by Elaine Wilkes, Ph.D., N.C., M.A.
Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it ISN’T! Billions of dollars are spent in antacids each year. For example, Nexium is the third best-selling drug in the world, with annual sales exceeding $5 billion. Priolsec is the #1 selling drug in the world making over 6 billion dollars a year. But antacids and drugs do not fix the cause of the problem and there are reports of harmful side effects.
What causes acid reflux and acid indigestion?
The acid from the stomach may force open the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing acid to flow into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and indigestion. In other cases, this sphincter becomes flaccid and acid splashes into the esophagus. If this indigestion happens more than twice a week, it is time for you to seriously digest information on how to heal this situation now.
What is so wrong with having acid indigestion?
The technical name for persistent heartburn and/or the stomach contents regurgitating up into the esophagus is called gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD. “Chronic GERD has the potential to scar and damage the lining of the esophagus. It can also lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which carries the risk of developing esophageal cancer” (Rubin, 2003).
“People with chronic heartburn can develop painful ulcers in the esophagus, and in rare cases, some can end up with damage that can lead to esophageal cancer” (Yu-Xiao Yang, MD, MSCE, et al., 2006).
Also, throat and breathing problems may be made worse by acid indigestion. Some people may actually think they have allergies, since they have inflammation in their sinuses or throat, when acid reflux is the real culprit.
There are many other challenges. Even “dental enamel exposed to acid from acid reflux will cause dental erosion. The enamel dissolves when exposed to a pH of less than 3.7” (Freund, M.D. and Rejaunier, 2003). Neutral pH is around 7.
Doctors are not sure exactly why this is so, but almost half of asthma patients also have acid reflux.
Why popping a pill can be harmful
If the warning light in your car goes on, would you simply turn off the light, and never bother to check under the hood? Sooner or later you will have more serious problems with your car by ignoring it’s warning signal.
The same is true with just taking a pill, and not addressing the fact that your body is telling you that something needs your attention. Just taking a pill is like turning off the warning light that your body is giving you, and doing nothing about the cause.
Antacid pills have reported side effects
Neurologist Dr. Daniel Purlmutter stated on The Oprah Show, “Antacids block B6. Many people are taking antacid medications and the problem is that when they block stomach acid, they block absorption of B6 and that can damage the brain.” (Oprah, 2006.)
Dr. Sherry Rogers saw many complications with her patients who took Mylanta. “Quite simply, as Mylanta sopped up acid that prompts indigestion, it also depleted the same acid we nee for absorbing minerals. Without a sufficient quantity of minerals we are vulnerable to many diseases, from depression to cancer.” (Rogers, S., M.D., 2000).
A study of 145,000 seniors showed heartburn drugs can increase risks of broken hips. These drugs block absorption of calcium, leading to weaker bones and fractures (Yu-Xiao Yang, MD, MSCE; et al., 2006). The drugs causing the most problems in this study were Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec.
“(Tagamet or Pepcid) are some of the worst drugs that you could possibly take. They significantly reduce the amount of acid you have, inhibiting your ability to properly digest food. Reduction of acid in the stomach also diminishes your primary defense mechanism for food-borne infections and will increase your risk of food poisoning… I can assure you the number of people who actually need this drug is less than one in 100 of those taking it. In other words, people are being prescribed drugs for heartburn when it is one of the easiest medical problems to treat.” (Mercola, J., 2006).
Chronic use of aluminum containing antacid products may be detrimental to the body. “Research has shown that at least 10 human neurological conditions have been linked to toxic concentrations of aluminum” (Gasdorph, H. and Walker, M., 1995).
There is a way to go off of these drugs. Do not go off cold turkey. Check with a health practitioner.
What can create acid indigestion?
It is best to look at what you are eating or what is “eating you,” since foods and emotions can cause acid indigestion. Eating too many processed, acidic foods and soft drinks and/or emotions of fear, anxiety or anger can trigger acid indigestion.
Being over weight or pregnant may also contribute to acid indigestion, since possibly the added weight may put pressure on the sphincter, allowing it to open. Some people may also experience indigestion when lying down or bending over.
Natural ways to spell relief
“Eat whole foods, eliminate processed foods, exercise and relax and enjoy life.” Yeah, yeah, we have all heard that. But, the reason why we have heard it so many times is because it works. Here are some more natural ways to help with indigestion:
- Scientists have shown that there is a strong correlation between obesity and GERD. If you are overweight, losing weight would most likely help relieve the symptoms of acid indigestion and heart burn.
