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Omeprazole and other proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a group of drugs used to treat what is now the most common chronic disease in the world: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These drugs, which work by blocking the secretion of gastric acid, include Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid, and Aciphex. Although these powerful acid blockers were never designed for long-term use, millions of people now take these drugs indefinitely, with potentially deadly consequences. Over the years, the list of omeprazole side effects has continued to grow. Omeprazole and other PPI use is associated with an increased risk for bone fractures, pneumonia, intestinal infections, heart arrhythmias, anemia and multiple nutrient deficiencies[6-8]. Now, a new study from Stanford University shows these drugs double the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke.
Stanford researchers examined records from 2.9 million individuals to determine whether using omeprazole and other PPIs is associated with cardiovascular risk. What they found is scary: regular use of PPIs increases the risk of having a heart attack by 16% and increases the risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event by two-fold.
How Does Omeprazole Cause Heart Attacks?
The exact mechanism by which PPIs like omeprazole increase heart attack and stroke deaths is unknown. Multiple factors are likely involved. PPIs are known to indirectly impair the function of the cells that line blood vessels, called endothelial cells.[9,10] Endothelial cells perform vital functions necessary to maintain cardiovascular health. Specifically, PPI’s have been shown to indirectly impair endothelial nitric oxide function.[9,10] Without proper nitric oxide function, blood vessels are more rigid and less able to properly dilate. Impaired nitric oxide production also promotes inflammation and blood clots.[9,10] Rigid, inflamed, clot-prone blood vessels are ripe for initiating a heart attack or stroke.
Other omeprazole side effects, including cardiac arrhythmias as well as deficiencies in nutrients that are important for cardiovascular health, particularly magnesium and vitamin B12, may also be involved in PPI’s link to cardiovascular deaths.
You Need Stomach Acid
PPI’s reduce symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn by blocking a normal body process: the manufacture and secretion of stomach acid. Stomach acid is very important for initiating protein digestion, ionizing minerals and other nutrients for proper absorption, and signaling the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes. It is also an important protective mechanism against infection via the neutralization of bacteria, viruses, and fungi before they can cause gastrointestinal infection.
Avoid Omeprazole Side Effects and Treat Your Reflux Naturally
Instead of blocking stomach acid with PPIs, a more logical approach to treating reflux is to aid digestion through natural measures. There are many natural ways to heal the upper gastrointestinal tract and restore proper stomach and digestive function while avoiding omeprazole side effects. People are often surprised to discover that their heartburn goes away when they enhance, rather than inhibit, their own stomach acid levels.
- Try a natural supplement called betaine HCl before meals.
- Swish and swallow digestive bitters, such as tinctures of wormwood, gentian, goldenseal, or dandelion, before meals.
- Try heartburn-reducing dietary changes, such as a following a whole foods-based lower-carb diet (like the Paleo diet) or using an elimination/challenge diet to discover the specific foods to which you react.
- Consider a comprehensive natural treatment program for healing leaky gut.
In almost all cases of GERD, a natural approach will completely eliminate the need for acid blocking drugs so that you will never need to worry about dangerous omeprazole side effects. Get started today!
Originally published in 2015 and updated.
 Endocrine. 2015 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]