Study: Heart-burn treatments could lead to allergies

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A new study, published in late July in the medical journal Nature Communications, shows treating heart-burn today, could lead to allergies tomorrow.
Scientists discovered people who have been prescribed drugs like proton-pump inhibitors and H2 blockers also took more prescription anti-allergy medications.
The study's lead author says the allergies can come years after patients start taking stomach acid drugs.
She believes those medications may trigger immune responses by disrupting the stomach's delicate balance of acids and enzymes.
The correlation between the drugs and allergies was determined by analyzing health insurance data from more than eight million people in Austria.

WEAU Health Correspondent Dr. Alicia Arnold sat down with Tyler to discuss the study. Their Q & A can be found below.

First, this is one study, is this enough to say there is a link, or will more research be done?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "That's an important point. It shows that taking medicines for acid reflux and having allergies are *related* but not necessarily that the allergies are caused by these medicines. That is a big difference."

Tell us a little more about the theories on why these people may be developing allergies after taking heartburn medications.

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "The stomach is normally supposed to be very acidic in order to help break down food and protect the body against bacteria. When it is made less acidic by medications, allergens may be able to pass through and potentially cause an abnormal immune system response."

If you're taking medication for heartburn, and you have allergies, is this worth bringing up to your doctor?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "I think it's worth talking with your health care provider to minimize the medications that you are taking, when it is possible to do it safely and appropriately. If you do need to take heartburn medications, try to stick to the lowest dose that works for you and only take them as long as needed."

Are there other treatments for heartburn available that might make this a non-issue?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "There are non-drug ways to try to control heartburn. Spicy foods, tomatoes, garlic, onions, coffee, chocolate, mint may worsen reflux. Carbonated beverages like soda can also make symptoms worse. Trying to eat smaller amounts and not eating within a few hours of going to bed may help. Also, elevating the head of your bed by a few inches can help as well."

Could this study open the door to future studies to see if there is a potential link between medications and allergies?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "I think an important point is that just because a medicine is over the counter, like many heartburn medications, it is still possible that there are risks to using the medication. Various studies looking at potential side effects or risks of heartburn medications have come out in the last few years so I think these medications will continue to be studied further."