Taking Proton Pump Inhibitors for Reflux? Study Suggests Dietary Changes May Work Better.

Published on September 26, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

Amid growing concern that the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors could lead to kidney failure and other serious renal complications, a new study suggests that dietary changes may be more effective at controlling symptoms associated with laryngopharyngeal reflux.

Proton Pump Inhibitors and Laryngopharyngeal Reflux

Laryngopharyngeal reflux is a disorder that occurs when stomach acid backs up into the throat to the level of the laryngopharynx. The symptoms of this condition are distinct from those of GERD, and are easily confused with other problems. Thus, laryngopharyngeal reflux is often misdiagnosed.

For this study, researchers writing in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery compared two groups of patients with laryngopharyngeal reflux, one of which consisted of 85 people treated with proton pump inhibitors.  The second group of 99 individuals was switched to a plant-based Mediterranean diet and began drinking alkaline water, which neutralizes excess stomach acid.

Both groups were told to avoid reflux triggers, including, tea, chocolate, soda, greasy and fatty foods, spicy foods, and alcohol.

The researchers then used a zero to 45-point scale to determine the severity of symptoms experienced by patients in each group.  Around 54% of patients in the proton pump inhibitor group achieved a clinically significant six-point reduction on the index, compared with 63% of those who were directed to make dietary changes.

“Because the relationship between percent change and response to treatment has not been studied, the clinical significance of this difference requires further study,” the authors concluded. “Nevertheless, this study suggests that a plant-based diet and alkaline water should be considered in the treatment of LPR. This approach may effectively improve symptoms and could avoid the costs and adverse effects of pharmacological intervention as well as afford the additional health benefits associated with a healthy, plant-based diet.”

Proton Pump Inhibitors and the Kidneys

In 2013, more than 15 million Americans used prescription proton pump inhibitors to treat symptoms associated with the excess production of stomach acid. However, an increasing number of studies have also suggested that long-term proton pump inhibitor treatment may harm the kidneys, leading to kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, and acute interstitial nephritis.

More than 400 proton pump inhibitor lawsuits have been centralized in a multidistrict litigation currently underway in New Jersey federal court, all of which were filed on behalf of individuals who developed kidney failure and other kidney side effects allegedly related to treatment Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid, Dexilant, and Protonix.

Among other things, plaintiffs claim that the drugs’ manufacturers have long concealed evidence linking their products to serious kidney complications and failed to provide doctors and patients with appropriate safety warnings. They further assert that they could have avoided these kidney side effects they received adequate notice of these risks.

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