Are Your Heartburn Medications Causing B12 Deficiency?

acid reflux medicationNew studies show that certain heartburn medications may lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. Let’s talk about the details of this study and see if it applies to you.

Which heartburn medications were included in the study?

The drugs studied are to treat acid-related conditions, including GERD.  They are called proton-pump inhibitors (PPI) and histamine 2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers).  These drugs can be obtained either over the counter or by prescription, and include the brand names Prilosec and Nexium.

What were the study’s results?

The study showed that 65% of patients who took these PPI drugs for more than two years had a significant B12 deficiency.  Those who took the H2 blockers showed a slight increase in B12 deficiency.

Is vitamin B12 deficiency dangerous?

Especially in older adults, B12 deficiency is not uncommon. Mild cases of B12 deficiency do not cause serious health issues.  However, severe cases of B12 deficiency can cause anemia, dementia, and neurologic damage.

I’m taking medication for my GERD.  Is there anything I should do with this information?

Dr. Douglas A. Corley, senior author of the study, says, “First, patients who have been on these medications for two years or more should be screened for B12 deficiency.  And second, these patients need to be aware of certain conditions that may be caused by the lack of B12.  Many times symptoms of B12 deficiency just sneak up on people, and they need to know why this may be happening.”  Dr. Corley stressed the need for balance when using th results of this study.  “These results do not mean that if you’re on these acid suppressing medications, that you should give them up.  Patients need to talk to their doctors and perhaps make sure that the dose they are getting is appropriate for the problem they are facing when it comes to their acid reflux, and that perhaps a lower dose would be just as effective and not as harmful.”

So talk with your physician if you have been taking these acid-suppressing medications on a long-term basis.  Perhaps your prescription could be adjusted, or your doctor may decide a B12 supplement is right for you.

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