If you’re someone who regularly suffers from heartburn, you need to know the potential dangers of stomach acid drugs and how you can put out the fire.
Why Your Belly Burns
Heartburn is also referred to as “acid reflux.” If it happens more than twice in any given week, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The symptom most often reported is a burning sensation in the throat or chest and sometimes a foul, acidic taste. It’s how you feel when stomach acid travels from your stomach and up your throat.
The reverse of what stomach acid is supposed to do!
This is a quite common condition. Data from the American College of Gastroenterology states that approximately 15 million American adults experience heartburn daily.
Getting it once in a while is normal and usually a side effect of eating something new or unusual to your diet. Extremely strong coffee, spicy food, or even going too long between meals can give you a touch of heartburn.
It typically fades but common responses are to drink some water (dilutes the acid), eat a bit of bread (soaks up the acid), or to take an antacid tablet such as Tums or Rolaids (which temporarily neutralizes stomach acid). The third option shouldn’t be something you utilize often as all antacids are harmful taken long-term.
When It Isn’t “Once in a While”
Occasional heartburn isn’t something to worry about and the dangers of stomach acid drugs will likely never be a concern for you.
However, if you get heartburn regularly, you need to make some changes.
The primary causes linked to chronic heartburn or acid reflux are poor diet (especially high-salt and low-fiber), smoking, obesity, and living a sedentary lifestyle.
Some pharmaceutical drugs for asthma, depression, anxiety, pain management, and allergies can lead to heartburn.
A typical gastroenterologist will write you a prescription. Before you fill it or pick up those high-powered “heartburn relief” drugs now available over the counter, you need some background information.
In the past ten years, pharmaceutical companies have gotten in on the heartburn gig. The drugs they’ve created work differently and they’re very potent.
There are two main types:
- H2-receptor blockers (Pepcid, Zantac, Tagamet, and others) stop histamine-induced gastric acid secretion from the parietal cells of the gastric mucosa (lining of the stomach).
- Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs (Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and others) reduce the production of acid by the stomach by irreversibly blocking the actions of an enzyme responsible for acid production, located in the parietal cells in the stomach wall.
The dangers of stomach acid drugs have been well-documented over the years.
Researchers with Washington University in St. Louis examined 275,000 PPI patient records and connected long-term use of proton pump inhibitors to increased risks of kidney damage, bone fracture, dementia, and early death. Their findings were published in the British Medical Journal Open in 2017
Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, senior author, and professor of medicine, explained, “No matter how we sliced and diced the data from this large data set, we saw the same thing: There’s an increased risk of death among PPI users. For example, when we compared patients taking H2 blockers with those taking PPIs for one to two years, we found those on PPIs had a 50 percent increased risk of dying over the next five years. There are real risks to taking these drugs, particularly for long periods of time.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that one of the dangers of stomach acid drugs is increased risk of severe bacterial infection in the intestines, particularly Clostridium difficile (C. diff).
Lead author of the study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Dr. Edith R. Lederman, stated, “Stomach acid is a very important defense mechanism against pathogens. It kills them.”
You see, this is the kind of thing that frustrates someone like me who’s been talking about the importance of the gut for three decades!
Dilute stomach acid, soak it up, even neutralize it temporarily. What on Earth made them create a drug that stops production or inhibits the basic functions it’s supposed to fulfill? It makes no sense!
Dr. Herbert DuPont with Baylor College of Medicine stated what should have been obvious long before now! “We overuse PPIs. We should use this class of drugs carefully. PPIs facilitate other intestinal infections including Salmonella, Campylobacter, Vibrios (including cholera), and Listeria – all important causes of food-borne disease.”
To quench the fire in your belly, you have to work with your body, not try to shut off the natural responses critical to your health!
Ignoring chronic heartburn is not the answer. It can lead to inflammation, ulcers, scar tissue, difficulty swallowing, damage to the teeth, and bad breath.
A study published in New England Journal of Medicine found a definitive link between GERD and cancer. The authors wrote, “There is a strong and probably causal relation between gastroesophageal reflux and esophageal adenocarcinoma.”
None of this surprises me! I’ve been saying it for decades!
7 Lifestyle Changes to Extinguish the Burn
- Practice improving your posture (particularly during meals).
- If you get heartburn after consuming specific foods, food groups, or beverages – avoid them (common offenders are caffeine, carbonation, and chocolate).
- Eat smaller portions at meals.
- Following meals, avoid lying down for at least 2 hours.
- Avoid wearing clothing that is too tight around the torso.
- Quit smoking (for many, many reasons)!
- Maintain a healthy weight and incorporate regular exercise.
To avoid additional health risks and the dangers of stomach acid drugs, your best bet is always definitive lifestyle changes.
If you really want to put out the flames, read my book “Fire in the Belly” right now! Let me show you why it burns and how to stop it. You’ll be amazed at the other conditions that improve when you pay attention to your gut!