Antacids linked to food allergy

September 24, 2003 in Allergies & Intolerances, Gastrointestinal Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Antacids linked to food allergy

There may be a connection between taking antacids and developing a food allergy, according to researchers in Austria. They say that individuals taking medications that reduce acid secretion or neutralize the acidity within the stomach, may be setting up a situation where harmless food proteins may become potential allergens.

Gastric digestion depends on the presence of acid and pepsin, a protein-degrading enzyme activated at high acidic levels. Reduced acidity hinders pepsin secretion, which hampers protein digestion.

The Austrian researchers conducted experiments in which they fed mice hazelnut proteins and other typical allergy-causing foods. The mice did not normally develop a food allergy when given these proteins, but they did when they were given the ulcer drugs omeprazole (Prilosec) or ranitidine (Zantac) with the food.

They also found that this was the case when they studied 153 patients being treated with acid-suppressive therapy. The body builds up a tolerance to foods normally consumed, and so it is only when an entirely new food source is introduced that a problem may occur.

The researchers said that an estimated 10 percent of the adult population is now being treated for ulcers, indigestion and other stomach disorders and many are taking over-the-counter medications.

"These medications are very important, but doctors may want to tell their patients that there may be this connection and patients shouldn't eat novel foods that they have never had before."

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