One more reason to pass on the purple pill

You remember that long list of PPI side effects I shared with you yesterday? Well, here’s another risk to tack onto that list — chronic liver disease.

That’s right. A team of researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine recently published evidence of this deadly connection. And while it may sound shocking, it actually makes perfect sense.

For starters, experiments in mice confirmed that PPIs alter the microbiome — and not for the better. By artificially suppressing stomach acid, they swing the door open for bacteria like Enterococcus to overgrow. And that gut imbalance, as with so many other diseases, is where the trouble starts.

Why? Because these bacteria are able to migrate to your liver, where they can (and do) trigger inflammation and worsen all forms of liver disease.

Case in point: Analysis of a cohort of nearly 5,000 chronic alcohol abusers showed that using PPIs raised stool concentrations of Enterococcus bacteria. It also raised rates of liver disease by more than eight percent, just as animal models suggested it would.

This is a big problem for a lot of reasons, a major one being: rates of liver disease are higher now than ever. And it’s no longer just alcoholics at risk. In fact, as much as a third of the population — and as many as one in 10 children — are now in the crosshairs.

Expanding waistlines paired with our national addiction to sugar have burdened American livers with heavier loads than ever before. As a consequence, fatty liver disease — not to mention liver cancer — has emerged as the next big Western health crisis.

And as it turns out, PPIs — which include wildly popular drugs like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid — could be fanning these flames.

If that’s not a scandal, I don’t know what is. But of course, you can count on this being another red flag that “needs more investigation” before the powers that be bother to issue so much as a warning.

For now, at least the authors of this study are on the right track. Their conclusion? “We believe clinicians should consider withholding medications that suppress gastric acid unless there is a strong medical indication.”

You can say that again.