Heartburn medications are given out with broad liberties, almost as if there are no consequences to their use. Heartburn drugs, or proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec and Nexium, are now over-the-counter, allowing anyone to take them. There are deep and far-reaching consequences to taking these medicines long-term, and no one is talking about them. It is best to find out how to treat acid reflux naturally FIRST, then use medications if needed. Why?
Overuse of Stomach Drugs
A recent analysis showed that over 80% of patients given the medicines in the category called proton pump inhibitors had no valid indication for use. Use of these drugs are now linked to increased risk of SERIOUS infections, memory loss, and more.
PPI’s are sometimes needed and beneficial. Keep in mind, they are indicated for short-term use. Yet people stay on them for years, even decades.
Many people recover and feel so much better if they choose natural treatments for heartburn whenever possible. They absorb their food better and have more energy as well.
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What are PPI Drugs?
PPI drug side effects include:
- Abdominal pain
More serious side effects, although uncommon, include:
- Serious allergic reactions
- Stevens-Johnson syndrome
- Toxic epidermal necrolysis
- Reduced kidney function
- Reduced liver function
- Erythema multiforme
Types of PPI Drugs
Generic names of PPI drugs include:
Heartburn Drugs Reduce Vitamin B12
What happens if you take a proton pump inhibitor or PPI?This medicine blocks acid production in the stomach. Seems pretty benign, right?
Here’s the story you don’t hear. By blocking acid, they also block absorption of vitamin B12. Stomach acid is key to freeing or liberating B12 for absorption.
Consequences of B12 Deficiency
What’s the big deal about plummeting your B12 or cobalamin absorption? Vitamin B12 is necessary to make red healthy red blood cell cells and nerve cells. Low B12 can cause PERMANENT nerve damage, memory loss, and mood disorders.
B12 deficiency is now extremely common, and no doubt that heartburn drugs are contributing to these issues.
Deficiency of B12 also interferes with energy production and liberation of energy from food.
Even the most skeptical nutrition critic probably doesn’t want low energy. I’m pretty confidant of this.
It would be all still manageable if it was just B12 deficiency. However, there are some other consequences of blocking acid.
Proton Pump Inhibitor Side Effects
Stomach acid is also required for proper protein digestion as well. Think about it. You are trying to block acid, but the blocking of acid causes indigestion. Yikes.
Some research suggests these drugs even create small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Long-term, this can wreak havoc for health! We now know that long-term PPI use increases risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia.
PPI drugs rob the body of minerals needed for just about every function in the body. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, and likely more.
Sound worse than heartburn to anyone?
You need to carefully consider the risks of this drug versus the benefits. Also consider that natural treatment for heartburn is within your grasp too.
Consider, perhaps, that you don’t have too MUCH acid. You may have too LITTLE acid as well. Here’s a really great link from my colleague Jeanette Kimszal RDN about low stomach acid symptoms.
Natural Treatments for Heartburn
Acid sounds painful, and it can be a problem. By eliminating food sensitivities and/or using safe add-ins like ginger, plant enzymes and many other food tricks, you can be on your way to better digestion and reduced heartburn.
Many people’s heartburn simply go away when the eliminate or minimize the big food sensitivities. This can be a challenging journey, but well worth it. Reach out to me if you think this might be you.
Ginger Treatment for Heartburn
Let’s take a comparative look at ginger.
Ginger reduces symptoms of indigestion, nausea, vomiting, improves movement of food through the digestive tract, and increases saliva production.
Ginger reduces the chances that stomach acid will flow up into the esophagus. It also decreases arthritic pain and headaches in some people. Read more about the benefits of ginger here.
What does ginger deplete?
Nothing. In fact, ginger enhances nutrient absorption. Is more research needed? Always.
However, logic says to try food approaches FIRST to manage heartburn. It works for me and many others as a natural treatment for reflux or heartburn.
