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December 22, 2022
Omeprazole (Prilosec) for Acid Reflux: Is It the Best Option?
Among the 20% of Americans who suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), many reach for omeprazole—also known as Prilosec—for relief (1).
It’s a type of drug called a PPI, or proton pump inhibitor. A PPI helps curb symptoms of acid reflux, a common occurrence associated with GERD, by reducing the amount of acid your stomach produces. PPIs have been around since 1981, and are available by prescription or in over-the-counter form.
While omeprazole is especially popular among people suffering from GERD, it is also used for managing ulcers, certain stomach infections, conditions that cause excess stomach acid, and esophagitis. It’s estimated that as many as 15 million Americans take PPIs.
However, most doctors recommend that people only take PPIs for short periods of time. They only treat symptoms of GERD. They don’t resolve the root cause of the disease, and long-term use of the drug is associated with a range of health risks (2).
Side Effects of Omeprazole
While many people take omeprazole without experiencing side effects, there is a risk of the following (3):
Omeprazole may also increase the risk of the following health concerns:
- Spine and Wrist Fractures in Postmenopausal People (especially if you’ve been taking it for over a year or at a high dose) (4)
- Pneumonia (5)
- Deficiencies of Vitamin B12 or Magnesium (6)
- Bacterial Colon Inflammation
Long-term use of omeprazole also comes along with a more serious set of risks. This is one of the reasons that experts usually suggest only taking PPIs for 4 to 8 weeks unless your doctor says otherwise. Long-term omeprazole use may increase the risk of gastric cancer and chronic kidney disease, or even an increased risk of mortality (7, 8, 9).
Unfortunately, omeprazole also comes with another downside: the difficulty of quitting the drug. Many people who stop taking PPIs experience a rebound in stomach acid production, even if their GERD is under control and being treated (10, 11). Experts advise that after quitting, people may experience acid reflux symptoms for about two weeks. After that, the rebound hyperacidity will usually resolve and you’ll feel like yourself again.
Interactions of Omeprazole
An important thing to note is that omeprazole can interact with the blood thinner Plavix and reduce its effectiveness, so avoid taking these two drugs together. Other drugs that should not be taken with omeprazole include:
- St. John’s wort
If you take other medications and are considering taking a PPI, always check with your doctor first. Some drugs may interact with omeprazole but can still be taken with them, but in this case, you’ll want your doctor to know so that you can monitor for any potential issues.
Other PPI Medications Like Omeprazole
There are other PPIs that work like omeprazole. Some are available over the counter, and others require a prescription. They include:
- Esomeprazole (Nexium)
- Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
- Pantoprazole sodium (Protonix)
- Rabeprazole sodium (Aciphex)
- Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant, Kapidex)
Safe, Natural Alternatives to Omeprazole
If you’re looking to stop taking PPIs, there are natural alternatives that may help get to the root causes of GERD.
A great line of defense against acid reflux is regularly taking probiotics. These healthy gut bacteria can keep your microbiome functioning more smoothly. Research has found that probiotics may decrease acid reflux symptoms and reduce your risk of relapse (12, 13).
Probiotics are an especially great option for people who are coming off long-term use of PPIs, or still taking them. One study found that probiotics could reduce the risk of changes to your gut flora that are caused by long-term use of PPIs (14).
NativePath Probiotics, which feature a custom blend of prebiotic fiber and ten of the most popular probiotic strains, are a simple way to get your symptoms on track. For best results, take one capsule daily before or during a meal.
Other potential alternatives include an HCL supplement, which can help increase your stomach acid (surprisingly, low stomach acid can actually cause heartburn!) (15, 16). HCL supplements that include pepsin are especially helpful, as pepsin can help your stomach digest food more easily (17, 18).
Some people with GERD also reduce symptoms with Iberogast, an herbal blend that can ease symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, and stomach pain—all without a stomach acid flare-up (19, 20).
The Bottom Line
Omeprazole (AKA Prilosec) is a PPI—a common medication for reducing symptoms of GERD. However, omeprazole only treats the symptoms of GERD, not the root cause, and taking a PPI long-term poses serious health risks. Natural alternatives like NativePath Probiotics can help manage GERD symptoms without the risks that come along with PPIs. This unique blend of prebiotics and ten effective probiotic strains is a simple way to ease GERD-related discomfort.
As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.