A recent trial published in the July journal of Gastroenterology showed how 120 healthy individuals were given a proton pump inhibitor which is commonly sold under the names of Nexium, Pariet, Prilosec and Prevacid which are a group of the top selling drugs in the world.
The trial lasted 8 weeks and the interesting thing is that when the trial stopped these previously healthy individuals had developed the symptoms of reflux. This indicates that their ability to produce stomach acid so that they can sufficiently digest food had been impaired.
These results are important because these drugs only treat the symptoms of the problem and not the cause which is commonly not enough stomach acid! And once people start taking these drugs their ability to produce acid is reduced and they become dependent on these drugs which is adding billions of dollars into the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies.
These drugs lead to a reduced ability to absorb vitamins and minerals and can have many side effects especially if used long term which a lot of people are doing. Some of the side effects include osteoporosis, nutrient deficiencies and increased risk of infections, as well as links to other digestive problems and some cancers.
Adequate stomach acid is vital for proper digestion and good health. Acidity is necessary to absorb nutrients and to neutralize invading microorganisms. A common deficiency of acid lowering drugs is a reduced ability to absorb Vitamin B12 and Folate, both of these are vital for methylation and if you are someone who has the MTHFR gene polymorphism it will be even more serious.
The lining of the stomach is designed to withstand the natural acidity of its contents. We only feel heartburn or “overacidity” when the contents of the stomach escape into the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus is not designed to withstand acidity the way the stomach is, and acid in the esophagus causes pain and burning. Heartburn is not due to too much acid but to acid in the wrong place.
The stomach and esophagus are separated by a muscular band, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES constricts best when the contents of the stomach are more acidic. Acid can only reach the esophagus and cause heartburn when the contents of the stomach are in fact not acidic enough to close the LES, but are acidic enough to irritate the esophagus.
Drugs for acid reflux work by neutralizing acid or preventing you from making it. They eliminate the acid, but not the reflux. They treat the symptom, but not the cause. A better idea is to increase stomach acid by supplementing with betaine HCL, or using herbs that encourage stomach acid production. This is an approach I have used successfully to treat many clients even if they are already taking drugs as you can retrain the digestive tract to produce more acid or provide it in a natural supplement so that you are treating the cause and not the symptoms.
The other big cause of reflux is diet. A number of studies and in my own clinical practive I have found that a paleo style diet that eliminates grains and in particular gluten containing grains, helps to reduce reflux or eliminate it completely. I have seen clients who have been on medications for 10 or more years be able to stop with just some diet changes. and one or two supplements which they need to take only for a short while to get everything back in balance.
There are a number of different companies that I use, in Australia I find that the Metagenics range is the best for treating digestion problems and in particular reflux, if your in the U.S one of my favourites is Thorne. For reflux I recommend the Thorne Research Betaine, Pancreatin and Pepsin caps and if you buy them from www.iherb.com and use the code MKW930 you will get $10 off your order.
Betaine HCL and Pepsin is also available from Amazon
To repair damage to the esophagus curcumin from Tumeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory and Thorne Research Mediclear is an excellent product or the Metagenics Gastro-Aid.
If you have reflux then it is important to test “why”, just taking supplements is a band-aid approach and will not address the underlying cause. The most common causes are a Helicobacter pylori infection or a SIBO infection, as both of these affect your ability to produce stomach acid, and also the bacteria produce gas which puts pressure on the esophagus sphincter leading to acid reflux.
This article describes what Helicobacter pylori is, how to identify and treat and infection.
A stool test is the most accurate way to test for Helicobacter pylori, and the more advanced G.I Map test can identify if you have the types of strains of this bacteria that cause stomach ulcers, this way of testing is a lot more accurate than a breath test at the doctors which can give you a false negative. The G.I Map test can be shipped directly to you so that you can do the test in the privacy of your own home.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen
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