But these enzymes only work properly in acidic conditions.If the lysosome is unable to release acid to help with this process (because PPIs have blocked the mechanism), waste material builds up and cells age quicker. Dr Cunningham believes most people with acid reflux should be able to control it simply by quitting smoking (a big risk factor), losing weight or raising the head of the bed by six to eight inches (which stops gravity pulling acid out of the stomach during sleep).
Left untreated, this can develop into oesophageal cancer.
PPIs such as Nexium, Zanprol, Prevacid and Prilosec, work by suppressing the release of stomach acid by cells, called proton pumps, in the stomach lining.
In November last year, scientists at The Danish Heart Foundation in Copenhagen, who tracked 244,000 middle-aged men and women for six years, found taking PPIs increased the risk of stroke by 20 per cent.
An investigation in 2016 by Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands revealed men who regularly took PPIs were three times more likely to have low sperm counts.
He says: ‘PPIs are brilliant drugs for those who genuinely need them such as those with stomach ulcers or Barrett’s oesophagus, but for everyone else it’s a bit like using morphine for a headache.’Yet since 2015, PPIs have been on sale at supermarkets, something opposed by the British Medical Association at the time, which warned that patients could self-medicate with the drugs for years thinking they just had heartburn but could actually have peptic ulcers, cancer or abnormalities of the pancreas or bile ducts.
Asked about PPIs, a spokesman for The Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which represents over-the-counter medicine suppliers, told Good Health: ‘They are appropriate and safe if used in accordance with the clear on-pack instructions and the patient information leaflet inside.‘They are meant for short-term use — up to 14 days.’ Even on prescription, NICE recommends PPIs should not be taken for more than four weeks for acid reflux and eight weeks for severe oesophagitis — a swelling of the gullet.It is important to clarify that the UCL findings do not prove these drugs cause cancer, and researchers stressed the risk of stomach cancer in patients on the drugs is still small.They calculated that for every 10,000 people on PPIs, roughly eight a year will develop stomach cancer — four more than if none took the pills.Meanwhile, research from Johns Hopkins University in the U. in 2015 found that those on PPIs were 90 per cent more likely to develop kidney failure, while a study conducted by Mc Gill University in Canada in 2015 found that they raised the risk of hip fractures by 44 per cent.In all the studies, the longer people stay on them, the bigger the risk. S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already acted on PPI safety fears and nearly 300 patients in New Jersey have filed lawsuits in the past year or so claiming the drugs left them with kidney damage and that manufacturers knew about the risks but failed to warn them.Last year, lab research at Stanford University in the U. showed that the drugs don’t just turn off acid pumps in the stomach — they also block production of acid in every cell in the body.