Are Heartburn Medicines Bad For Your Kidneys?

Yes, you got it right, looks like medication for heartburn can give you heartburn! One that leads straight to your kidneys. Heartburn is simply a burning sensation in the esophagus caused by indigestion and acid reflux. Normally, a muscular valve in the lower esophagus keeps the stomach acid down but if this opens up or leaks then stomach acid flows up, causing a burning feeling.

If this acid reflux is occasional, it can be tolerable. But with current lifestyles, heartburn is becoming quite a chronic disease for many. And in these conditions you typically tend to reach out for medication.

What Soothes The Burn?

If the heartburn is occasional then a dose of over-the-counter antacid may do the trick. But most people across the world are increasingly reaching out for strong medications like H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), both prescription-based and over-the-counter. While antacids aim to neutralize the acid effect, H2 blockers block histamines in the stomach, hence reducing acid production. PPIs also reduce the acid production by the stomach. This is important because studies show that heartburn or GERD

(gastro-esophageal reflux disease) doesn’t go away easily, with a majority of patients across demographics and medication styles continuing to experience it even after 3 years.1

PPI And The Kidney

PPIs, one of the most widely prescribed medications, were thought to be a relatively safe answer to acid reflux, chronic heartburn, and similar ailments. Recent studies, however, are showing that the side effects could be really significant, with even kidney failure being an outcome of this drug-to-drug interaction.

Kidney or renal complications have also been recorded in equal measure. Acute interstitial nephritis (AIN) is the most common outcome of regular usage of PPIs. Multiple studies across the globe have now established that PPIs are the leading cause of drug-induced AIN. AIN symptoms include hypersensitivity, rashes, fever, and eosinophilia. Given the variety of symptoms, which can easily be mistaken for that of some other illness, a biopsy

is usually performed to establish the incidence of AIN. One study showed that patients who took PPIs regularly had a 96% increased risk of developing kidney failure and a 28% increased risk of chronic kidney disease when compared to the patients on H2 blockers.2

Can Ayurveda Help?

With new light being thrown on heartburn and the risks to the kidney, many chronic heartburn sufferers are turning to the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda.

An imbalance in the pitta element is thought to cause heartburn and reflux.3 Ayurveda recommends that spicy, fried, and sour foods and alcohol be avoided or at least limited. Lifestyle modifications and stress management through yoga and pranayama (especially kapalbhati and agnisar kriya) are also thought to help.4

Some practitioners focus on a series of treatments that include enema, intake of ghee (clarified butter), and certain herbal medicines.5 One study found that patients given eladi churna, a potent herbal medicine, for 8 weeks experienced significant relief from symptoms of amlapitta (amla meaning acidic or citric), which correlates to acid regurgitation and GERD.6