Got heartburn?  You may have grown accustomed to reaching for an antacid to cure what ails you.  But a new study shows that regular users of certain antacids might need to take extra precautions to prevent vitamin deficiencies.

A new study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, looked at the effect of popular antacids such as Prilosec, Prevacid, and Zantac.  They found that patients who took the medications for two or more years were more likely than their peers to have a vitamin B-12 deficiency.  And the more medication they took, the greater the depth of their deficiency.  

For the study, researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research looked at the records of almost 26,000 patients at clinics in Northern California who were diagnosed with B-12 deficiency between 1997 and 2011.

The link was most apparent in study participants who used what are called 'proton pump inhibitors' such as Prevacid and Prilosec.  Other types of acid-inhibiting medications, such as Tagamet, Zantac, and Pepcid, were also linked to vitamin B-12 deficiency, although it was not as severe.  

When people in the study stopped taking the antacids, their B-12 levels rose.

Why would antacids cause a vitamin B-12 deficiency?  When things are working as they should, the acids in the stomach remove B-12 from the foods that people normally eat.  When there is less acid in the stomach, there is less B-12 made available. 

But researchers caution that they are not advocating the discontinuation of antacid use.  

"This doesn't mean people should stop their medications," Dr. Douglas Corley, the study's senior author, said. "People take these for good reasons. They improve quality of life and prevent disease."  But, he added, ""It does raise the question that people who are taking these medications should have their B12 levels checked."

And if the levels are low, a B-12 supplement should be all you need to get things back in check.

Related posts on MNN:

Popular antacids linked to vitamin deficiency
If you frequently use one of these popular antacids, you should talk to your doctor about your vitamin levels.