Nobody enjoys heartburn; that hot, uncomfortable, unhealthy feeling linked to digestive issues that afflicts so many people. And no wonder it’s unpleasant, for acid reflux – as it’s also known – is in fact technically classed as a disease; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) to give its full title. Thanks to its commonality and the discomfort it causes, there’s been much research into acid reflux – and the methods used to combat and prevent it. Indeed, you may find the results interesting; even surprising.
Studies suggests that at least one in every 10 people in the US suffer from heartburn every day, while more than one in four (44%) of them do so once a month or more. Overall, the condition is thought to affect between 25% and 35% of the entire American population1; surely a worrying figure in anyone’s book. And it’s hardly any surprise then that at two least drugs prescribed specifically to combat reflux (Nexium and Prevacid) are among the best-selling medication across the entire world2.
However, when it comes to medication designed to combat heartburn, although many of them certainly do work, there are often drawbacks – and potential consequences for your health. Such drugs tend to work by effectively blocking acid in the digestive system – what’s the problem with this, you may ask?
Well, the problem is we all need a certain level of stomach acid as it plays a critical role in activating digestive enzymes and so preventing bacteria from taking up residence in the small intestine, as well as ensuring we absorb necessary nutrients including magnesium, calcium and vitamin B12. Thus, taking drugs that block stomach acid could lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies (especially in vitamin B12, of course3), which may lead to complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome – thanks to the overgrowth of intestinal bacteria4 – as well as fatigue, anaemia, nerve damage, depression and potential osteoporosis and hip fracture5.
If acid-blocking medication then isn’t the way forward for treating – and ideally preventing – heartburn, what is? In order to answer that question, it’s best first to take a look at the underlying causes of acid reflux. And, as you’d expect, for the most part it all comes down to what we put in our bodies – our diet. The likes of fried food, caffeine, sugary drinks and alcohol can all be triggers for heartburn, while spicy or citrus-based food and drink may be causes for some in particular. Overeating and the potentially resultant obesity can also contribute – the fat of a belly can push into the stomach and prevent its emptying, thus causing reflux.
However, by eliminating many of these foods and drinks from your diet and altering both it and your lifestyle, you can prevent reflux far more effectively and healthily than by relying on medication. Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid all processed foods and instead to try the likes of cooked vegetables and rice (but avoid raw foods; at least at first), as well as to eat frequent meals with smaller servings four or five times each day.
Additionally, you’re highly advised to try to enhance your diet and the well-being of your digestive system by trying some of these natural remedies – all of which are available from The Finchley Clinic – which specifically work to prevent acid reflux:
- Active Digestive Enzymes – generally used to enhance food and nutrient uptake
- Mag O7 Oxygen – aids in the cleansing of the intestinal tract and colon by breaking down and loosening unwanted faecal matter
- Latero-Flora – helps populate the intestines with beneficial bacteria to help maintain a healthy colon.
- Shaheen N. and Ransohoff D. F. ‘Gastroesophageal reflux, Barrett Esophagus and esophageal cancer’. JAMA. 2002. 287 (15): 1972-1981.
- Ruscin J. M., Page R .L. and Valuck R. J. ‘Vitamin B(12) deficiency associated with histamine(2)-receptor antagonists and a proton-pump inhibitor’. The Annals of Psychopharmacology. 2002. 36 (5) 812-816.
- Dial S., Delaney, J. A. C., Barkun A. N. and Suissa S. ‘Use of gastric acid-suppressive agents and the risk of community acquired clostridium difficile-associated disease’. JAMA. 2005. 294 (23): 2989-2995.
- Yang Y., Lewis J. D., Epstein S. and Metz D. ‘Long-term proton pump inhibitor therapy and risk of hip fracture’. JAMA. 2006. 296 (24): 2947-2953.