Reflections on Heartburn
I stood in my friend's kitchen, listening to her story unravel regarding her struggle with heartburn. For four months, she had been trying to deal with her heartburn: a recurring, burning ache in her throat and esophagus. She was in tears while telling me all that she had tried.
"Has the Prilosec helped you?" I asked her.
"Some days it does and some days it doesn't. Now they have me taking Zantac too. I am so worried."
"You know that these pharmaceuticals block your
stomach's ability to produce acid? You know that you are increasing your chances of other bacterial infections, inflammation of the stomach lining, and increased gut permeability?" I could tell I was showing my frustration about the negative side effects of these drugs.
"Yes, but I just can't figure out a better solution. I don't want to be on them, but the pain is so great, and I don't know
what else to do," she said with resignation.
"Tell you what: let's try a fast! Let's have you go off these medications and have you fast for two days using some detoxification support," I proposed hopefully.
"Okay, but won't fasting make the heartburn worse?"
"No. Fasting, with proper nutritional support, ought to take away the heartburn. If fasting does take away the heartburn, once you begin eating again we will have you add in the different foods and drinks you ingest one at a time to determine if anything you eat causes the heartburn. Make sense?" I offered.
"Yes. I will do anything," she said with a new purpose.
She worked through the 2-day fasting leg of the Optimal Health Center's Core Restore Kit
, ingesting only the Ortho Core Support shakes and a lot of water. I also had her add 4 tablespoons of aloe vera juice
to her drinking water. On day 3, she continued with the shakes and began eating soup broth, vegetables (no nightshades), and rice. On days 4 through 7, she consumed more of the same, healthy meats, and small amounts of fruit.
During the entire seven-day cleanse, she had no heartburn. She was delighted.
On day 8, she began her day with her usual cup of coffee. The heartburn flared up immediately. It turns out that she can now only have a small cup of coffee in the afternoon if she doesn't want to live with heartburn.
Shortly after this experience, I was reading the May edition of Archives
of Internal Medicine
and was elated to discover that they were highlighting the overuse of medical
care in the case of heartburn.
Over 25 million people suffer from daily heartburn - heartburn that needs good care to be resolved. I understand why doctors offer the
acid-blocking drugs, especially proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): heartburn hurts!
But, as it turns out, by using acid-blocking drugs, we trade short-term results for other potential health problems. Acid-blocking drugs can cause:
- a nearly 75% greater risk of developing C. difficile (a severe intestinal infection)
- higher rates of pneumonia
- inflammation of the stomach lining
- increased permeability of the upper GI tract lining
- hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid secretion)
- bacterial overgrowth
- increased acetaldehyde production
- increased risk of developing gastric cancer
- vitamin deficiency (including B12 and D)
- an increased risk for food-borne infections, which will increase your risk of food poisoning
In my friend's case, it was a matter of giving up coffee - certainly not a small task for some. However, without facing that difficulty on the body's terms, she opened her body up for so many more difficult health issues. If you have heartburn, try the seven-day fast
with a process of adding back foods slowly, or call us to develop an individualized program.
If you have ever taken PPIs and are having digestive difficulties, take a
Gastrointestinal Health Panel
to determine if you have C. difficile. I am
continually amazed at how many of the Optimal Health Center clients'
test results come back positive on C. difficile. Studies tell us that 7,000 people are infected each day; this is one of today's most troublesome parasites!
If you have heartburn that doesn't resolve from eliminating a troubling food or drink, such as coffee, take a Gastrointestinal Health Panel
to determine if H. pylori bacteria is causing your heartburn. If this is the case, treat the infection with herbs like deglycyrrhizinized licorice, meadowsweet, and chamomile (flower and flower essential oil). These herbs will:
- reduce occasional stomach acid secretions
- promote healthy mucosal tissue within the upper gastrointestinal tract
- promote healthy tone and function within the upper gastrointestinal tract
- assist the normal functioning of the esophageal sphincter
- aid in the elimination of an H. pylori bacterial infection
According to an editorial about over-prescription of PPIs by Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, "proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are only warranted for the treatment of:
- bleeding ulcers
- infection with the ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (a rare condition that causes your stomach to produce excess acid)
- severe acid reflux, where an endoscopy has confirmed that your esophagus is damaged" and, according to Katz, "about 60 to 70 percent of people taking these drugs have mild heartburn and shouldn't be on them. PPIs were never intended for people with heartburn."
To read through the body of scientific research on proton pump inhibitors in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine
, follow these links:Iatrogenic gastric acid suppression and the risk of nosocomial Clostridium difficile infectionProton pump inhibitors for prophylaxis of nosocomial upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding: effect of standardized guidelines on prescribing practiceProton pump inhibitors and risk for recurrent Clostridium difficile infectionProton pump inhibitor use, hip fracture, and change in bone mineral density in postmenopausal women: results from the Women's Health InitiativeHigh-dose vs non-high-dose proton pump inhibitors after endoscopic treatment in patients with bleeding peptic ulcer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsFailing the acid test: benefits of proton pump inhibitors may not justify the risks for many users