Digestive Benefits of Plant Enzymes
Our digestive tracts are THE most complicated parts of our body, some argue. We have so many things that can go awry if we don’t have the right balance for our own bodies. Each digestive tract is unique.
We need enzymes to digest foods. Simply put, enzymes help us break down our foods so we can digest them.
We have many places that we make enzymes: in our mouth, stomach, small intestines, and pancreas. Could enzymes be a natural treatment for heartburn? Or part of the recovery process? Absolutely.
Our small intestines actually produce MORE digestive enzymes than our pancreas. What does this mean for us? It could be a silent problem that makes your digestion way off, and you may never know it without actually trying to supplement enzymes.
What can make your enzyme production low? Inflammation, food intolerance, and anything that can throw off the gut bacteria (think PPI drugs, antibiotics, and more).
Enzymes are a safe and emerging treatment option for many digestive issues, including Celiac disease. They can be combined with bile acids as well.
Digestzen for Heartburn
Personally, I use an all-natural treatment for heartburn called Digestzen that is full of plants that support digestion: Anise, ginger, caraway, peppermint, tarragon and fennel.
While we don’t have ten clinical trials to prove this out, I have this: everyone I know who has ever tried it won’t go without it.
Let’s break this down a bit. Remember, most people treated for heartburn may not have heartburn at all. They often have INDIGESTION. This poor digestion of food creates a “back-up” of food into the stomach or poor emptying, giving symptoms of pain and acid.
In a review of over 12 clinical studies, a blend of caraway, licorice, and peppermint is effective as natural treatment for heartburn-like symptoms; functional dyspepsia.
Peppermint oil reduces pain, flatulence, as well as diarrhea in clinical studies. Peppermint itself may contribute to reflux symptoms in some people, but the combination does not appear to have any negative side effects.
Bonus: their nutrient absorption is much improved when using natural treatment for heartburn instead of drugs.
Fermented Foods for Heartburn
I also eat fermented foods and use a great probiotic and natural digestive enzymes as well. Fermented foods are potent! They can be a very concentrated way to get probiotic into your diet.
Fermented foods include:
- Puerh tea
- aged cheeses
- apple cider vinegar
Probiotic supplements are often a great add-in for digestion but are complicated and our guts are highly unique. Probiotics help break down our food to ease the digestive process. They can be part of a very natural treatment for heartburn.
Hot and Spicy Foods
It’s tempting to blame heartburn on hot peppers and spicy foods. However, it is often other elements in the meal that are triggering heartburn. For me, dairy or wheat are at a higher level of suspicion for triggers.
Some people do indeed get heartburn from spicy foods. Know your limits.
Alcohol is perhaps the biggest trigger for heartburn or acid reflux. Be sure to avoid if you are sensitive to alcohol, and make sure to not overindulge.
Ginger can help if you occasionally overindulge.
Chew Your Food
Thoroughly chewing your foods will help reduce your heartburn and indigestion by simply helping to break down your food before it hits your stomach. This eases all aspects of digestion.
Avoid Fried Foods
Fried foods are a common food trigger for heartburn. They also are really unhealthy otherwise. Your body’s signals tell you to stop eating these things. Tune into the signals.
Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe can help soothe digestion. Simply sip a small glass of aloe vera juice: you can calm your esophagus, avoid irritation, and help the healing process of your gut.
Try Eliminating Gluten
Gluten is a common food trigger for reflux and heartburn, yet frequently overlooked. Try subbing out regular pasta for rice pasta and gluten-free breads for a week to see if your symptoms improve.
Dairy is also a very common food trigger of acid reflux. If you can’t resist it, try some of the remedies, especially enzymes and Digestzen when eating it.
Important Considerations Before Embarking on Natural Treatments for Heartburn
I can’t tell you how many people feel better with one or more of these options, and their digestive problems simply go away.
Try natural options FIRST, once all other problems are ruled out by your doctor. As always, check with your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.
Contact me to find out more information.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.