Nutritionist: Heart Problems, Side Effects with PPIs


This Episode's Guest
Rebecca Montrone

Rebecca Montrone

Certified Nutritionist
Learn More

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. Each day, 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease — that’s about one death every 38 seconds.

What people may not know is that some prescription heartburn drugs like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid can increase the risk of heart problems. These drugs are called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

About 15 million Americans take PPIs each year — potentially putting themselves at risk for heart problems.

In this Drugwatch Podcast, holistic health practitioner and Drugwatch expert Rebecca Montrone explains how PPIs may cause heart problems and other side effects.

“We’re getting into a whole deep bed here when we talk about acid reflux and medications,” Montrone said. “We are impacting all of our body systems unknowingly when we take something to get rid of this acid reflux, which is not solving the problem. It’s just getting rid of the pain.”

For example, PPIs inhibit nitric oxide (which increases blood flow), according to Montrone. This can cause cardiovascular problems and erectile dysfunction.

PPIs also increase estrogen production which interferes with testosterone levels in men.

In addition to talking about PPI side effects, Montrone recommends some non-pharmaceutical ways to combat acid reflux.

Having complications related to Proton pump inhibitors? Get a Free Case Review
Transcript -
Michelle Llamas

Hi there and welcome to another episode of the Drugwatch podcast. I'm your host, Michelle Llamas, and today I've got a return guest to the show, one of our Drugwatch experts, Rebecca Montrone. Welcome back to the show, Rebecca.

Rebecca Montrone

Thank you so much, Michelle, it's a pleasure to be here again. Love the work-

Michelle Llamas

Always great.

Rebecca Montrone

You're doing there. Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

Always great to chat with you. We have a mutual admiration society here with each other.

Rebecca Montrone

Yes.

Michelle Llamas

Love your work as well. Today, we're going to talk about proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs for short. For everyone that doesn't know, that's the long scientific term for acid-reducing drugs, pretty much, like Nexium, or Prilosec. Of course, they're also available in generic. Let's go into the basics of this. Let's talk a little bit about your background with how you work with proton pump inhibitors in your practice. First of all, how you come in contact with them, and then we'll talk about how they work.

Rebecca Montrone

Michelle, basically I'm a holistic health practitioner. My degree is in nutrition. People come to me with a wide variety of problems, and often we will see in their problem list acid reflux and things like that. Often, in their prescription medications we'll see one of the PPIs, which is a very, very commonly prescribed drug, which I believe we're saying about 15 million American consumers are taking one of these drugs. I don't look at somebody just coming in usually for acid reflux. They're coming in for an overall workup and this might be part of their issue. Then as we look at their other health problems I can often see other health problems that might be related to the fact that they're on a PPI medication.

Are you suffering from complications after taking a PPI? Get a Free Case Review

Michelle Llamas

Gotcha. They come in, and of course, with ... As a nutritionist, you look at diet, you look at lifestyle, and of course, we've got so many things now in our modern life that can mess up your belly, mess up your stomach, your digestion.

Rebecca Montrone

Sure.

Michelle Llamas

Right? I almost think that ... You mention here that these things were so prescribed and I think that so many people, doctors, other health practitioners, if someone comes in complaining of any kind of stomach issue, they just say, "Hey. Well, here's a PPI." I mean-

Rebecca Montrone

Exactly.

Michelle Llamas

They do work, right? Initially, you ... People will be like, "Oh wow, my acid is down." Of course, we find out now that the way that these work also actually effect so many other systems in your body, and can cause havoc. Let's talk about-

Rebecca Montrone

Exactly.

Michelle Llamas

Some of the side effects that you've seen in your practice.

Rebecca Montrone

Right. One of the things would be a gentleman several years ago who had ... His major complaint was low testosterone, and-

Michelle Llamas

Oh, now that's interesting.

Rebecca Montrone

Erectile dysfunction. Oh, yeah. Because most people don't know that PPIs increase estrogen, which is exactly what you don't want if you're a man.

Michelle Llamas

Wow, okay, okay.

Rebecca Montrone

Not necessarily if you're a woman. Also, excess estrogen in the body makes acid reflux more of a problem by weakening that lower esophageal sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach. We're getting into a whole deep bed here when we talk about acid reflux, and medications, and things. If we're not looking beyond them, if we're not looking beyond, "Oh, what a relief it is."

