If you’ve dealt with acid reflux (AKA GERD), you know you will do about anything to get that feeling to stop. Acid reflux isn’t something you can just choose to
ignore and of course it often gets worse at night when you lie down and try to get some sleep. The pharmaceutical industry has given us some pretty effective medications to calm down this stomach acid production and many of you have found these little purple pills to be a big help. You might have guessed that the story doesn’t end there. Contrary to all the happy ads about their wonderfulness, it pays to take a hard look at some natural alternatives.
How popular are meds for GERD? Since about 40% of adults in the U.S. report acid reflux symptoms the proton pump inhibitors (PPI) claim the number three spot behind psychotropics and statins in popularity, or about $14 billion in sales (not counting over-the-counter sales, either). You are either taking a PPI or you know someone who is.
The problem with long-term use of these meds is the altered acidity can decrease the absorption of important vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and B12. The FDA has issued warnings about increased chance of bone fractures and also an increase in Clostridium difficile infections that are particularly resistant to antibiotics.
Some studies have also indicated that use of PPIs can increase the incidence of pneumonia, kidney disease and weight gain. These drugs can also diminish the effectiveness of Plavix (anti-clotting) and clopidogrel (a heart drug). Along with increased risks for other health problems and negative drug interactions, studies are starting to raise concerns that chronic PPI use can lead to an increased risk of dementia. At least one law firm specializes in cases of chronic kidney disease from PPIs.
The problem is that, as you decrease the amount of acid being produced, the body will tend to compensate by producing even more acid-producing cells.
Drug companies are inclined to dismiss these concerns – why wouldn’t they, considering the amount of money involved? It is the standard of care in many hospitals to prescribe a PPI to help stave off stomach problems from the drugs given during a hospital stay, and then send a prescription home with the patient for weeks to months of continued use. Because the symptom rebound effect tends to be pretty horrible once you stop PPIs, many physicians tend to extend prescriptions.
If you want more bad news, PPIs were touted as the answer to reduce the rate of esophageal cancers but public health studies do not support any reduction with this type of treatment. This type of cancer has actually increased by 350% since 1970 in spite of stomach acid drug treatment.
I don’t like to point out problems unless I can suggest a reasonable solution. Sometimes you can reduce acid reflux by learning which foods are contributing to it. Everyone’s list is likely different, so you’ll have to do some research and experimentation. This list of possible offenders is pretty long so I won’t start listing them in this article. If you would like some help with learning how to know which foods are likely to be on your aggravation list, you can contact us for some guidance and if you are in California or Nevada, we can help with testing.
Another thing that can make a different with regard to acid reflux is the time of day that you eat your meals. Some find that if they stop eating 6-8 hours before bedtime, it can make a big difference.
Learning which foods your body doesn’t like and avoiding meals in the critical hours before bedtime should quiet down acid reflux immensely. But sometimes it seems like no matter how good your diet may be and going to bed on an empty stomach still doesn’t solve the problem.
One possible solution that works for many of our clients is the addition of digestive enzyme and HCl supplements. As we age, our bodies have a harder time moving food through the system and the amount of enzymes hydrochloric acid is actually reduced. The acid reflux is in part due to that decreased transit rate. There isn’t much we can do to fix the reduced rate of food movement, but we can at least help create a more favorable environment for digestion.
In our experimentation, we have found that a combination of enzyme products is required to create a happy gastric environment. I hesitate to report this as most of you will say, “forget it, I’m not going to take all those enzymes,” but I want to point out options for those so inclined.
I would start with two BetterGenix EnzymeGenix after your meals, along with two Apex HCl-ProZyme. This is a baseline treatment. If this is successful, your experimentation is over for now. If you are still having problems, try two EnzymeGenix, two HCl-ProZyme and two Karuna DuoZyme. Still problems, you might also add a couple GlutenFlam by Apex. Look for any strange bowel symptoms like abdominal pain or diarrhea. These should be rare symptoms but you should be on the lookout anyway, while you are experimenting.
You will have to be your own experimental and control group when you work with digestive enzymes. The scientific community hasn’t spent any time or money to speak of to learn what short or long term effects might be associated with these. So far, all we can say is that we sell a fair amount of them and so do other supplement distributors. The implication from the absence of attention by regulating agencies is that they are safe.
Be sure to purchase quality items; a supplement that contains what you want and doesn’t contain what you don’t will cost more than that giant bottle of cheap supplements you’ll find at a big box store.