Many of us have taken an antacid or some other mild over-the-counter remedy for a minor gastric problem - but we increase our chances of catching pneumonia every time we do, astonishing new research has discovered.
The antacids reduce gastric acid secretion, which allows bacteria and viruses to migrate into the respiratory tract, possibly leading to pneumonia. The researchers reckon that people who take antacids are nearly twice as likely to develop pneumonia as those who rarely, if ever, take them.
A research team from the University Medical Centre in Nijmegen tracked 364,683 people for seven years, during which time 5,551 of them developed pneumonia for the time. But after stripping out all other factors, the researchers found that the rate of pneumonia was 0.6 in those who never took antacids, but was 2.45 in those who did.
This new finding may make people - and doctors - think twice before reaching for the bottle of antacids. Up to now they've been considered to be mild suppressants with no side effects. As a result it's reckoned that every year around 40 per cent of the population takes at least some antacids for upper gastrointestinal tract problems such as reflux and dyspepsia, either as an over-the-counter remedy or by prescription.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004; 292: 1955-60).
* There are better ways of treating stomach problems than antacids - and there are plenty of things you can do to avoid gut problems in the first place. All is revealed in the WDDTY Good Digestion Guide - and it is particularly appropriate with the Christmas festivities in the offing! Click on this link to order your copy: