By Jim LaValle, R.Ph, ND, CCN
Recently, I did some radio and TV interviews on the topic of osteoporosis. Rates are increasing, especially in men; 55% of people over the age 50 have osteoporosis; and another 34 million or so have low bone density.
As a pharmacist, I feel obligated to warn people that one of the contributing factors to these increased rates is taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs that reduce or block the production of gastric acid. I’m talking about proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and other acid blocking drugs like H2 antagonists for heartburn and ulcers.
Besides lowering B12 absorption which influences red blood cells and homocysteine levels, these drugs reduce stomach acid so effectively, they keep your body from absorbing calcium, and therefore can reduce bone density.
In people aged 50 and over, PPIs are associated with a 2.6 times increased risk of hip fracture when taken for over one year. The longer you use PPIs, the greater your risk of fracture.1 In 2003, one PPI became available over the counter. Needless to say, this tremendously increased the use of this class of drug. Used short term, acid blockers and PPIs are not a problem, but many people use them for much longer than the recommended few months.
The next thing we know, we see headlines that osteoporosis rates are increasing, and what used to be a condition seen mostly in women is now being seen more frequently in men.
But the question is, do you have to live with chronic gastric distress to protect your bones? The answer is a resounding No!
Rather than taking calcium-depleting drugs, try natural measures to reduce or neutralize the production of gastric acid. Start by making dietary changes. The best way to reduce acid load from the diet is to reduce your intake of sugary foods and drinks (especially soft drinks which contain phosphoric acid), along with grains. Instead, eat a diet high in vegetables and greens.2
Next, try gentle, natural products to control acid production and provide support to your gastrointestinal system. At LMI, we recommend DGL licorice, mastic extract, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.
We also advise limiting coffee and other caffeine, colas, and alcohol until the problem resolves, with limited use as tolerated after that. If you do use acid blockers more than occasionally, make sure to supplement with nutrients they deplete like calcium and vitamins B12 and D.
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Yang, YX et al. Dec 27 2006 JAMA. 296 (24): 2947-53; doi:10.1001/jama. 296.24.2947. PMID 17190895.
Sebastian et al. Dec. 2002 Am J Clin Nutr. 76 (6): 1308 – 1316[Ed. Note: James LaValle is the founding Director of the LaValle Metabolic Institute, one of the largest integrative medicine practices in the country. Dr. LaValle is the author of the bestselling book Cracking the Metabolic Code: 9 Keys to Optimal Health and is the Executive Editor of THB’s The Healing Prescription