February 14th, 2012

Dr Art Hister – The More you burp, the worse you drive?

I have suffered from a pretty significant case of stomach acid reflux (GERD) for over 25 years now, and the only thing that controls it enough for me to enjoy my life is the constant use of a drug known as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), which suppresses acid production.

Because long-term use of PPIs has been linked to all sorts of negative health outcomes (higher rates of osteoporosis, fractures, and infections are the ones that stand out), I have made regular intermittent attempts to get off my PPIs. It’s a very hard thing to accomplish since (as so many of us – but not all – have found out) once you’ve used a PPI for even a few weeks, your body becomes so used to it that it swamps you with a rebound outpouring of acid when you don’t give it its regular dose of PPI.

But that’s not the point of this item: the point here is that although most people think of reflux as a nothing more than a pain in the gut (and those who don’t have reflux invariably think of “refluxers” as being a pain elsewhere because of their regular complaints about not feeling well), reflux can actually be a serious health problem.

Not only have some studies related chronic reflux to higher risks of esophageal cancer, but chronic reflux also has more immediate health effects, such as interfering with sleep, and that can have huge potential consequences on health.

So the news is that in a recent small study (presented as a poster at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting) 11 patients with reflux who were subsequently treated with a PPI not only reported much better sleep as a result, but they also performed much better on simulated driving tests as a result of sleeping better.

Now, as a GERD aficionado, I have to underline that you definitely want to try treating GERD without resorting to drugs (you can read more about this in my other blogs) but if lifestyle adjustments don’t work, then you should not just put up with the symptoms but you should discuss with your doctor as to which drug can offer you the best quality of life at the minimum risk to future health.

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