Heartburn, belching, bloating, and gas. What a dreadful way to follow up a delicious meal. Most people reach for antacids, which can provide temporary relief. For more severe cases, they may take a Proton Pump Inhibitor, or PPI, such as Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix and the like. These medications alter the secretion of stomach acid, which we need to digest protein foods, by suppressing the special cells in the lining of the stomach that produce hydrochloric acid (HCL). The negative effects of these meds are long lasting because they prevent us from digesting and assimilating protein, the building blocks of every cell in our bodies!
While they can be helpful in some cases, they should be used briefly and never for more than six weeks. Yet people are on them for many years. Multiple consequences of such long term use are becoming more and more apparent.
A recent study published in JAMA Intern Med (2016; 176 (2): 238-246) finds that 70% of the 15 million Americans who are taking prescription PPI’s are taking them unnecessarily. And this figure does not include those who are self medicating and taking over-the-counter PPI’s.
The study, done in collaboration with local healthcare provider, Geisinger, finds that PPIs not only cause acute kidney disease, which has been known for years, but identifies a strong association with chronic kidney disease (CKD), a far more dangerous condition.
Naturopaths and nutritionists have long known that the majority of the time, what feels like acid stomach is actually alkaline stomach. They manifest the same symptoms: burning, heartburn and sometimes acid reflux. Consider that lye, with a pH of 14, and extremely alkaline, burns, just like battery acid does, with a pH of 1.
Stomach acid has a pH of 2. This is why sipping lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in water are good digestive aids; they both acidify stomach acid.
If stomach acid is too alkaline, the esophageal sphincter, which is controlled by pH, becomes weak, and allows stomach acid to seep into the esophagus. Over time, if stomach acid continues to be alkaline, the flap remains weak and allows acid reflux or GERD
(gastro-esophageal reflux) to develop. Not only is this uncomfortable but chronic GERD can erode the esophagus and lead to Barrett disease and cancers of the throat and esophagus.
A secondary effect is the long term deficit in digestion and the poor assimilation of nutrients as digestive capacity is significantly stunted.
So how do we correct heartburn and acid reflux without the use of PPIs?