14 January 2015: Pills not always the simple solution

You frequently see ads for antacids on TV – you know the ones that generally feature a fire in the gut and a burning throat. The person always seems so unhappy and in so much pain. They also usually briefly show them eating a really crappy meal, the person is often overweight or unhealthy looking. And yet there is always a happy solution – a pill. All is resolved and the person can seemingly eat what they want and live happily ever after as long as they continue to buy these magic pills. These ads have always disturbed me. It seems a false economy where anything can be resolved by a pill. It would be perhaps great if that were true and if that pill, or the associated effects of taking the pill, did not have any other spill over effects. But reality tells us that is unlikely. We know that even if reflux is suppressed and the foods you once thought were off the table can now be eaten, the foods and accompanying lifestyle, that are most often associated with reflux are not conducive to optimal health in other regards. In other words just because the pie and cream puff don’t give you reflux because you know take a pill, does not mean that they are benign in the health stakes. Just because your increasing weight and sedentary lifestyle can be negated, at least when it comes to reflux by your medication does not mean that it isn’t costly you dearly somewhere else. To me these medications have always appeared to be band aids – just covering the issue rather than finding out the true cause and trying to do anything to resolve it. I acknowledge that for some reflux is not easily fixed and that medication may always be necessary, I also acknowledge how serious a condition it is and one that deserves to be taken seriously. It just disturbs me that such as serious condition is not always given he proper thought and attention and that it is tok easily glossed over maybe simply because there is a very easy solution. A solution which requires little to not thought or effort on the part of the doctor or patient. So I found it very interesting, yet not surprising to see research demonstrating that these antacids are having implications beyond that of not solving an issue and allowing inadequate habits to continue. It seems that these proton pump inhibitors decrease the numbers and types of bacteria in your gut. Something that we are better appreciating can have serious and far reaching health consequences. In this study, changing bacteria also appeared to put the patients at greater risk of infections like clostridium difficult and pneumonia, and predispose to vitamin deficiencies and linked complications including increased bone fractures. Like anything it just shows that there are always effects – whether at first visible or not – and that simple solutions are not always so simple. The message seems to come back to trying to get yourself in the best health possible through looking after diet and other lifestyle factors. Medication is often needed but needn’t always be the only or best answer.