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Your antacids are putting you at risk for thyroid problems and a broken hip.

If you're taking that little purple pill, Nexium, for acid reflux--watch out.

If you use Turns or other antacids because some foods don't agree with you--you could be headed for trouble.

I've warned you about the dangers of antacids before. They don't solve heartburn problems. They only treat its symptoms. And they reduce your ability to digest and utilize protein, calcium, magnesium, and iron. This means you could be eating the right foods and still be deficient in one or more of these nutrients. In addition, stomach acid kills off bacteria that can lead to stomach infections (such as H. pylori), which, in turn, can cause stomach ulcers and gastritis.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, new studies indicate that antacids interfere with the absorption of your thyroid medication and increase your risk for a broken hip. If you take antacids, this is a good time to re-evaluate what you're taking and why. And to look for a safer solution.

Your thyroid and antacids

You don't need stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, or HC1) just to help break down and utilize proteins, calcium, magnesium, and iron. You need HC1 to utilize your thyroid medication.

If your T4 blood test is low, you have an underactive thyroid and you're probably taking oral thyroxine. Thyroxine is T4. You should have 20 times as much T4 as T3, another thyroid hormone. But if you're using any antacids, you're reducing stomach acid, which is needed to absorb thyroxine.

A group of Italian researchers discovered that people with low stomach-acid secretion who were taking thyroxine needed between 22% to 34% more thyroid hormone than those with normal secretions. All of the participants in this study had a goiter. And all of them had some form of reduced acid secretion.

If you're taking any antacid, remember that it can affect the levels of a number of medications. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure your medications are working for you at the prescribed levels, and that there are no negative interactions. People who take antacids and thyroid medications are frequently asked to separate them by two to four hours. This isn't possible if you're taking a long-acting antacid, like Nexium.

Hip fractures

But antacids don't just cause problems for people on thyroid medication. They negatively affect everyone who takes them. And women are especially susceptible. A recent study published in JAMA found that if you've been taking antacids for more than a year, you have a 44% increased risk of breaking your hip! Your risk for hip fracture is based on how long you take antacids as well as their strength. Nexium, for instance, is stronger than Tums and puts you at a higher risk than the over-the-counter antacid.

Nexium is just one of a number of prescription antacids called proton pump inhibitors (PPI). It may get rid of your heartburn, but PPI therapy also decreases calcium absorption and bone density. What's more, 20% of people who break their hips due to PPIs die during the first year after their fracture.

The same percentage needs nursing home care. And while this study examined the effects of PPIs that are stronger than over-the-counter antacids, a second study published last year (Calcif Tissue Int) found that common antacids also contribute to hip and spine fractures.

Forget the costs of health care. A broken hip, especially in later years, is a life-changing event that you want to avoid at all costs. The researchers of this study suggest that older patients who need high doses of PPIs increase their dietary calcium and calcium supplements. But too much calcium without enough magnesium creates other problems, such as arthritis and heart disease.

I have a better solution--avoid antacids

If you have acid reflux, first repair your digestive tract. As surprising as it may seem, you actually need more stomach acid, not less. I explained this in an article that appeared in June 2003 ("Take acid--not antacids--to end your heartburn"). You can find this article on my website.

For those of you who don't have computers, this information is in my new book (The Health Detective's 456 Most Powerful Healing Secrets). This book is now available through bookstores. But you can get it free just by renewing your subscription (800-728-2288).

Indigestion and acid reflux are indications either of a poor diet or poor digestion. Begin by chewing your food extra well. If that's not enough, take a good probiotic (friendly bacteria) to help with your digestion and to help fight bad bacteria. Some of the more expensive brands, such as Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics 12 Plus are excellent (877-262-7843). But you may find that more affordable products--like Advanced Probiotic Formula (Advanced Bionutritionals, 800-728-2288)--work well for you.

Next come digestive enzymes. They help you digest protein, fats, and starches. Lower your total fat intake and take a digestive enzyme with each meal for three to six months. You can find enzymes in any health food store. Or you can call ProThera (888-488-2488) and try a bottle of their TheraGest. I've used it successfully with many of my patients.

Antacids treat symptoms. They don't address the core of a problem, and they lead to more health risks. I don't believe in just treating symptoms.

"Acid suppression medication linked with increased risk of hip fracture," JAMA, December 27, 2006.

Centanni, M., MD, ct al. "Thyroxine in goiter, Helicobacter pylori infection, and chronic gastritis," NEJM, April 27, 2006.

Vestergaard, P., et al. "Proton pump inhibitors, histamine H2 receptor antagonists, and other antacid medications and the risk of fracture," Calcit Tissue Int, August 2006.
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Publication:Women's Health Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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