Acid Reflux Medications Linked to Vitamin B12 Deficiency

acid reflux The medications tested were proton pump inhibitors called Prilosec (Omeprazole), Nexium (Esomeprazole Magnesium) and Prevacid (Lansoprazole).

Acid reflux symptoms include heartburn pain, tightness in the throat, shortness of breath, or a feeling that something is stuck in the throat. Any suspected acid reflux symptoms should be examined by a physician. Up to half the US population may have acid reflux problems. Acid reflux can be triggered by certain foods (especially acidic or spicy foods), alcohol and smoking. Chronic acid reflux can cause cellular changes in the esophagus that could lead to cancer.

The medications in question reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. They are typically taken daily for a two-week period from the over-the-counter packets. Doctors can subscribe or recommend proton pump inhibitors to their patients for longer-term use. People in the study who took these medications for more than two years had a sixty-five percent increased incidence of developing a deficiency in the crucial nutrient vitamin B12.

This vitamin is found naturally in meat. Vegetarians and vegans are warned that vitamin B12 is not naturally in their diet. They often get B12 from a tasty, yellow powder called “nutritional yeast,” which can be sprinkled on popcorn or used in various recipes. Some non-meat-eaters choose to supplement B12 with an injection from the doctor or an oral spray. Obviously, most of the people in the study were not likely vegetarians; it is false logic to think that eating large quantities of meat would counter-act the side effects of proton pump inhibitors.

The researchers have a theory about why proton pump inhibitors are linked to vitamin B12 deficiency. They mentioned that the same cell that manufactures stomach acid also makes a protein that assists with the absorption of vitamin B12.

A doctor should be consulted if there is any concern about vitamin B12 supplementation or deficiency. A simple blood test can detect the levels of vitamin B12 in the body. Always consult your physician before stopping or starting any drug or supplement regimen. You must weigh the risk of side effects against the value of any medication.

Editor’s note: We sometimes find that pure aloe vera juice can be helpful in supporting acid reflux symptoms. Also, we have found support by taking apple cider vinegar — 2 or 3 teaspoons (10-15 ml) in an 8 ounce glass of water, before meals or whenever heartburn is experienced. Additionally, some of our patients have tried Swedish Bitters.

Study: Proton Pump Inhibitor and Histamine 2 Receptor Antagonist Use and Vitamin B12 Deficiency by J.R. Lam et al. Journal of the American Medical Association December 11, 2013; 310(22):2435-2442