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Prescription Antacids Linked With Death From Bacterial Infections

Too much stomach acid can cause excruciating pain, but too little may actually be harmful. Stomach acid plays the important function of killing harmful bacteria before it enters the intestinal track, where it can spread to the rest of the body and be potentially fatal.

Researchers from the Naval Medical Center in San Diego found that prescription medication that suppresses stomach acid could put people at higher risk for gastrointestinal infections. The report was published on October 5, 2011, in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Participants in the study included 485 individuals with Clostridium difficile infections. Clostridium difficile is a bacteria found in human feces that is able to survive in most conditions. It can be transferred onto different surfaces through touch and then eventually can make its way into someone's mouth, where they start to reproduce.

Clostridium difficile infections commonly cause diarrhea in hospital patients and are responsible for more deaths in the US than any other intestinal infection. The cells in the stomach can be killed by stomach acid, but absent stomach acid, they can pass through to the intestines.

Of the 485 infected participants in the study, 23 died. Out of those 23, 19 had taken prescription acid suppressants in the 90 days before they were hospitalized. Use of prescription acid suppressants was associated with a 5 times higher risk of dying from this type of bacterial infection.

Use of acid suppressants was also associated with increased risk of complications that resulted in intensive care unit admission, surgery or an abnormally dilated colon.

Probiotic supplements are excellent ways to improve gut health, providing the correct balance of bacteria. The correct balance of bacteria in your stomach should reduce problems such as heartburn and reflux. Foods high in probiotics include yogurt, milk and sauerkraut. You may also consider taking a high quality supplement but make sure it is packaged to block light, air and moisture which can easily kill probiotics.

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