US consumers spend a fortune each year on heartburn medications ($6 billion in 2012 just on Nexium). Unfortunately, the popular proton pump inhibitor drugs have only been proven safe to use for a few weeks! These drugs are misrepresented as harmless. However, when used for months and years, they can have serious and even lethal side effects. Here are some examples:
- C-difficile infection (life-threatening diarrhea)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Heart disease and stroke
- Hip fracture
- Kidney disease
- Premature death
- Stomach cancer
- Vitamin B12 deficiency (which can lead to permanent nerve damage)
The reason for so many side effects is that we must have stomach acid. Some of what it does:
- Acid in the stomach dissolves invading bacteria and other organisms
- Performs an important step in the breakdown of protein in food
- Is needed for the absorption of life-protecting minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc
- Is needed for the production of vitamin B12 and contributes to folic acid absorption
- Establishes the correct pH to trigger the stages of digestion that follow and the closing of the Lower Esophageal Sphinter to keep fluids out of the esophagus where heartburn pain is felt
- Helps create conditions suitable in the rest of the intestines to the proper balance of beneficial bacteria
By blocking acid, the drugs temporarily relieve discomfort but don’t solve what is usually the real problem—stomach acid getting where it doesn’t belong!
So, to solve the problem permanently and avoid the serious health complications you might develop from suppressing needed stomach acid, it is important to figure out what went wrong and fix that problem. Helping people do that is why I wrote Natural Alternatives to Nexium, Maalox, Tagamet, Prilosec & Other Acid Blockers. Subtitle: What to Use to Relieve Acid Reflux, Heartburn, and Gastric Ailments. It is not expensive or difficult to read, but if you can solve your problem after reading a few free pages on this website, good for you! (Of course you will miss out on a number natural alternatives and a lot of general health information that I put in the book.)
Some of the causes of heartburn and acid reflux:
- Sugar and starch consumption. Although the mechanisms are just now being revealed in research, what does a person have to lose by reducing these non-nourishing fattening foods? Nothing. And eliminating them often gets rid of heart burn. Read Avoid Diabetes with Low Glycemic Meals.
- Hiatal hernia. This is a structural problem where the stomach protrudes up through the diaphragm. It can often be remedied by a chiropractor or even a massage therapist. Check out Dr. Bob’s article about how to resolve the problem naturally.
- Insufficient stomach acid. Counter intuitive as this cause seems, it is common, especially at middle age and beyond. Without enough acid, food isn’t digested efficiently and tends to remain in the stomach too long. That increases the chance that the contents might splash into the esophagus which is not protected against even weak acid. Also, the sphincter that is supposed to keep stomach contents from backing up may not be triggered if stomach acid is too low. Food (especially carbs) and juices too long in the stomach can ferment, bubble up and create alcohol which is also irritating.
- Imbalance of intestinal bacteria. I discuss this at length in my other book, The Probiotic Cure. It might be useful to take this yeast questionnaire.
- Medications. A large number of drugs cause heartburn. Among them the statin cholesterol-lowering drugs. (There is a natural solution to most health issues.) Antibiotics can trigger reflux by causing an imbalance of microorganisms.
- Inflammation. Inflammation is the culprit in most chronic disease. An inflamed esophageal sphincter doesn’t close correctly after the food passes by. Trans fats, sugar, chemicals, nutrient deficiencies and Candida Yeasts are causes of inflammation.
- Sluggish bile. Bill Sardi points out that many cases of heartburn are due to a digestive juice bile that is not being properly processed. Read his article.
- Spinal miss-alignment. Something may be interfering with the supply of nerve energy to the stomach or the esophageal sphincter. (See a chiropractor.)
Some supplements of interest
- Probiotics: Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics. Usually these are swallowed for overall gut health, but for fast relief of indigestion, chew one or two.
- Aloe: Lily of the Desert Stomach Formula and Juice Start with the Stomach Formula and switch when you are doing better.
- DGL: This is a form of licorice.
- Zinc carnosine: Not just any form of zinc will do. Zinc-carnosine tends to stay in the gut and has been shown to promote healing of even ulcers. Doctor’s Best PepZinG is an example.
Some folks find relief with a teaspoon or two of Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in a little water before a meal. If the vinegar helps, it is a sign that you may need more acid. However, even if you do need the acid for digestion, the vinegar may burn going down if the tissues are terribly inflamed. Follow the vinegar with a few sips of water.