Nearly 20% of Americans suffer from chronic indigestion sometimes called heartburn, acid reflux or GERD. Widely used remedies can cause even more problems for your health.
The uncomfortable burning of “ I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” can lead to real damage to the esophagus and throat making acid-reducing remedies such as Prilosec one of the most widely used medications.
Common theory is that heartburn is caused by too much stomach acid and the solution is to simply reduce or bind the gastric acid. Heartburn medications fall into a category of proton pump inhibitors (proton/potassium pump inhibitors) which inhibits the function of the parietal cells in the stomach and thereby suppress the production of stomach acid.
If only the solution was as simple as taking a pill.
However, serious complications to the regular use of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) include:
(1) proton pumps are not limited to the stomach but found in all energy producing cells in the body. The function of the proton pumps is essential in the ATP cycle to produce energy. Regular use of PPIs can lead to fatigue of cell function.
(2) the highly acidic pH created by gastric acid is required for the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium as well as vitamins B12 and C. Gastric acid sets the stage for the an effective process of digestion through the remaining digestive tract.
(3) Gastric acid is the first line of defense against ingestion of opportunistic pathogens and harmful bacterias. SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth) and an infection of colostridium difficle (CDI) is common among PPI users. CDI disrupts the normal function of digestion with symptoms of diarrhea, nausea and fever causing colitis perforation of the colon and sepsis.
(4) Fifty percent of the people using proton pump inhibitors actually produce too little gastric acid which shows up with the same acid reflux symptoms as too much gastric acid. Too little gastric acid prevents normal digestion and nutrient absorption leading to a wide range of poor health conditions.
Interference with natural production of gastric acid has been linked to increased risk for heart attacks, dementia, osteoporosis, kidney disease, decreased diversity of the microbiome community, malabosroption and deficiency of essential nutrients. Too little gastric acid can cause an acid rebound effect causing even more acid to be produced as your body tries to make up for the missing gastric.
Recent research at the Veterans Administration identified a link between the use of Prilosec and kidney disease. Kidney disease is particularly worrisome as it develops without warning signs until it is too late to reverse.
TUMS, although not a PPI creates other health risks. TUMS contributes to the acid rebound effect as it binds the acid your body needs to secrete for digestion and your body responds by increasing production. In addition TUMS contains aluminum, a metal ,that has been associated with risk for dementia.
Home remedies like baking soda in water can provide temporary relief but does not resolve the cause of the condition that interferes with proper digestion and nourishment of the body.
No-risk freedom from heartburn
Fixing the cause of heartburn is the solution for both the dangers of heartburn, acid-reflux or GERD and the dangers of using heartburn medications. Triggers for heartburn include reactions to specific foods and alcohol, insufficient digestive enzymes and/or gastric acid, use of other medications such as antibiotics, SIBO, infectious pathogens and emotional stress.
Healthcare professionals who practice integrative or functional medicine are experts at identifying and reversing the underlying cause digestive problems. Working with a healthcare professional can help you determine if your symptoms are the result of too much or too little gastric acid. Then they can expedite your discovery of the triggers for heartburn that are specific to you. Institute for Functional Medicine, www.IFM.org and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, www.NANP.org, are good resources to locate a healthcare professional in your locale.