Like any other digestive problem, heartburn has become a common problem. Many suffer from this all over the world, causing patients to turn to readily available heartburn drugs. Unbeknownst to them, they may have already been putting themselves at risk of an acute stomach virus.

A staggering finding was made by researchers. Heartburn drugs, also referred to as acid-relieving medications, may put people at risk of the flu virus. According to a report on NYPost, 80% of those who took the medicines, like Nexium, are at risk of the virus that causes gastroenteritis.

These OTC medicines, generally known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), have been regarded by many as safe. After all, most, over-the-counter meds are considered as safe. However, new research has just disproven this hypothesis. There are side effects, and they’re nasty ones. heartburn drug stomach flu heartburn drug stomach flu Photo: zimt2003

One scientist from the Women’s College Hospital (WCH), Dr. Mina Tadrous, said that only a few people need to be on these meds for a long time, but there are really those who would depend on the long-term. Some of the concerns of Dr. Tadrous were the interaction between PPIs and other drugs. She also mentioned the nutritional concerns, as well as increased risk of infection and fracture.

The study published in JAMA Network Open looked into 233,000 individuals who are taking PPIs. They were compared to a group of 627,000 adults who were not using PPIs.  They found that the PPI group had an 80% more risk of suffering from stomach flu.

The explanation of Dr. Tadrous was that heartburn drugs work to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. It must be remembered that the stomach’s acid also plays a role in fighting against viruses. With a reduction in the amount of acid in the stomach, then it would also reduce the beneficial bacteria that help the body.

“’If you reduce acids, you change the intestinal flora [the beneficial bacteria in the gut known as the microbiome], making you more susceptible to infections,” said Dr. Tadrous.

While there are also researchers who don’t see eye to eye with Tadrous, it would still be best to be on guard with regards to using these drugs. If you’re unsure, it will still be best to consult your doctor.