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44% Increase In Risk Of Dementia / Alzheimer’s w/ Regular Use Of Acid Reflux Medications

A study reported in the February 15th, 2016 medical journal JAMA Neurology, older users of the popular Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) were 44% more likely to develop dementia when taken regularly than those who did not.

A study published in the November 2019 European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggested the same. Six studies were included, which contained a total of 166,146 participants. The overall result demonstrated a significant increase in dementia risk with proton pump inhibitors use.

Research published in the 2020 medical journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, from the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society in Sweden shows that proton pump inhibitors affect the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays a significant part in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Acetylcholine has many functions in the body. Acetylcholine plays a role in helping blood pressure. Acetylcholine in the neuromuscular junction acts on nerve fibers, sending messages from the brain to targeted muscles, signaling them to respond with movement. In the brain it also plays crucial roles in memory and cognitive functioning. Acetylcholine is needed for passing signals among nerve cells, but this only works if enough of the substance is produced.

Levels of acetylcholine are found to be particularly low in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Over time, different areas of the brain shrink. The first areas usually affected are responsible for memories.

An enzyme called choline acetyltransferase is important to be able to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The Swedish researchers found that all the acid reflux drugs, called Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), bind with this enzyme, resulting in a reduced production of acetylcholine. The stronger the binding, the stronger the inhibitory effect. The study revealed omeprazole, esomeprazole, tenatoprazole and rabeprazole had the greatest affinity for binding and were therefore the strongest inhibitors of the enzyme. Common over-the-counter PPI’s include, Prevacid, Nexium, and Prilosec.

According to a study published in January 2016 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, as many as 70% of PPI prescriptions in the United States have been inappropriately handed out by doctors. They are the third highest-selling class of drugs in the United States, after antipsychotics and statin drugs.

It can be extremely difficult to stop PPIs after long term use and must be done very very slowly!

Dr. Shoshana J. Herzig of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston once stated, “Studies have shown that once you’re on them, it’s hard to stop taking them, it’s almost like an addiction. PPIs work by blocking the production of acid in the stomach, but the stomach revs up production of acid-making cells. You get excess growth of those cells in the stomach, so when you unblock production, you have more of the acid-making machinery.”

Before even attempting to decrease your PPI you need to find out why you have acid reflux and make some lifestyle changes.

  1. Change your eating habits and your diet. Don’t eat large meals or lie down right after a meal. Don’t woof down you meal, eat slowly and chew well. Don’t skip meals. Keep meals light and preferably non-acidic, low in spice and no fried foods. Coffee is very acidic even if decaffeinated. Alcohol particularly wine and beer can be problematic too. Curb your late night snacking.
  2. Have regular easy bowel movements every day. Constipation backs up the plumbing and messes up the stomach’s ability to process. Try a natural stool softener such as magnesium before bed.
  3. Are you stressed? Chronic stress &/or anxiety stirs up acid production.  Relora and Theanine are very popular anti-stress/anxiety supplements. GABA Ease (Vitanica) is a combination formula that works very well.
  1. Check out your medications. Aspirin, ibuprofen, some blood pressure medicati medications for osteoporosis causes reflux.
  2. Supplements such as Digestive Enzymes, DGL, and Probiotics can help improve digestive function & decrease acid reflux.

Digestive Enzymes: When you eat a meal, the food that enters your stomach is subjected to a mixture of acid and enzymes that help to break it down into smaller particles that can eventually leave the stomach and enter the small intestine, where more enzymes continue the digestive process. In conditions in which insufficient gastric acid is present to activate your digestive enzymes, or when digestive enzymes are not produced in sufficient amounts, gastric emptying is delayed, the food sits and ferments in the stomach causing gas and bloating. This sometimes causes more acid to be produced in the stomach. To see if your stomach needs acid try taking ½ tsp of Apple cider vinegar in 4 oz water and drink with a meal. If symptoms are better then you are actually lacking acid to digest your food! If so then get a digestive enzyme with hydrochloric acid. If your symptoms are worse then you are producing too much acid and should look for a digestive enzyme without acid.

DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) stimulates and accelerates the natural protective factors in the digestive tract by increasing the number of mucus-secreting cells, improves the quality of mucus which acts as a protective coating against acids and enhances microcirculation in the gastrointestinal lining. One study found that 350 mg of chewable DGL taken before consuming aspirin reduced the occurrence of aspirin-induced gastrointestinal bleeding.  Other studies have actually shown DGL to be as effective as the pharmaceuticals Tagamet and Zantac for the treatment of peptic ulcers without the side effects. The glycyrrhizin compound found in licorice and associated with high blood pressure has been removed. Chew 1-2 tablets 15 minutes before meals and before bed.

Probiotics (Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics) – Probiotics or “friendly” bacteria process nutrients and maintain a balance in the digestive system between good and harmful bacteria. A study published in the September 2011 “Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology” found that participants who took probiotic supplements for 14 days experienced fewer of the common GERD/Reflux symptoms compared to those who did not take probiotics. Another study reported in the March 2014 “Journal of the American Medical Association” noted that infants who were given probiotics for their first three months had fewer gastrointestinal problems, including reflux, constipation and colic. For Adults (Dr. Ohhira’s probiotic) chew & then swallow 1 capsule 2 x day ( best ½ hour before a meal).

If you or someone you know have Dementia or Alzheimer’s &/or are having difficulty weaning off PPIs, Telephone & office appointments with a Holistic Practitioner are available at the Tree of Life Wellness Center. For more information call 508-336-4242.

Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner Tree of Life Wellness Center

Host Holistic Healthline Radio