Did you know?

If you are taking medication for heartburn, you may be taking a proton pump inhibitor. There are potential risks when taking a proton pump inhibitor for longer than necessary. Keep reading to find out more.

Which heartburn meds are called proton pump inhibitors? 

Proton pump inhibitors reduce the production of acid in the stomach. They are commonly prescribed to treat stomach problems such as heartburn, reflux and ulcers, and can also be used to prevent ulcers in people at high risk. Proton pump inhibitors are often abbreviated as “PPIs”.


Examples of Proton Pump Inhibitors:

  • Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant)

  • Esomeprazole (Nexium, Nexium 24HR)

  • Lansoprazole (Prevacid)

  • Omeprazole (Losec, Olex OTC)

  • Pantoprazole (Pantoloc, Tecta)

  • Rabeprazole (Pariet)

Can proton pump inhibitors cause harm?

PPIs are usually well tolerated when taken the right way at the right time. However, treatment often goes on for longer than is needed. Recent research suggests that there are potential risks when staying on a PPI for long periods of time.

Taking a PPI long term has been linked to:

  • Vitamin B12 and magnesium deficiency

  • A higher risk of breaking your hip

  • Pneumonia

  • An infection with the bacteria Clostridium difficile, which can lead to severe diarrhea, fever, and in rare cases, death

  • A higher risk of kidney problems

In addition, PPIs may cause or contribute to side effects such as headache, nausea, diarrhea, rash and interactions with other medications.  

Should I stop my proton pump inhibitor?

Always speak to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse before stopping your proton pump inhibitor. Some people should continue to take their PPI long-term. Your doctor, pharmacist or nurse can help you understand the potential benefits and harms of continuing a PPI.

Make an appointment to speak to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse if you:

  • No longer have heartburn or have infrequent symptoms

  • Have been taking your PPI for longer than 12 weeks

  • Do not have a reason to continue your PPI long-term (see the list of reasons below)

Reasons to continue taking a PPI for more than 12 weeks:

It is recommended that you continue using your proton pump inhibitors if you:

  • Take medications that irritate the stomach, such as anti-inflammatory medications (for example ibuprofen or corticosteroids)

  • Have had a major stomach bleed

Or if you have been diagnosed with:

  • Barrett’s esophagus

  • Severe esophagitis

How should I stop my proton pump inhibitor?

Always speak to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse before deciding to stop your PPI. You may be hesitant to stop your PPI if you have been taking it for a long time. However, you can make a plan that works for you by talking to your healthcare professional and using the SaferMedsNL tools and resources.

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse to develop a plan for stopping your PPI.


Your plan may involve:

  • Reducing the dose of your current PPI

  • Stopping your regular PPI and only take your PPI when needed

  • Using non-drug alternatives

  • Managing occasional symptoms with antacids or an acid blocker

Not sure how to talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about stopping your proton pump inhibitor?

For some resources that can help start the conversation:

What are my alternatives to taking PPI’s?

You can reduce heartburn without using a PPI by making these simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Watch what you eat:

The following foods may trigger your heartburn. You might want to avoid:

  • Alcohol, coffee

  • Fried, fatty or junk food

  • Citrus fruits

  • Food with lots of tomatoes

  • Onions and garlic

  • Spicy food

Other tips to prevent heartburn:

  • Eat smaller meals

  • Avoid alcoholic beverages

  • Stop smoking. Studies show that smoking increases your risk of heartburn and acid reflux.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can increase your risk of heartburn or acid reflux.

  • Avoid eating just before bed or lying down. If you suffer from heartburn while sleeping, try raising your head off your bed by 6-8 inches or try using extra pillows.   

  • Do not wear tight clothes. The added pressure from tight-fitting clothes or belts that constrict your abdomen can make heartburn worse