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Antacids could affect diversity of gut bacteria, study

Posted:  Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A new Mayo clinic study has presented compelling evidence which may make you stay away from antacids. It has now emerged that people who regularly take proton pump inhibitors have less diverse gut bacteria, placing them at an increased risk for infections like Clostridium difficile infections and pneumonia, in addition to vitamin deficiencies and bone fractures.

These incredible results were published in the journal Microbiome. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are commonly used to treat ulcers and gastric reflux and go by generic names like omeprazole, pantoprazole, esomeprazole among many.

The gut microbiome consists of trillions of beneficial bacteria, which are involved in digestion, vitamin synthesis, immune system regulation and possibly mood stabilisation. Diet, genetics and environmental exposures all play a role in maintaining the integrity of this microbiome. The researchers postulate that the effects exerted by PPIs on the microbiome puts individuals at increased risk of over-colonisation from pathogenic strains like C. difficile.

Although PPIs have a long history of safety and efficacy, they have been implicated in nutritional, metabolic and infectious disorders. They have also been associated with iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies, hypomagnesemia, osteoporosis-related fractures, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and community-acquired pneumonia.

“Evidence has been mounting for years that long-term use of proton pump inhibitors poses increased risks for a variety of associated complications, but we have never really understood why. What this study does for the first time is demonstrating a plausible explanation for these associated conditions," said the researchers.

The study brings to light an important aspect of the gut microbiome that healthcare providers must consider while prescribing PPIs to patients. The researchers of the study advocate simple lifestyle changes such as eating smaller portions, maintaining a gap of 2 hours between meals and sleep, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and cutting down fat to obtain relief from symptoms associated with mild acid reflux.

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