Michelle Llamas

Some of the weird side effects that PPIs cause now that we're seeing, some new studies that are coming out are increased risk of infection, which is kind of crazy, right? People are getting more stomach viruses, things of that nature. For older folks, that can actually be pretty bad for them, because then it gives them ... What is it? Crazy diarrhea and it-

Rebecca Montrone

Sure.

Michelle Llamas

I mean, all kinds of stuff. Also, strange things like kidney issues.

Rebecca Montrone

If we're talking about going back to sexual function, which is not one of the top ones you're going to find if you're Googling this, but it's right there, nitric oxide inhibition. Nitric oxide, that's why the cardiovascular effects, right? Nitric oxide-

Michelle Llamas

I see.

Rebecca Montrone

Dilates the blood vessels. It helps you with blood pressure. It helps with all of your cardiovascular health and that was how Viagra was originally discovered as a heart medicine. We're clamping down on that, so we've got that going. The proton pumps work throughout the whole entire body. They facilitate electrical connection that make many systems in the body work. Unfortunately, if you're turning them off to stop the proton pump activity in the parietal cells of the stomach, it's not staying there, okay? What happens in the stomach doesn't stay in the stomach, it goes all over the body. You're turning off every single proton pump in the body, and the brain, and that can be devastating to-

Michelle Llamas

See, now there's the key thing you mentioned. People will think that it's isolated to the stomach, that somehow the drug knows, "I'm just going to work on the stomach ones."

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah. A lot of these drugs are systemic type things, so they don’t just cut off one little problem.

Rebecca Montrone

In a stomach, if you don't have acid in the stomach, this is the biggest problem, is these things are so misfits, because the biggest problem in the stomach and acid reflux is not enough acid at the time of stomach digestion. That's why you've got greater risk of infection, and these things going on into the colon, and small intestinal bacteria overgrowth and things, because the stomach acid, the Ph of the stomach is supposed to be between one and two, and that kills a bunch of stuff that can make you sick, and it also is very important for the absorption of certain nutrients. We see magnesium deficiency. Huge in people on the PPIs. We see calcium absorption, of problems. Also, the proton pumps are responsible for the activity to the osteo class that help your bones reabsorb minerals. We are impacting all of our body systems unknowingly when we take something to get rid of this acid reflux, which is not solving the problem. It's just getting rid of the pain.

Michelle Llamas

Now, in your practice, okay, you mentioned now that you'll have some people that come in, and they have this issue, and you notice that they're on proton pumps. You mentioned the one gentleman that had testosterone issues. What is one of the things that sticks out with you the most with any of the patients, or shall we say clients, that you've treated?

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah. Well, let me tell you about this one. Now, this was a dear older lady, and she came, and she'd been struggling with acid reflux for years and years, and did not love the prescription way of doing things, but was pretty desperate. She had, oh maybe a month or two before she came to see me, started taking Omeprazole, one of the prazoles. Those are PPIs. She had this mysterious lesion on her shin, and we looked at it, and she said, "This never happened until I started taking this medication." I was like, "Are you kidding?" We looked at it. I took photos of it. We watched it. We put some ... Tried some topical things. I finally went to the drawing board and found that the proton pump inhibitors can instigate an autoimmune lupus attack on the skin.

Michelle Llamas

Oh, goodness. Oh, that's a-

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah. Crazy. No one would even think of that. That's-

Rebecca Montrone

No. We got her off that, and we've treated her acid reflux totally differently, and quite effectively. Some people just ... It's hard to get everywhere you want to go, to the enth degree, but yeah. That went away, but I have no way to prove that.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah.

Rebecca Montrone

I found that in scientific literature, and she went off, and she said, "I never had this until ... " It was so interesting too, because I could find photos of this type of lesion. You can do that if you don't mind being grossed out sometimes with-

Michelle Llamas

Oh, yeah.

Rebecca Montrone

Medical pictures and things, but-

Michelle Llamas

Yeah. You need to, you need to.

Rebecca Montrone

Right. That is really profound, to think that you could be taking something because you have some heartburn, and you could end up with an autoimmune attack on your body.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah. No, that is ... That's definitely an extreme case. I mean, it's probably rare. We probably want to say that it's probably rare, however-

Rebecca Montrone

I don't know. Who knows?

Michelle Llamas

We don't-

Rebecca Montrone

Who knows?

