The holidays are synonymous with a lot of things. Two of them, unfortunately, are heartburn and stomach viruses.
A lot of people out there eat a little too much and a little too fast this time of year. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) offer a quick fix from heartburn and can provide some relief from social overeating. But a new study is showing that PPIs can boost the risk of stomach flu by 80 percent. And with virus season just coming into swing, taking these pills might compromise your immune system and make the holidays hard to enjoy.
The new research, published in JAMA Network Open, made the overwhelming connection when they looked at more than 223,000 people taking PPIs continuously and compared them to almost 627,000 people who were not. Those taking the heartburn meds were more than 80-percent more likely to get the stomach flu during the 2015-2016 winter virus season.
PPIs are commonly used to treat heartburn and are available over the counter across the country. But they’ve been getting a bad rep recently, and their impact on the immune system appears to be another unwanted side effect, adding to the list of a higher risk for bone fractures and digestive problems.
Although there could be several reasons why they have this effect, the leading theory is that they reduce acid that would otherwise fight off viruses. So, in effect, you exchange the discomfort of heartburn for vomiting and diarrhea a little later in the week. It’s also likely that these medications alter gut flora, which can also lead to a weakened immune system.
If you don’t have to take a PPI for a medical reason, there are ways to naturally avoid heartburn and maintain the integrity of your immune system, so it is ready to fight off seasonal infections. Some quick ways to limit heartburn—acid reflux—are to take your time eating your seasonal favorites, practice portion control, and avoid foods you know are likely to give you a reaction.
Try eating more vegetables and nuts, for example, than sweets and stuffing.