New evidence links acid reflux medication to migraine headaches

Medications to treat stomach issues might be linked to headaches - ConsumerAffairs

Things change when you add in age, sex, and alcohol

Here we go with acid reflux medications, again. First, it was their connection to dementia. Then, a connection to diabetes

Now, a new study says those same medications could possibly have an association with headaches – the migraine variety or worse. 

If you've ever dealt with acid reflux, you know what a terrible experience it is. The individual episodes are bad enough with the associated heartburn, but if acid reflux continues, people can develop ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which can lead to cancer of the esophagus. 

“Given the wide usage of acid-reducing drugs and these potential implications with migraine, these results warrant further investigation,” said study author Margaret Slavin, of the University of Maryland in College Park.

“These drugs are often considered to be overprescribed, and new research has shown other risks tied to long-term use of proton pump inhibitors, such as an increased risk of dementia.”

Slavin’s team looked at data on 11,818 people who use acid-reducing drugs and whether they had migraines or severe headaches in the past three months. Those prescription medications included:

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): A powerful type of heartburn medication, often found in both prescription and over-the-counter forms (examples include omeprazole, lansoprazole, and esomeprazole)., 

  • H2 Receptor Antagonists (H2RAs): Another class of acid suppressors, known for their quick relief (examples include famotidine, ranitidine, and cimetidine).

  • Antacids: These over-the-counter medications provide temporary relief from heartburn (examples include calcium carbonate and aluminum hydroxide).

It’s important to note that brand name, over-the-counter medications such as Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec, Pepcid, Zantac 360, Tums, Alka-Seltzer, and Rolaids, were not studied.

The results

The results were pretty even across the board. All told, 25% of participants taking proton pump inhibitors reported migraines or severe headaches, compared to 19% of those not taking the drugs. 

For those who took H2 blockers, 25% of them wound up with nasty headaches, compared to 20% of those who weren’t taking those drugs. 

As for those who took antacids, 22% had severe headaches, compared to 20% of those not taking antacids. 

But when you add in other factors such as age, sex, caffeine, and alcohol, things get a little more interesting.

Adjusting their findings with those additions, researchers determined that people taking proton pump inhibitors were 70% more likely to have migraines than people who didn’t take proton pump inhibitors.

It was considerably better for those who took H2 blockers and antacids. Those taking H2 blockers were 40% more likely and those taking antacid supplements were 30% more likely.

“It’s important to note that many people do need acid-reducing medications to manage acid reflux or other conditions, and people with migraine or severe headache who are taking these drugs or supplements should talk with their doctors about whether they should continue,” Slavin said.  

PPIs may have connections to other problems, too

Is there anything else that these acid reflux meds might have a connection to? Yes, particularly proton pump inhibitors. Studies have shown that frequent use of PPIs can mess with a person’s absorption of important nutrients, such as iron, Vitamin B12, and magnesium.

There is also a connection between PPIs and iron, with a possibility of increased risk of iron deficiency anemia

Vitamin B12? If you overdo it with a PPI, it can raise the risk of B12 deficiency, which in turn, could potentially lead to neurological issues. 

Do you experience a lot of infections – like the gut infection C.diff or pneumonia? You might want to check with your doctor to discuss whether the research that suggests the PPIs have a connection there, might be connected to your issues with infections. 

Need cash now? Use our Personal Loans Tool to lock in great offers in minutes!