If, like me, you suffer from acid reflux or GERD, you might be taking this to prevent the symptoms.
If so, there are some things you should know about it.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is no joke. It feels like you’ve swallowed a box of nails and this can also lead to some serious diarrhea if not prevented. It can interfere with sleep and your general sense of well-being. I started having symptoms in my mid-30s and tried all of the routines: Drink lots of water, elevate the head of the bed, avoid certain foods and drinks (no coffee!), etc. None of these worked.
Then along came Pepcid and it was a life-changer. No more agony after a bowel of chili or a couple of beers. Pepcid is Famotidine, a histamine H2 receptor antagonist that inhibits stomach acid production. Some other meds in the same family are ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine (Tagamet), and nizatidine (Axid). There are some side affects of Pepcid but most of them are rare and minor. Check with your physician if you have any concerns.
The other group of drugs are called proton pump inhibitors; they also reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach. The most used of these is Omeprazole, AKA Prilosec or Zegerid. This has some side effects but the one that seniors need to beware of is calcium depletion. People who take omeprazole and other proton pump inhibitors for a year or longer are more likely to develop fractures of the spine, hips and wrists, according to the FDA. Calcium is necessary to help build and maintain healthy bones and strong teeth. Omeprazole causes decreased production of stomach acid. The body requires stomach acid to absorb calcium from foods. Low levels of calcium in the blood leads to calcium depletion from bones. People over 50 are more likely to suffer from increased fractures after taking omeprazole, according to the FDA. People in this age group are more prone to fractures because of age-related changes in bone density. Older people are also not able to absorb enough calcium from foods due to age-related changes in the stomach. As well, people with osteoporosis and other bone diseases should consult with their doctor before taking over-the-counter omeprazole.
Patients who experience calcium depletion after chronic omeprazole use may notice symptoms such as weakness, lack of energy, loss of appetite and constipation. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, bone pain, increased urination, muscle cramps, twitching, tingling of fingers, muscle spasms, depression, confusion, convulsions, lethargy and abnormal heart rhythms.
These same symptoms can be caused by anything that reduces your stomach acid, so Nexium is not off the hook, either.
Now, the reason I highlighted increased urination up there is that I am having issues lately with this; it is difficult to sit through an entire movie (especially a long one, like Bladerunner 2094). Before going to see Thor: Ragnarok, I didn’t drink anything for three hours before the movie and went just before it. But the medium Coke I drank was pestering the heck out of me before the movie was over. This might be something to look into if you are having the same issue.
To sum up, we need to balance our medications with risk. If there were a way to avoid GERD without taking the medication (and without giving up everything that makes life worth living), I would. But for now, I’ll risk the bone loss. I only take my Omeprazole every other day, so maybe that helps.