The Overlooked Side Effect of Heartburn Medications?

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

December 12, 2022


If you take any medications for heartburn, read this immediately.

New research is showing that these medications can cause kidney disease. And that’s only the beginning.

PPI (proton pump inhibitor) drugs are among the most commonly used drugs worldwide. They include Prevacid (lansoprazole), Dexilant (dexlansoprazol), Zegerid (omeprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole), Kapidex (dexlansoprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), and Aciphex (rabeproazole). In the past, researchers have linked these drugs to an acute form of kidney disease called acute interstitial nephritis. But what about chronic kidney disease? Recently, researchers set out to see if there’s a connection between the drugs and chronic kidney disease.

To do the study, the researchers looked at 10,482 men and women with an average age of 63 years. Each of them had an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) of at least 60 mL/min. This is a measurement of kidney function. As long as it’s above 60, the kidneys are functioning well. So all of these men and women had healthy kidney function. But when the eGFR falls below 60, it’s indicating the beginning of chronic kidney disease.

Once the researchers got their initial eGFR readings on the group, they continued to measure it on a regular basis for the next 12-15 years. They were looking to see how many people in the group developed a decrease in their eGFR and whether or not they were taking PPI drugs. Here’s what they found.

Compared to people who were not taking the drugs, those who were taking PPI’s were up to 76% more likely to get chronic kidney disease. And to make matters worse, the increased risk was dose related. People taking the drugs twice a day were three times more likely to get kidney disease than those taking them once a day. There was no doubt that the drugs were damaging kidney function. In the words of the authors of the study, “Proton pump inhibitor use is associated with a higher risk of incident chronic kidney disease.”

But for those who are taking these drugs on a regular basis, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

That’s because other research has tied PPI drugs to a host of scary health problems, including higher risks for dementia, heart attacks, C. difficile infections, chronic diarrhea, pneumonia, low magnesium levels, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, convulsions, and fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine. But why? What is it about PPI’s that make them so dangerous?

Dr. John Cooke, MD, PhD is the chair of Cardiovascular Disease Research at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. According to Dr. Cooke, research from Stanford University and Houston Methodist Hospital points to a big problem with PPI drugs.

The reason doctors give them to patients with reflux disorders is because they shut off the acid pumps in the stomach. But guess what? They also shut off the acid pumps in every other cell in the body. And this interferes with the way cells make energy and detoxify. In effect, they interfere with every single aspect of cellular function! So when it comes to PPI drugs and disease, as Dr. Cooke puts it, “I think we now have a smoking gun.” But there is some good news to this story.

PPI’s are not the only drugs that doctors can use to treat reflux. There is another class of drugs called H2 histamine blockers. The most common examples of this class of drugs is Tagamet (cimetidine) and Zantac (ranitidine).

When the researchers looked at people who were taking these drugs, there was no increase in the risk for kidney disease. Both of these drugs are available without prescription at your drugstore. If you are taking a PPI, in view of their incredible list of side effects, I would encourage you to talk with your doctor about switching to a H2 histamine blocking drug. And that’s not all.

As I have reported to you in the past, most reflux disease can be cured without any drugs at all. Most of the time, a simple change in diet will do it. Cut out alcohol, coffee, NSAID drugs, sodas, and sugar. At the same time, see a doctor versed in natural therapy to treat you for candida or chronic yeast. You can go to my website to get all the details.

But here is a partial list of remedies: melatonin, d-limonene, 5-HTP, mastic gum, betaine HCl, aloe vera, slippery elm, and apple cider vinegar. And if you have tried an H2 histamine blocker before and it didn’t work, go back and try it again in combination with the changes I just mentioned. I find it very rare that any of my patients, even those with severe reflux disease, need to be taking a PPI drug in order to get relief.


Lazarus B, Chen Y, et al. Proton Pump Inhibitor Use and the Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Feb;176(2):238-46.

Research Points to ‘Smoking Gun’ for PPI Risks. Reviewed by Michael W, Smith, MD, June 8, 2016 WebMD Health News.


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