I’ve said it before, and I’ll  say it again: Americans are over-medicated. 

Now, it’s not our fault – many of us are being influenced dramatically by the pharmaceutical industry’s commercialization of medicine. These days, we can’t watch a television show without being bombarded by well-made commercials telling us that there is a pill to cure whatever medical condition we’re suffering from. 

One of the most coI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Americans are over-medicated.

Now, it’s not our fault – many of us are being influenced dramatically by the pharmaceutical industry’s commercialization of medicine. These days, we can’t watch a television show without being bombarded by well-made commercials telling us that there is a pill to cure whatever medical condition we’re suffering from.

One of the most common medical problems plaguing Americans is acid reflux. In fact, it affects an estimated 25 million adults every day. Now, I know acid reflux can lead to severe gastric and esophageal issues, but the chronic use of antacids are not a permanent solution to the problem. No matter what kind of medication you choose to use, it’s important you do it under the care of a doctor who can carefully evaluate the risk-to-benefit ratio with an experienced medical team -- not simply by persuasion from commercials or hearsay.

Now, a new study suggests that people who take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to treat acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion may be more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those who don’t take these medications sold – often over-the-counter -- under the brand names of Prevacid, Prilosec and Zegerid. PPIs work by reducing the production of acid in the stomach.

In other words, the chronic use of these medications could lead to kidney problems. And some kidney problems, my dear friends, are irreversible – in fact, they often only get worse with age.

For this study, researchers analyzed data on two sets of patient groups and found that over 10 years, PPI users had an 11.8 percent risk of developing chronic kidney disease, compared with an 8.5 percent among nonusers. For the second group of patients, they estimated the risk to be 15.6 percent among PPI users, and 13.9 percent among nonusers.

Scientists noted that this side effect is rare and the study does not claim that these medications actually cause kidney failure. They also acknowledged the possibility that patients using PPIs had other risk factors for kidney disease. But given the widespread use of these medications -- and the fact that prior research has linked PPIs to kidney inflammation -- their findings warrant further investigation.

So what’s the bottom line? Of course, if you have to take an antacid, go ahead and do so – especially if you have been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease or an ulcer – but that treatment should come with an expiration date. Once your symptoms improve, you should stop and check in with your doctor. For those suffering from milder forms of gastric upset, I would strongly urge you to consider natural alternatives

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.