It’s not like I expected any better from a Men’s Health article reprinted on the Health section of MSN’s website, but I was still annoyed after reading about the 8 Drugs Doctors Wouldn’t Take. I skimmed most of the article because most of the drugs doctors wouldn’t take are also drugs for which I have no need. Except for number five, Prilosec and Nexium.
Now, I don’t take prescription Prilosec or Nexium because my health insurance decided long ago when Prilosec became available OTC that it would be much better for them if I would use my own dollars to pay for this medicine, thanks. These days, I technically don’t take Prilosec at all, since Walgreens, bless ’em, now sells a generic version. But I do take a proton-pump inhibitor, omeprazole, nearly every day. Sometimes, on bad days (like, for example, today), I take three or four of these fuckers.
I am certainly alarmed to discover that doing so might result in a heart attack as well as increase my risk of pneumonia and bone loss, but for right now, the possibility of developing those ailments feels distant and unlikely, whereas the incredible, breath-stealing, throat burning, wretch-inducing, gut-clenching, audible-moan-inciting pain that I experience when I don’t take the pills is quite immediate.* For the moment, I’m willing to gamble that “no likely connection” between proton pump inhibitors and heart attacks actually means “no likely connection” between proton pump inhibitors and heart attacks. And pneumonia and bone loss, because nothing ramps up the capacity for denial like chronic stomach pain, eh?
Still, given that the older I get, the greater the risks posed by omeprazole become, I would certainly like to discuss other options with my doctor. Despite my generally high regard for my personal doctor, I’m suspicious of the conversation given that one doctor quoted in the article recommends taking Zantac (at which my personal stomach issues LAUGH RIOTOUSLY because seriously Zantac, Tagamet, and those other histamine blockers are about as effective as eating this bowl of paperclips on my desk) and the other doctor suggests, of course, being thin:
“To really cure the problem, lose weight,” says Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and co-author of “YOU: The Owner’s Manual.” That’s because when you’re overweight, excess belly fat puts pressure on and changes the angle of your esophagus, pulling open the valve that’s supposed to prevent stomach-acid leaks. This in turn makes it easier for that burning sensation to travel up into your chest.
I developed acid reflux when I was in my early 20s and weighed 130 pounds, and I have had it ever since–as a skinny person, chubby person, and a downright fat person. Since developing reflux, I’ve been skinny and then fat and then skinny and then fat again, and while my weight fluctuates like the tides, one thing that never goes away for any great duration is my searing stomach pain. (I have also suffered from acid reflux as a regular exerciser, as a slothful couch potato, as a pack-a-day smoker, as a only-smoke-when-I-drink-smoker, as a non-smoker, as a vegetarian, as an Atkins dieter, as a heavy drinker, as a tea-totaller (or, as close to a tea totaller as I ever get), as a coffee drinker, as a tea drinker, as a water drinker, as a stress-case, as a zen-like relaxed person, as a single woman, as a married person, as a red-head and as a brunette, as a resident of six different states, and as I pursued three different careers.) I know fat people with acid reflux. I know skinny people with acid reflux. I mean, hell, have you ever tried to eat with stomach acid roiling up into your esophagus? It’s a wonder that fat and acid reflux are linked at all.
Perhaps this is what the great Dr. Roizen is actually suggesting! Leaving your acid reflux untreated so that you are unable to eat, until you lose enough weight that the reflux magically corrects itself. Or you die. Whichever. I guess we’ll have to buy his book and find out.
*You know, I’m also sort of fascinated by this side effect (lol get it) of the over-the-counterization of pharmaceuticals. Before my doctor would write me a prescription for Nexium, back when it was prescription only, he subjected me to a few blood tests to make sure I didn’t have an ulcer. Satisfied that I did not have an ulcer, the doctor assumed I had acid reflux (there might have been some fat prejudice there, since I was fat the first time I actually sought treatment for chronic heartburn, although I’d experienced it for about eight years by then) and away I went. Shortly thereafter, my insurance company dropped proton pump inhibitors from their list of covered drugs and I have been self medicating ever since. When the pain gets worse, I take more pills. Every once in awhile, I skip a couple of days to see if whatever ails me has miraculously resolved itself and then spend the next three days in severe pain, doubling up on the pills, and eating nothing with a pH under 7. At this point, there could be a giant acid-producing alien parasite in my stomach and I would never know, because I don’t need to go to a doctor for this medicine, so why should I seek medical care for a condition that is, as far as I’m concerned, treatable. If inconvenient.