Did you know that an estimated 15 million Americans use some form of acid-blocking drug such as Nexium, Prilosec or Prevacid? That includes me. I’m doing my darndest to get off Prilosec. Their job is to block the production of stomach acid, but actually we need stomach acid to digest food. Reducing stomach acid leaves us open and vulnerable to other not-so-great issues. My esophagus was damaged during chemotherapy (radiation?) 13 years ago, which has resulted in occasional acid reflux, particularly with tomato sauce and eating late in the evening. It’s not easy to quit, but let me share with you why it’s important to look at other options!
We’ve all heard these phrases: Heartburn, Acid Reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The drugs mentioned earlier are part of a family of proton pump inhibitors or PPIs. They work, but come with risks and, believe it or not, we actually don’t want them blocking our stomach acid. Read on.
Reasons we Need Stomach Acid
- Helps with food digestion
- Protects our stomach from foreign bacterium or viruses that we ingest
Without Stomach Acid
- We can’t get maximum benefit from the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients we need from what we eat (you may have seen the phrase “leaky gut”)
- Without these nutrients our bones don’t stay strong and we are vulnerable to fractures
- One may be at greater risk for heart disease
- One may have increased risk for chronic kidney disease
- One may have increased risk for dementia. (One study indicated that PPI users had at least a 44% increased risk vs. those not using the drugs)
- One may be at an increased risk for infections
- Side effects may include muscle weakness and severe leg cramping
Do We Really Need Prilosec, Nexium, or Prevacid (PPIs)?
Dr. John Clarke, a gastroenterologist at John Hopkins Hospital claims that there “is data emerging that suggests PPIs may not be as safe as we think they are.” He believes that many people taking them really don’t need them and suggests these lifestyle changes:
- Losing weight
- Cutting back on alcohol, caffeine and spicy and fatty foods.
He adds that many folks should only be on them for 2-8 weeks, though one may require them longer for specific cases.
While they do have positive effects, they do come with some serious risks so it’s important to question your doctor and make sure you aren’t taking them longer than needed.
Natural Substitutes without Using PPIs
If you talk to anyone who has tried to get off of these medications many will tell you it’s hard. It’s been hard for me but I’m gradually weaning off. Here’s what I’m doing and maybe it will help you too. These substitutes are non-habit forming with no ill side effects!
Acid Relief Solution #1 – DGL: The Licorice Soother
Many of you might not like the flavor of licorice but let me tell you it works! It has a long history as a digestive discomfort healer. It has the ability to heal the esophageal, stomach and intestinal lining by increasing the secretion of protective mucus that lines the gastrointestinal tract. This lining is a “key component of the stomach’s defense against the erosive properties of acid.”
As prescribed, I chew two tablets 20 minutes before each meal. It’s definitely noticeable and has helped me wean down to 3 times per week vs. every day, twice a day.
Acid Relief Solution #2 – Slippery Elm
Slippery elm is a well-known herb used for its soothing properties. Because it’s compounds are “slippery” in nature, it helps to protect the lining of the esophagus, stomach and intestines. Pretty cool!
Acid Relief Solution #3 – Cooling Aloe Vera
Most of us have heard of the healing effects of Aloe Vera. We open a plant leaf and apply the thick gel to a wound or sore. Like slippery elm, it has elements that help in restoring cells to the esophagus and digestive tract. Another benefit: reduced bloating! Be sure to look for the supplement with the latex portion removed to avoid possible laxative issues. Many folks have had great success as well with AcidRelief360 too. Be sure to check with the experts at your local health stores as well.
Since it IS Super Bowl season, I guarantee we’ll see more TUMS and over-the-counter Prilosec (another name, Omeprazole) flying off the shelves. For those you love (including yourself!) how about giving these natural healing solutions a try? Certainly if you’re on a prescription for a serious health issue, please check with your doctor. For the rest of you, please don’t take these over-the-counter pills lightly. They do come with BIG risks. There are other alternatives. Please choose wisely and be healthy!
Be sure to check out my Healthy Super Bowl snacks post from last year too! (Avoid the spicy popcorn if you have the acid reflux issues though 🙂 .) Click here for these great healthy recipes!
Peace and Good Health!
Live in the Now – Consumer Alerts, Josh Corn, Editor-in-Chief, “What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling you About Occasional Heartburn and Acid Reflux”
NPR – Your Health, Rob Stein, February 15, 2016
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