Michelle Llamas

Since it hasn't been tested-

Rebecca Montrone

How many people are-

Michelle Llamas

Right, no one-

Rebecca Montrone

How many people say, "I've got a rash and I'm taking ... " They don't put two and two together

Michelle Llamas

Yeah. You're right, you're right. Now, you mentioned you helped her treat her symptoms with a non-pharmaceutical alternative. Can you talk a little bit about what some people can do-

Rebecca Montrone

Sure.

Michelle Llamas

If they've got a lot of heartburn and they want to either stop a PPI or not even take one at all?

Rebecca Montrone

Okay. First, I'd like to talk about hiatal hernia, which is more common in people than we know, and sometimes those hiatal hernias, those open spaces in the diaphragm, they're not ... They can't even be seen with imaging, but they can still cause huge problems. The stomach comes up and it's pressing upwards into that area of the sternum.

Michelle Llamas

Oh, I see. This might actually be causing some of the symptoms then?

Rebecca Montrone

Right. A lot of times people have that ... I love to tell people, "Look, drink two glasses of water in the morning. Get on your bottom stair, and jump down six times on both feet, and do that every day, and see what happens." Because if that's what's going on, you're going to have release, because you're pulling the stomach down. The stomach being up is also ... That's another program for another day, the vagus nerve runs through that area. The parasympathetic nervous system can cause a lot of health problems. Beyond that, you want to have adequate stomach acid. You need acid at the time of digestion in the stomach in order for digestion to work the way it's supposed to. Most of us have too little stomach acid.

One of the reasons for that is iodine deficiency, which is rampant in our country, because we need iodine to make stomach acid. Then, things we can do to increase that would be to use a supplement with some betaine hydrochloride, or taking some apple cider vinegar. Maybe a teaspoon in a little bit of water before your meals. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice takes out the part of licorice that can raise blood pressure in some people, and yet soothes the stomach and the duodenum, the first part of the intestine. It also will help close the lower esophageal sphincter. I hate those words, they're so hard to say.

Michelle Llamas

Real quick, let's ... Yeah, let's describe that sphincter a little bit for people that might not be familiar with it.

Rebecca Montrone

All right. Okay. All right. I love to do that, because the sphincters ... Okay, so you have the sphincter, the lower esophageal sphincter, between the esophagus and the stomach, so that's the gateway. Picture that as a gatekeeper. It's going to open the door. It opens the door to let your food in. If there's not enough acid in your stomach ... If there is enough acid in your stomach to really do a nice digestion at that level, it closes nice and tight. That's going to prevent sloshing up of stuff later on, if there's-

Michelle Llamas

Ah, interesting. Okay, so here's the ... That's the interesting thing here then.

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah, right.

Michelle Llamas

When there is more acid, it works the right way as it's supposed to.

Rebecca Montrone

Right.

Michelle Llamas

Interesting.

Rebecca Montrone

Right. Then here, you don't have enough acid in the stomach, not only is the lower esophageal sphincter not happy, but the pyloric sphincter, which is at the other end of the stomach, to let the stuff go into the intestine, doesn't want to open because it's like, "You have not digested properly in this stomach area and we're not ready for you. You're not ready for us." That's why people if they feel bloated for a long time after eating, that's because your pyloric sphincter is saying, "No, stay out, stay out, stay out." It doesn't want that stuff, but it eventually has to take it, because that's what-

Michelle Llamas

Yeah.

Rebecca Montrone

You got to get on with stuff. Then people will have-

Michelle Llamas

Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

They'll have that stuff that was supposed to be broken down, but it wasn't, so now it's in the intestine, and it's creating all this gas. It screws up everything.

Michelle Llamas

Not enough acid makes everything go crazy.

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

Then when people are having the reflux, like you mentioned, it's because the sphincters are not closing correctly, right? Because of the lack of acid.

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah. Also, the stomach is saying, "We didn't digest this food properly and it's just a big mess," so now that it has had to pass on, and move to the intestine, and go on down, the stomach is now overproducing acid at the wrong time, and there's nothing there to digest, so then you get the acid reflux. That's really, that's ... The initial thing is you need to have acid when you're eating. It's called hypochlorhydria, I think is what it's called. Then the other things, I use mastic gum. It's a resin, it comes from the mastic tree in Greece, and it is fantastic for healing ulcers. Anywhere in that area, the lower esophagus, the stomach, the duodenum, whether it's from h pylori, bacteria infection. Which guess what? If you're on a PPI you're at much greater risk for having, because you don't have the acid to kill it.

