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Could Heartburn Meds Raise Your Migraine Risk?
  • Posted April 25, 2024

Could Heartburn Meds Raise Your Migraine Risk?

People taking heartburn meds have a higher risk of migraines and other types of severe headaches, a new study warns.

All classes of acid-reducing drugs -- proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers, and even antacids -- appear to promote an increased risk of migraine and headache, results show.

“Given the wide usage of acid-reducing drugs and these potential implications with migraine, these results warrant further investigation,” said researcher Margaret Slavin, an associate professor of nutrition and food science with 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 added.

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, researchers said. It usually occurs after a meal or when lying down, and it can cause heartburn and ulcers. In extreme cases, it can lead to cancer of the esophagus.

For the study, researchers looked at data on nearly 12,000 people using acid-reducing drugs, to see whether they'd had migraines or severe headaches within the past three months.

Proton pump inhibitors block acid production and help the esophagus heal. Brand names include Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium.

H-2 blockers reduce acid production. Brand names include Tagamet, Pepcid and Axid.

And then there are simple antacids containing calcium carbonate that neutralize stomach acid, such as Mylanta, Rolaids and Tums.

After adjusting for other factors that influence migraine risk, researchers found that:

  • People on proton pump inhibitors were 70% more likely to have a migraine than those who weren't

  • H2 blockers increased migraine risk by 40%

  • Antacids made people 30% more likely to have a migraine

Slavin emphasized that the study looked only at prescription drugs, not over-the-counter drugs that tend to have lower strength. People shouldn't stop taking their acid-reducing meds without talking to a doctor.

The findings were published April 24 in the journal Neurology.

“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 in a journal news release.

More information

The Mayo Clinic has more about acid reflux.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, April 24, 2024

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