- Many health professionals feel the bacterium H. pylori that lives in the stomach can be a contributing factor in acid indigestion. Blood tests and stool tests will be able to diagnose if you have H. pylori.
- Stop drinking sodas as they are much too acidic for the body. If you can do one thing to really help your health, it would be to cut down or eliminate sodas from your diet. Yes, even those sugar-free sodas are so damaging.
- A Japanese folk remedy is to use a teaspoon of alkalizing umeboshi plum, which is available at heath food stores.
- The use of herbs may help: “Dandelion, fennel, slippery elm and Irish moss function as antacids.” (Tierra, 1990). You can make a tea of bay leaves in hot water.
- Drinking fresh vegetable juices, especially red cabbage juice in this situation, would be alkalizing and helpful to restore balance in the body.
- Greens are very alkalizing. Eating more green vegetables would help. The best greens powder that I have found is 100% organic, raw, with no fillers, sprouted and grown on mineral-rich soil, then dried in low temperatures in an oxygen-free environment. Very pure.
- Taking enzymes may help to break down food in the stomach. In a double-blind study pancreatic enzymes were shown to reduce gas, bloating, and fullness after a high fat meal (Suarez, F. et al., 1999). One theory is to take enzymes after meals, so your body makes enzymes first and will not get lazy making enzymes. You can buy some at your health food stores.
- Probiotics may be helpful.
- Supposedly the old fashioned remedy of baking soda and water can help with acid indigestion.
- Meals are not a surprise. Planning meals will help to avoid eating those culprit, acidic on-the-run foods.
- Eat s-l-o-w-l-y. Quickly wolfing down too much food may cause indigestion, along with usually over eating. Taking just a few more minutes to chew your food, actually can give your body enough time to tell you when you are full.
- Eating smaller portions always helps one’s digestion tremendously. They say, “you are what you eat.” I say, “You are what you digest.” If you are eating too much, it puts a strain on your digestive system, and you may not digest your food properly. That can lead to all kinds of health challenges. Like the saying goes, “the first third of what you eat is for your life, the other two thirds are for doctor’s lives.” Meaning eating too much, may result in medical issues.
There are so many natural ways to get rid of acid indigestion, you no longer need to take pills that may have harmful side-effects. Ahh – what a relief that is.
Freund, L. M.D., Rejaunier, J. (2003). The complete idiot’s guide to food allergies. (p. 66). New York: Penguin Group.
Gasdorph, H. and Walker, M. (1995). Toxic mental syndrome. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing, P.120.
Mercola, J., M.D., (2006). Taking heartburn drugs can break your hip. Retrieved Dec. 26, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.mercola.com/2007/jan/13/heartburn-drugs-can-break-your-hip.htm
Mohandas, M. M.D. (2005). BJS Abstract 105860: Rise of esophageal adenocarcinoma in USA is temporally associated with the rise in carbonated soft drink consumption. Retrieved May 17, 2005 from the World Wide Web: http://scienceblog.com/cms/node/2712
Purlmutter, D. MD., Oprah. (2006)
Rubin, J., (2003). Patient heal thyself. (p. 222). Topanga, California: Freedom Press.
Rogers, S. M.D., (2000). No more heartburn. Stop the pain in 30 days – naturally. (p. 6). New York: Kensington Books.
Suarez F, Levitt MD, Adshead J, Barkin JS. (1999). Pancreatic supplements reduce symptomatic response of healthy subjects to a high fat meal. Dig Dis Sci;44:1317–21.
Tierra, M., (1990). The way of herbs. (p. 41). New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Yu-Xiao Yang, MD, MSCE; James D. Lewis, MD, MSCE; Solomon Epstein, MD; David C. Metz, MD, (2006). Long-term proton pump inhibitor therapy and risk of hip fracture. JAMA, Vol. 296 No. 24, December 27.
The information is intended to help you make informed decisions about your health, not to replace your medical care. Elaine Wilkes, Ph.D., NC, MA, recommendations are NOT intended as a cure, diagnosis, prescription, or treatment for any disease; physical, emotional, spiritual or mental, and is not a substitute for regular medical care.