Michelle Llamas

This is the infection that causes all kinds of things, diarrhea-

Rebecca Montrone

Yes. Ulcers-

Michelle Llamas

Malnutrition-

Rebecca Montrone

Yep. We can use the mastic to heal the ulcers even if they're not related to h pylori, even if they're related to somebody taking too many anti-inflammatories, too much ibuprofen, or something like that. It's wonderful. That way, it really soothes and heals those tissues. To ease and heal we can do aloe vera. You can drink aloe vera a couple times a day. Aloe vera juice is good. Then when you're healing these tissues, then if you are on a proton pump inhibitor, you want to go really slowly. Once you feel things ... You've been on these healing things, and then do a very slow ween, because here the parietal cells have been ... They've not been able to release the acid that they're supposed to because they don't have the electrical current that the proton pumps are supposed to be doing to make you function properly.

Are you suffering from complications after taking a PPI? Get a Free Case Review

They've been kind of like, "Eh, we can't release it," but they've still been creating it to a certain extent, and they're swollen, and the gastrone in the stomach is another source of acid and it's been trying to prompt those parietal cells to let it go, and it's not been doing that, so if all of a sudden you've been taking a proton pump inhibitor every day, and you just stop taking it, you will be on fire because that ... Both parietal cells will unleash you know what.

Michelle Llamas

That's important. Anybody listening that is, "I want to get off this drug now," and-

Rebecca Montrone

Right.

Michelle Llamas

They're actually supposed to only be for short-term use, even you see on the initial ... The instructions, short-term use, but-

Rebecca Montrone

Right.

Michelle Llamas

Doctors have been basically giving them to people and they've been on them for a long time. Like you were mentioning, especially if you've been on a regiment of PPIs, but you want to be careful with the weening, like you said.

Rebecca Montrone

Exactly.

Michelle Llamas

Also, but you mentioned a bunch of really cool alternatives for people. On that note, you probably don't just want people running around buying any old thing on the internet, or whatever, and just start taking this stuff. I would think that they probably still have to go see a professional maybe to help them, right? Maybe a good-

Rebecca Montrone

Well-

Michelle Llamas

Going to a nutritionist might be good. What do you think on that?

Rebecca Montrone

I don't know, I think these things are-

Michelle Llamas

Okay.

Rebecca Montrone

Yes, they're safe, so you can buy DGL, the deglycyrrhizinated licorice easily. Jarrow makes one. It's a chewable. It's inexpensive. Just follow the bottle directions. You can take digestive enzymes with betaine hydrochloride, that's betaine HCL, before meals. I don't think this is rocket science.

Michelle Llamas

Not like taking a pharmaceutical, another-

Rebecca Montrone

Right.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah.

Rebecca Montrone

Iodine, I love the tablet form of Lugol Solution, which is Iodoral, and I would recommend taking one caplet of that a day to get to the underlying issue. Most of us probably aren't making enough stomach acid to begin with. The mastic, Jarrow makes one. Others do. Nutricology I believe. Plenty, but you can't go wrong. It'll tell you, "Take two 500 milligram capsules a day." That's exactly what you should do. Then, aloe vera, I love George's Aloe Vera Juice, because they take out the part that tastes bad.

Michelle Llamas

Oh, that's always good. Yeah.

Rebecca Montrone

It still works, because it tastes just like water-

Michelle Llamas

Because I've tried it before and I'm like, "Ew."

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah. I know.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah.

Rebecca Montrone

I know how ... All I'm saying is, yeah, these things aren't ... They're not hard to do. If you do have problems with heartburn, as you're coming out of it, and you're healing things, and you're coming off your PPI, simple sodium bicarbonate, some baking soda in water after-

Michelle Llamas

Oh, there you go.

Rebecca Montrone

Your meals if you're feeling that way.

Michelle Llamas

Everybody's got that. Everybody's got that in the house. You mentioned, apple cider vinegar, right? Which is another way-

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

To get your acid up, that is.

Rebecca Montrone

Right. Think about our cultures, our cultures of cuisine throughout our history, and how a salad with some vinegar is usually perceived your main course with the protein that the stomach digests, and things like that, so if you ... A lot of our just native ways we've done things in whatever culture have kind of put that in there. Another big part of making proper stomach acid for eating is enjoying the preparation process, and the smelling, and maybe tasting as you're cooking. That all primes your stomach to start making this acid. The drive up to the McDonald's window doesn't do that.

Michelle Llamas

No, it doesn't.

