latimes.com/topic/sc-health-0307-pharm-20120307,0,1601337.story

latimes.com

Hip fractures linked to heartburn drugs

Data from nearly 80,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study show that women who took PPIs were up to 35 percent more likely to fracture a hip during eight years of follow-up.

By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, King Features Syndicate

12:27 PM PST, March 7, 2012

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Q: I have just read that powerful acid-suppressing drugs are linked to hip fractures. My doctor wants me to stay on Prevacid even though I have expressed my concerns to him. When I told him what I had read about the dangers of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), he said, “Don't read so much.” I wish he would read more!

A: The hazards of long-term use of PPIs such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix) and rabeprazole (Aciphex) have gradually become clearer. Data from nearly 80,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study show that women who took PPIs were 30 to 35 percent more likely to fracture a hip during eight years of follow-up (British Medical Journal online, bmj.com, Jan. 31, 2012).

This can be devastating, particularly for older people. As one reader reported: “My mother took a PPI and then had a hip fracture. She died 19 days later.”

There are other drawbacks to long-term PPI use, such as susceptibility to infectious diarrhea, pneumonia and vitamin B-12 deficiency.

However, stopping these drugs can cause rebound reflux. No one should stop a PPI without consulting the prescriber. Some people require such drugs to protect themselves from esophageal damage.

Q: What do you know about the medicinal properties of nopal cactus?

A: Nopal, or prickly pear, cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) has been a staple of the Mexican diet for centuries. The fleshy pads are eaten as vegetables and are high in fiber and nutrients (vitamins A, C, K, B-6 and riboflavin).

Years ago, a family-practice physician wrote that his diabetic patient was able to control his blood sugar better when he drank tea made from nopal pads. Animal research demonstrates that Opuntia (a different species) can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol (Nutrition Research, June 2011). Another animal study found that an extract of nopal cactus flowers protected against stomach ulcers caused by alcohol (Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, November 2011).

Q: I have tried everything for constipation, including Metamucil, MiraLAX, vegetables, cooked oats, prune juice and the power pudding recipe. I have the best success eating great Northern cooked beans.

A: It's always good to hear that a simple dietary approach is helpful. Thank you for sharing it.

Q: I read in your column about using yellow mustard for leg cramps. In the 1970s, my mother suffered terribly from leg cramps. Her family doctor told her to take a small glass of tomato juice, add salt and drink it. This got rid of my mother's leg cramps. It works for me as well. Have any of your readers ever mentioned this use for tomato juice?

A: Several readers have reported success with low-sodium V8 juice to boost their potassium levels. One wrote: “Several years ago, my mother was experiencing severe leg cramps. We tried to add juices for the potassium, and found V8 was one of the highest at that time. It worked, and she used it faithfully several times a week.”

Power pudding DIY

Power pudding, a recipe that typically includes applesauce and prune juice, often is used to fight constipation. Find several variations of the recipe at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center website, medicalcenter.osu.edu (type “power pudding” in the search field).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.