have a question. what foods or supplements are good for the kidneys? I need help. I just had blood test done and my TSH (?)it’s very elevated. I am very concern and don’t know what to do or how to handle this. I started getting pain in my right kidney after I started insuline. I don’t know if this has anything to do or not with the problem I have now. I don’t even know if there is a good doctor o clinic that I can go that specialice n kidneys. I dont’ even know what is TSH. If anyone can give some information Thank you.

TSH stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone and the high number indicates under active thyroid. Ask your doctor to repeat TSH and also test for Free T4, T3 and thyroid antibodies to rule out autoimmune disorder. If you’ll be prescribed generic Levothyroxine (synthetic thyroid hormone), ask for brand name.

There is a lot of information on this web site for the questions you have. Do some research at your own speed.

The doctor to diagnose your kidneys and treat you is a Nephrologist.
In a recent blood test, I have elevated Creatinine and am presently working to get it down by increasing hydration. I add an ounce of organic lemon juice to my water. My Creatinine level in a previous blood test was normal six months earlier. The only difference in what I was doing during the last six months was taking a prescription for Meloxican (NSAID), which most likely is the culprit. I was taken off the Meloxican immediately and was referred to a Nephrologist for treatment to reduce my Creatinine level back to normal.

It seems like every other day you have yet another doomsday article about PPI’s. It’s very discouraging to those of us who suffer from GERD and Reflux and need these medicines. I was diagnosed with pre Barrett’s Esophagus and these drugs actually reversed it. I am terrified to go off them and risk esophageal cancer. Some people really need this powerful medicine.

There are risks and benefits of drugs. One needs to make sure that the benefits are more than the risks. And also to determine if there are lower risk ways to deal with a problem — such as diet changes, no matter how severe they might seem, or using natural substances with few or no side effects instead of drugs. I heard the Graedons say that the absolute risk of pre Barrett’s Esophagus becoming cancerous is quite small. How does low risk compare to risk of kidney damage, malnutrition, or osteoporosis due to long term usage of PPI’s?

Is there a way to consume beet juice but not having to worry about the potential kidney stones that it may produce? Does drinking plenty of water when on beet juice reduce this problem?

I just read a Medscape 2005 urological nursing article: “The Role of Diet in the Prevention of Common Kidney Stones” ( that may help answer your question. The article states increasing fluid intake, water is best, is an important goal. The true measure of benefit of fluid intake is the amount of urine output.

Two, more recent articles, both from 2014, “Kidney Stones: New Tool May Predict Recurrence” ( and “Recurrent Kidney Stones: ACP Issues New Guidelines” ( provide helpful information.

Your doctor or other health care provider can help you evaluate these articles and make a recommendation based on your specific health status and goals.

If your goal is to gain the blood pressure benefits of beetroot juice but your kidney stone status prohibits drinking beetroot juice, your doctor may recommend another way to gain those benefits.

I provide marketing for a company that commissioned a 2014 study of a pack of six nutrient supplements for decreasing inflammation and free radicals in 48 healthy adults. As far as I know the study has not been replicated or published in a medical journal. The company does report that the study showed that in vivo nitric oxide levels were significantly increased and that systolic blood pressure was decreased in those study participants.

I receive remuneration from the company for the marketing I provide so I am not unbiased regarding the study results. The summary of the study results have been published on a website. I can provide the website if you would like to ask your health care provider to evaluate the data as it may relate to your health status and goals.

I, too, had a sore arm for months after taking last years flu shot…mentioned to my doctor that I wasn’t taking it again this year.. I’m over 65 years old, relatively healthy, so I’ll take my chances.

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