by Dr. Vikki Petersen


You know that all drugs have side effects. I don’t need to tell you that. But did you know that one of the most prescribed medications in the US increases your risk for celiac disease?

Proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers are prescribed for acid reflux, heartburn and ulcers (both of the stomach and the intestine). The common names that you may be familiar with are: Nexium (Esomeprazole), Prevacid (Lansoprazole), Prilosec (Omeprazole), Aciphex (Rabeprazole) and Protonix (Pantoprazole). These drugs are some of the most common drugs prescribed in the US. In 2009 they were the third-largest class of drug sold with $13.6 billion in sales, representing more than 110 million prescriptions.

And They Seem to be Over Prescribed…. by Alot!

Dr Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health estimates that a full 60-70% of the patients taking proton pump inhibitors don’t actually need them and should try lifestyle changes instead. I couldn’t agree more.

Handling heartburn and acid reflux are symptoms that we find handle readily, easily and quite quickly when you institute the proper lifestyle changes. And those changes are typically diet related. Often during the first week or two of care, patients are positively amazed to find their chronic heartburn or acid reflux gone. And all they’ve changed is their diet.

There is a Better Solution – a Natural Solution

Why then do we over-medicate millions when a simple dietary change would do? I think the biggest problem lies in the way we ‘do’ healthcare in this country. People expect a pill; they anticipate receiving a drug, and they don’t particularly want to have to change their diet. Does anyone want to change their diet, really? We like what we like and eat what we like and we’re not keen on someone asking us to change.

Believe me, as a clinical nutritionist who’s been doing this for over two decades, I truly understand. How many hundreds, thousands of patients have I had to convince of the benefit of at least trying a hypoallergenic diet. Yes, there have been many and I have had lots of practice at convincing people. It’s not hard for me because I know what awaits them on the other side – better health! So I hold their hands through the changes and struggles and we are both delighted at the results.

The problem with mainstream medicine is that isn’t part of their vocabulary – dietary change to prevent the use of medication just isn’t what they do – to their patient’s detriment in my opinion.

An Increased Risk of Celiac Disease is One Side Effect

A recent study (September 2013) out of Sweden published in Digestive and Liver Disease revealed that patients on these medications had a higher risk of developing celiac disease than those individuals who didn’t take these drugs. Why?

It’s not a particular stretch when you appreciate one of the well known side effects of the drugs, and that is a lowering of the immune system resulting in an increased incidence of bacterial infection along with bone fractures. This data was disclosed in a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

An Increased Risk of Serious Bacterial Infection is Another Side Effect

Two studies revealed that a particularly dangerous bacterium, Clostridium difficile, often called C. diff, occurs at an increased rate in those taking these drugs. C. diff can be an extremely difficult to treat and dangerous bacterial infection, occurring in the intestines. What then is the association between this infection and proton pump inhibitors? Very simply, the natural acid produced in the stomach tends to kill the bacteria. When that acid is being suppressed by the drug, the bacteria go on to infect the intestine, sometimes with life threatening consequences. It is the likely the mechanism of lowering the immune system of the gut that also increases the incidence of celiac disease.

Recall that we now understand the initiation of celiac disease requires 3 factors:

• the presence of the genes

• the ingestion of gluten

• an unhealthy gut – it is here that these drugs cause their negative influence.

The takeaway is to certainly avoid any medication when at all possible, as they all have side effects. But especially when it comes to these drugs that according to experts are extremely over-prescribed, try to find a doctor who can work with you to get to the true root cause of your symptoms and, if possible, utilize a natural approach to address them. I hope you found this helpful.



dr vikki petersen

Dr. Vikki Petersen, a Doctor of Chiropractic and Certified Clinical Nutritionist, is founder of the renowned HealthNOW Medical Center in Sunnyvale, California. She is co-author of The Gluten Effect: How “Innocent” Wheat Is Ruining Your Health
a bestselling book that has been celebrated by leading experts as an epic leap forward in gluten sensitivity diagnosis and treatment.

HealthNOW Medical Center serves San Jose, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Mountain View – and all cities of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.It is also a Destination Clinic, treating patients from across the country and internationally.