The old adage “less is more” rings true for women who take heartburn medications like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that most women can tolerate lower doses of these medications while experiencing the same reflux-fighting benefits, thus reducing their risk of long-term side effects.
The study involved 100 participants, approximately half male and half female. All participants had been diagnosed with erosive esophagitis and had been on long-term therapy with a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). Researchers had half the participants reduce their PPI dose for a period of eight weeks, and had the other half continue to take their regular dose. Gastrin levels were measured both before and after treatment.
The results showed that females had overall higher levels of gastrin than males. However, women were three times more likely to tolerate half their normal PPI dose compared to men.
PPIs are among the highest-selling classes of drugs in the United States, but recent studies have linked these drugs to serious complications with long-term use. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings about the increased risk of fractures associated with PPI therapy. Additional evidence shows that PPI users may be at increased risk of kidney disease, dementia, heart attack, and nutrient deficiency. Higher PPI dosage is linked to a greater risk of side effects (Source: The Legal Examiner).
While the results of this study only showed successful step-down treatment for women, most patients can naturally reduce their need for heartburn medication through lifestyle and dietary modifications. These include:
- Losing excess weight
- Eating smaller portions
- Avoiding heartburn triggers like alcohol, caffeine and fried or spicy foods
- Finishing meals 2 to 3 hours before lying down
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing
- Giving up smoking
- Elevating the head of your bed when sleeping