There has been concerns expressed of late about the side effects of long-term use of pharmaceutical drugs for heartburn and reflux. Heartburn and reflux are common health problems and it’s important to understand why we might suffer from heartburn and reflux.
Firstly, stress is often a big factor in causing reflux and heartburn. It’s obvious when we eat, our food is meant to go down, not travel back up, causing this horrible heartburn or reflux. We have two valves also known as sphincters, which have the important role of regulating the food moving in and out of our stomach. The problem we have is when we are stressed the top valve relaxes, whilst unfortunately at the same time the bottom valve constricts and often the food has nowhere else to go but back up again causing reflux and heartburn.
There may also be a family history of reflux and this may be because of an inherited weakness of that lower sphincter or valve.
Our diet can also be the cause of reflux and heartburn. Alcohol, caffeine, fried, fatty or spicy foods and soft drinks can often cause heartburn and reflux. When we are overweight, we can suffer from reflux. This is because our belly fat forces up on our stomach, thereby preventing our stomach from clearing properly and causing reflux. When we eat big meals, we can exacerbate heartburn and reflux, plus eating close to bedtime can also be a cause. Smoking certainly can be a major cause plus if we suffer from a hiatus hernia this may cause reflux. Reflux can also be an issue if we are sensitive to certain foods.
Treatment of reflux and heartburn can obviously be helped by avoiding these foods, losing weight and addressing stress. There are also several natural supplements which we’ve found to be extremely helpful in treating reflux and heartburn.
Slippery elm powder is great for providing short term and quick relief for reflux and heartburn. It forms a gel-like substance which coats the upper gastrointestinal tract, soothing and bringing down inflammation, eliminating the terrible discomfort and pain which accompanies reflux and heartburn. Always take slippery elm at least 2 hours away from pharmaceutical drugs or other supplements.
Barley grass powder is extremely beneficial in treating these problems as it is a high alkaline food. Maintaining the correct pH levels in the body is believed to help control or avoid reflux or heartburn. We have received amazing feedback from customers using barley grass powder for reflux and heartburn. In fact, often customers have taken barley grass powder when they’ve had adverse reactions to the pharmaceutical medications or have chosen take barley grass instead of the pharmaceutical medications. Many have reported the barley grass powder has worked as effectively as the PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors). Barley grass is available in powder and capsules.
I have written previously about benefits of deglycyrrhizinated licorice which has been found to overcome irritated and inflamed gut and to be helpful for reflux, heartburn, bloating, colic and inflamed and irritated gut. This is another product we get very good feedback on for reflux.
When it comes to taking the pharmaceutical drugs known as proton pump inhibitors or PPI’s, I suggest it is important, as with everything we choose to ingest, to do our own research.
The purpose of these drugs is obviously to avoid heartburn and reflux by blocking acid however, to remain healthy, our body needs stomach acid. We need stomach acid particularly to help absorb the nutrients from our food. Stomach acid is also imperative to help digest protein and foods, plus assist in the growth of good bacteria in our small intestine. Some believe these drugs may in some cases prevent proper digestion of our foods, which of course then means we don’t absorb the nutrients from our food and can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. There was a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which found by blocking acid, these drugs may prevent absorption of calcium and other minerals which are necessary for our bone health. This study found long term use of acid-blocking drugs could possibly lead to an increase in the occurrence of osteoporosis and even hip fractures. (1)
Because we need stomach acid to assist in the growth of good bacteria in our gut, these drugs may cause bad bacteria to flourish in the small intestine which then inevitably causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, bloating etc. (2)
Various studies have also indicated taking these medications long term may cause malabsorption of Vitamin B12 and over time cause a deficiency in this important vitamin. We need Vitamin B12 to make red blood cells to transport oxygen through our body. Low B12 may lead to weakness and fatigue. There is some belief low B12 levels may be linked to depressed moods or a decline in brain function such as dementia.(3)
The jury is out when it comes to some of this research and as with most research, it is ongoing. If you do choose to stop taking your prescription medication for reflux, it is important to speak to your medical practitioner first. If you do choose to take the PPI’s I would suggest also taking a probiotic, calcium and Vit B12 supplement.
(1) Yang, Y; Lewis, JD; Epstein, S; Metz, D. 2006 Long term proton pump inhibitor therapy and risk of hip fractur. JAMA 296(24)
(2) Dial, S; Delaney, JAC; Barkun, AN; Suissa, S. 2005. Use of gastric acid-suppressive agents and the risk of community acquired clostridium difficile associated disease JAMA 294(23)
(3) Ruscin, JM; Page; RL, Valuck, RJ. 2002. Vitamin B12 deficiency associated with histamine(2)-receptor antagonists and a proton-pump inhibitor. The Annals of Psychopharmacology. 36(5)812-816