why I stopped taking PPIs for gastric reflux

This post feels a bit like a PSA rather than a typical pilgrimsteps post.  But I wanted to share my experience with PPIs just in case it might be of help to some of you….

Last year I struggled to paddle because of severe back pain that was due to some problems with my prosthesis.  But it wasn’t just back pain, it was horrible painful muscle spasms that I had in my back, but also happened just about anywhere whenever I exercised vigorously.  My muscles just simply didn’t seem to be responding well to exercise–I was continuously fatigued and got cramps easily no matter what type of supplement I tried.

As a result, I quit paddling about halfway through last season.*

It wasn’t until a few months later that a lightbulb went on in my head as I talked with a friend about my chronic gastric reflux problems.  She told me that long-term use of over-the-counter PPIs did have long-term side effects (despite my thinking that they were nearly-benign meds) and that one of those was mineral loss.  I realized that the muscle cramping symptoms that I was experiencing were quite similar to the problems I’d had more than a decade previous when I was calcium deficient.  Given that I already have the double-whammy of bone density loss from being female and from having had high-dose chemotherapy, I started to become nervous about my dependence on PPIs to get me through dinnertime (it was almost always dinner that gave me problems–causing acid reflux for hours afterwards).

So…I stopped taking the PPIs cold-turkey and modified my diet as much as I could to compensate (such as no citrus or tomatoes and more yogurt).  Within a few weeks my acid reflux symptoms mostly disappeared–with only an occasional flare-up during stress.  And I found that I regained my muscle endurance fairly quickly after that.

I know that PPIs are necessary for many people and I’m not suggesting, necessarily, that you do what I did and stop taking them.  But I think it’s worth reading this recent article that warns of their side-effects, and to consider whether they are drugs that you really do need to be taking regularly.  In my case, I think the PPIs caused me to exercise less which exacerbated my reflux and led to weight gain (weight gain being one of the major contributors to reflux issues).  And I needed to get off the PPIs to I could become more active and healthy again.   My hope now is that the year I spent taking them won’t result in any long-term effect on my bone density.

*Additional motivation for quitting mid-season was due to some problems with my coach and the need to focus on my studies.  But the major reason was that I was in terrible pain each time I tried to paddle, I and I simply couldn’t figure out why my body was hurting so badly.

6 thoughts on “why I stopped taking PPIs for gastric reflux

  1. Deb

    I took Pepcid, over the counter, a couple of months ago for heartburn. I was having a terrible time with my stomach because of the Advil I was taking for my headaches, which are caused by stress and tight neck and shoulder muscles. The circle of pain.

    After a week on the Pepcid, I was feeling suicidal, something which I haven’t felt in a few years. I looked up side effects and sure enough Pepcid can cause depression. I stopped the Pepcid and the suicidal thoughts went away.

    Nothing is benign I’m finding.

  2. Jana

    Wow, I had no idea about the depressive side-effect. How awful for you and I’m glad that you figured out why you were feeling that way…

  3. Funny about Money

    There’s a reason the package insert tells buyers not to use the drug more than 14 days at a time and to take no more than one course every two or three months.

    After the most recent flare-up sent me to the ER with chest pains, one of the docs there prescribed sucralfate, which is supposed to coat your stomach and protect against ulceration. It helps a little. I guess.

    Right now I’m sipping a home-made fresca into which a slice of ginger has been blended. Ginger is surprisingly effective at calming gastric discomfort. It also has a mild analgesic effect — the tendonitis that has had me limping around feels a great deal better after a glass of this stuff.

    1. janaremy Post author

      But I wonder why physicians then tell you to go ahead and stay on them long-term without concern? At least, that’s been my experience…

      1. Funny about Money

        I don’t know what motivates doctors. Sometimes I think they’re unaware of various drugs’ side effects, or that they feel privileged to decide for you whether a drug’s benefits outweigh its risks.

        PPIs leach calcium out of your bones. At one manufacturer’s website, I came across the warning that patients who take the drug for longer than 2 years can “expect” (yes!) broken bones. Since I already have osteopenia and am well post-menopausal, that sounds to me like a pretty serious threat.

        One of my docs remarked that I probably will have to continue to take omeprazole or something in that class for the rest of my life. We’ll be rethinking that theory….

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