Rebecca Montrone

You have not prepared your stomach at all if you're just throwing all this stuff in there and-

Michelle Llamas

No, and you're eating while you're driving, you're in poor posture. You're just woofing it down, you're not even giving your body time to realize it's eating, right?

Rebecca Montrone

Exactly. Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

That's kind of ... A lot of it has been simple mindfulness with how you eat as well.

Rebecca Montrone

Exactly.

Michelle Llamas

You've got to actually take the time to eat.

Rebecca Montrone

Sure. Another thing about our culinary heritage is in that salad you also have bitters. If you're eating a salad with bitter greens and things, the bitters are going to promote that acid production in your stomach that you vitally need for that first-

Michelle Llamas

Bitters-

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

Are we talking arugula, or like-

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah, arugula's-

Michelle Llamas

Arugula.

Rebecca Montrone

A perfect example. Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

Super bitter, but good too.

Rebecca Montrone

I love it. Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah.

Rebecca Montrone

There's things that we're just-

Michelle Llamas

Great.

Rebecca Montrone

Avoiding ... We've got a lot of things against us in our food supply, in our environment today. One of them would be the lack of iodine, which is huge and foundational for that. Another would be the rushed paced, and just throwing food in there whenever without sort of that process of getting our bodies primed for that. The list goes on and on. You can fix these things and fix them. That's the important thing, because the proton pump inhibitors don't fix anything but your pain. That pain you're complaining of. That's all it is taking care of, and it's causing a lot more problems in your body for down the road, and it's not helping you with your digestion, or anything. It's not doing anything about that.

Michelle Llamas

Well, cool. I mean, you've given us so much good stuff here and I'm going to, of course, put links to your information page if anybody needs to get ahold of you, and has more questions, or is interested in starting a treatment plan with you, or anything like that. They'll have all the information. Before we go-

Rebecca Montrone

Great.

Michelle Llamas

Is there any final stuff that you would like to let people know about PPIs?

Rebecca Montrone

Just don't do them. Do not.

Michelle Llamas

Just don't do them, yeah. There you go-

Rebecca Montrone

Don't-

Michelle Llamas

Just don't do it.

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah, don't.

Michelle Llamas

It's not a lifesaving medication, right?

Rebecca Montrone

It is not.

Michelle Llamas

It's something that you can actually think about not taking and maybe if you all of a sudden have high blood sugar, or anything like that, don't stop taking-

Rebecca Montrone

Right.

Michelle Llamas

Your meds, but-

Rebecca Montrone

Exactly. Yeah, I might have a problem with certain blood pressure medications, but I never mess with that. I'm not... We try to get your blood pressure down, but we're not going to ... I'm not going to say, "Don't do that." I am going to say with the PPIs, don't do that.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah. Don't do it.

Rebecca Montrone

If you are on, then ween off slowly. A ween off slowly, by the way, would be, in my opinion, skip a day, and do that for a few weeks, then skip two days, and do that for a few weeks, and don't be in a big hurry.

Michelle Llamas

Awesome. Well, but the important thing is that you've started the process to healing at this point.

Rebecca Montrone

Yeah.

Michelle Llamas

The body knows what to do after you give it time to heal.

Rebecca Montrone

It does.

Michelle Llamas

Anyway, thanks so much for coming back on the show.

Rebecca Montrone

Thank you, Michelle.

Michelle Llamas

We'll definitely probably see each other again here on the show.

Rebecca Montrone

Okay, I would love it.

Michelle Llamas

Yeah.

Rebecca Montrone

Thanks for the work you're doing.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.

Share This Page:
Michelle Llamas, Senior Content Writer
Written By Michelle Llamas Senior Writer

Michelle Llamas has been writing articles and producing podcasts about drugs, medical devices and the FDA for seven years. She specializes in fluoroquinolone antibiotics, vaccines and products that affect women’s health such as Essure birth control, transvaginal mesh and talcum powder. Michelle collaborates with experts, including board-certified doctors, patients and advocates, to provide trusted health information to the public. Some of her qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Engage Committee and Membership Committee member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in The Lancet, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and the Journal for Palliative Medicine
Who Am I Calling?

Calling this number connects you with Wilson and Peterson, LLP or one of its trusted legal partners. A law firm representative will review your case for free.

Wilson and Peterson, LLP funds Drugwatch because it supports the organization’s mission to keep people safe from dangerous drugs and medical devices.

(844) 440-8662