Taming the Burn of GERD

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March 18, 2013 by Dr. Sana Keller

heartburnIt’s not surprising in our high-stress, fast-paced world that the medications used to treat GERD called ‘Proton Pump Inhibitors’ or ‘PPI’s’ rank as the 3rd highest selling class of drugs in the US (after antipsychotics and statins).

It may be surprising to learn that this type of medication is to be used for a short-term duration, with a recommended time frame of 8 to 12 weeks. And even more surprising—actually alarming—is the fact that side effects of this type of medication include decreased calcium absorption, increased risk of bone fractures, decreased magnesium levels, iron deficiency, Vitamin B12 deficiency, increased risk of GI infections (Clostridium difficile), interference with medication Plavix, nausea, and headache.

We’re designed to have acid in our stomachs to help break down food and absorb nutrients. PPI’s block the production of acid in our stomach. This can cause the acid-making cells to work harder to produce acid, so when a person stops taking a PPI, there can be an increase in acid-making potential—a most undesirable response.

PPI’s do NOT provide a cure—they do not address the cause of acid reflux—they just help control symptoms. Long-term stomach acid suppression (by agents such as PPI’s) may lead to ‘atrophic gastritis’ which can be a precursor to cancer. Common PPI drugs include: Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, Zegerid, Vimovo, Aciphex, and Dexilant.

One of the physician authors of the American College of Gastroenterology’s Clinical Practice Guidelines (recommendations for physicians to follow) for GERD, Dr. Donald Castell, has financial relationships with drug companies that make PPI’s which SHOULD raise major questions and concerns for Conflict of Interest on his behalf—recommending drugs that you are compensated for in some way is NOT in the best interest of anyone’s health!

Another surprising finding: Esophageal cancer associated with GERD has increased by 350% since 1970—that’s with PPI’s being prescribed. Obviously PPI’s aren’t the answer for long-term health.

Certain PPI’s are available Over the Counter or ‘OTC’ including Prilosec OTC, Prevacid 24 Hour, and Zegerid OTC. These are to be taken daily for ONLY 14 days at a time and NOT MORE THAN 3 times a year.

There are certain indications for long-term PPI usage, but the majority of cases do not apply. For those on long-term PPI dosing, various blood tests should be obtained on a regular basis, including calcium, magnesium, iron & B12 levels.

SAFE, NATURAL OPTIONS for ‘Easing the Burn’:

  • Acupuncture (I know—sounds a bit ‘out there’ to some, but studies are finding positive results)
  • Melatonin, which helps protect the GI lining
  • Ginger, which protects GI lining and inhibits H. pylori (infection in stomach)
  • Weight loss if overweight
  • Restriction of trigger foods: Coffee, alcohol, fatty foods, chocolate, citrus, carbonated beverages
  • Anti-inflammatory diet (see Dr. Weil’s Anti-inflammatory pyramid)
  • Adequate intake of filtered water
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Aloe vera juice
  • Turmeric

Information is powerful. You’re in charge of your own health and need to be aware of potential short-term and long-term risks of all medications that most often provide only symptom relief—as well as safe, natural options that are directed at the cause of the health challenge which leads to long-term health. That’s my goal in working with clients: provide the ‘big picture’ of their overall health situation so they can decide on the best possible action(s) for themselves for optimal health.

Thanks for being informed…

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