The longer you take a PPI, the older your insides are

You know what it's like driving on aging roads and highways.

It's uncomfortable, nerve-wracking, and dangerous -- and let's not even get into all the expensive damage it's doing to your car.

There's an elaborate highway system inside your own body, too -- and the latest research shows how some of today's most commonly-used meds can rapidly age it. You could pay dearly... in the form of serious health problems.

The proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used by millions to control heartburn and acid reflux can damage your superhighway of veins, arteries, and capillaries.

When they're young and healthy, those blood vessels are like the world's most efficient highway system, allowing blood to quickly deliver oxygen and nutrients around your body.

Not even FedEx can do it as well!

As you get older, you get the buildups and blockages that tie up "traffic," leading to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

While time alone can cause that damage, certain things can speed it up -- including bad habits and bad meds such as PPIs.

In experiments using two PPIs -- including the popular drug esomeprazole (a.k.a. Nexium) -- researchers found signs of premature aging, including a dramatic shift in the texture and appearance of arteries.

After prolonged exposure to the PPIs in the in vitro study, artery linings transformed from a smooth roadway into one that catches everything in its path -- the perfect condition for the formation of a deadly blockage. One researcher went so far a to compare it to a Teflon coating turning into Velcro.

And that's not all they discovered.

The drugs work, as their name suggests, by blocking more than just the gastric proton pump, which stops the parietal cells in your stomach from pumping out acid. The study finds they also block ANOTHER type of acid-making cell, called lysosomes, which are found all over your body.

Lysosomes are like the garbage man for your body's cells: They help clear junk out. But taking a PPI keeps the garbage man off his route -- and the trash accumulates.

In the real world, that leads to streets filled with debris. Inside your body, all that cellular trash is a sign of aging...and the disease risks that come with it.

AstraZeneca, which makes Nexium, insists the drug is safe when used "in accordance with the label" -- which means short-term use.

Here's the problem with that: Reflux isn't a short-term problem for most of the people who have it. They suffer for months... or years.

Besides, the fact that PPIs are now available over the counter makes it easy for acid reflux sufferers to take them far too much, for far too long.

That can set the stage for the rapid aging seen in the new study as well as other serious problems, including dangerous deficiencies in key nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12.

Why face those risks when you don't have to?

In many cases, stomach acid problems are caused or worsened by sensitivities to certain foods or food additives. Sometimes, the cause is obvious -- such as spicy foods or alcohol.

But most of the time, it's not. It could be a "hidden" ingredient such as MSG or a widely-used one such as gluten.

You can try to learn the triggers on your own with a food-challenge diet, or you can work with a doctor who can run some tests to help figure out your triggers.

Over time, you'll learn what's causing your reflux... and how to avoid it, no drugs needed.

For one-on-one help with reflux, make an appointment to see me here at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine in the San Diego area.

Not in Southern California? I can also offer advice by phone. Call 855-DOC-MARK to schedule a consultation.