The use of acid-blocking drugs, like Nexium and Prilosec, in the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and indigestion is a prime example of how drugs designed to only suppress symptoms can create a long list of possible adverse effects and outcomes. These proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are notorious for increasing the risk of serious consequences and represent an irrational approach especially when safe and effective natural alternatives exist.

The latest analysis of the risk of side effects from these drugs has once again highlighted their significant association with an increased risk for dementia and depression.

Background Data:

Acid-blocker drugs are divided into two general drug groups. One group is the older histamine-receptor antagonist drugs like Zantac, Tagamet and Pepcid AC. The other is the newer and more potent group of drugs is called proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) that include Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid, and Aciphex.

Acid-blocking drugs will typically raise the gastric pH above the normal range of 3.5, effectively inhibiting the action of pepsin – an enzyme involved in protein digestion that can be irritating to the stomach. Although raising the pH can reduce symptoms, it also substantially blocks a normal body process. The manufacture and secretion of stomach acid is very important not only to the digestive process, but also because it is an important protective mechanism against infection. Stomach secretions can neutralize bacteria, viruses and molds before they can cause gastrointestinal infection. As far as the digestive process, stomach acid is not only important in the initiation of protein digestion it ionizes minerals and other nutrients for enhanced absorption; and without sufficient secretion of HCL in the stomach the pancreas does not get the signal to secrete its digestive enzymes.

PPIs are associated with numerous side effects and here are just a few examples:

  • Pneumonia – People using acid blockers were 4.5 times as likely to develop pneumonia as were people who never used the drugs. Apparently, without acid in the stomach, bacteria from the intestine can migrate upstream to reach the throat and then lungs to cause infection.
  • Increased fractures – people taking high doses of acid-blocking drugs for longer than a year had a 260 percent increase in hip fracture rates compared to people not taking an acid blocker. Evidence suggests that these drugs may disrupt bone remodeling making bones weaker and more prone to fracture.
  • Vitamin B12 insufficiency – acid blocking drugs not only reduce the secretion of stomach acid, but also intrinsic factor (a compound that binds to and assists the absorption of vitamin B12).
  • Disruption of the intestinal microbiome – PPIs dramatically disrupt the intestinal environment and change the collection of microorganisms in the stomach and intestines leading to potentially serious infections as well as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO, a condition linked to gas, bloating, and intestinal inflammation).
  • Alzheimer’s Disease – PPIs get into the brain and cause an increase in the beta-amyloid deposits characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Regular use of PPIs is associated with 44% increased risk due for dementia.
  • Heart attacks or stroke – A review of 37 studies showed that use of PPIs was associated with a 68% increased risk of mortality (dying) and a 54% increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke
  • Leads to early death – In a nearly six year study of U.S. veterans it was shown that PPI use carried with it about a 20% increased risk in overall mortality

New Data

In a very detailed analysis published in the online version of Frontiers in Neurology, researchers painstakingly reviewed the evidence from clinical trials and pre-clinical investigations on the association with PPI use with dementia and depression in the elderly and impaired cognitive function and depression in younger adults. What their results showed was:

“The findings of most research studies described above indicate that there is a direct association between the onset of dementia and depression on one side and the long-term use of PPIs on the other.”

The researchers provided a warning signal to doctors and pharmacists not only on the adverse effects of these drugs on the elderly, but also in younger adults as well. There is growing concern that these drugs depress cognition and mood in all ages. It is just that the elderly seem to be hit the hardest. However, the researchers demonstrated that even in younger adults detailed double-blind studies exist that indicate significant negative impact of these drugs in the ability to think clearly and be happy.

The author’s of the study encouraged physicians to look more critical at the risks vs. benefits of PPIs.


The findings of the review of the data are not surprising. The research is just that obvious. Where this analysis misses the mark is failing to provide a safe, natural alternative to PPIs. This topic was dealt with in a previous newsletter. So, if you are interested in how to deal with GERD and get off PPIs by using a natural approach simply click here. Head-to-head studies with this natural solution against other drugs, including PPIs, other acid-blocking drugs, and antacids have shown this natural approach is superior to others in terms of safety and efficacy. The effects are immediate and long-lasting. And, no side effects, drug interactions, or toxicity exist with this natural solution.


Novotny M, Klimova B, Valis M. PPI Long Term Use: Risk of Neurological Adverse Events? Front Neurol. 2019 Jan 8;9:1142. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.01142

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