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Article / Relief for Heartburn Sufferers - Part I

Relief for Heartburn Sufferers - Part I.

A Call For Relief For all Heartburn Sufferers - Part I article contributor Mark Clark, Pharm.D., Pharmaceutical Strategies Group

Acid-Suppressing Medications

There are no miracle pills. Popping a purple pill (or whatever color your brand is created in) was created to allow you to eat what you want. If you have experienced ongoing heartburn symptoms, often referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or the same burning symptoms higher in your throat, referred to as laryngo-pharyngeal reflux (LPR), chances are you have also experienced the pain and frustration in your daily life that goes along with eating a simple meal. Perhaps you have seen a doctor for your symptoms. If you have, your doctor may have prescribed either an H2 antagonist medication, or a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), or even both. Unfortunately, while taking these prescribed medications, or even while taking over-the-counter antacids, relief is only short-term. Heartburn symptoms tend to come back, despite initial improvements with medication. Further, long-term side effects of each of these medications can be even worse for your health and actually make the issues more problematic.

All stomach acid reducers, PPIs, H2 antagonists and antacids, do what their name suggests: reduce acidity in the stomach. Stomach acid is a critical part of the human digestive and immune systems. Stomach acid breaks down your food and it also controls bacterial overgrowth in our digestive tracts. It kills bacteria that enters our stomachs and helps us from getting sick regularly. By limiting the amount of acid in your stomach, digestion of the foods you eat becomes more difficult. When foods are not able to be digested completely, the results are malabsorption of nutrients, gas and bloating and even additional GERD symptoms.

Did you know the side effects of PPI medications may include some of the same symptoms you experienced prior to medication? These include nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain. In fact, PPI medications have been directly linked to a reduction in gall bladder function.1,2

A breakdown of reflux disease

Heartburn and esophageal pain is the pain you feel when stomach acid works its way into the esophagus. The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) is the valve between the stomach and the esophagus that is designed to keep the contents of the stomach in the stomach. When the LES is not functioning properly, stomach acid can splash up into the esophagus. Physicians prescribe H2 antagonists and PPIs to reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach, which prevents the acid from moving up out of the stomach into the esophagus. The theory is that "excess stomach acid" is the culprit; therefore, the treatment is to reduce the production of stomach acid by the body.

In most cases "excess stomach acid" is not the issue. In fact, due to the typical American Diet which is high in processed carbohydrates and protein, the stomach often does not produce enough stomach acid to digest the processed foods properly. Stomach acid triggers the LES to close. When there is not enough acid in the stomach, the LES will not properly close, causing it to splash into the esophagus and cause heartburn or throat pain. In this way, then, you can see how low stomach acid can be behind GERD symptoms.

You might ask: Why then do acid reducers help the symptoms of GERD and LPR if it is low stomach acid is the culprit? The answer: These medications only offer a temporary fix. Reducing stomach acidity will keep the acid from splashing up the esophagus initially. Sufferers will experience breakthrough symptoms as the stomach naturally fights to create more stomach acid to digest food properly. It is important to note that stomach acids at healthy levels causes contraction of the LES (if it is working properly) and naturally prevent acid from making its way into the esophagus. In cases of low stomach acid, the LES will not close properly, thus leaving that "exit" for stomach contents into the esophagus. It is what we might call an oxymoron, a "seemingly self-contradictory effect:" doctors are treating low stomach acid with acid-suppressing drugs.

Did you know taking medications to reduce stomach acid has actually been directly correlated to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)? Fix problem one (GERD), problem two (IBS) will fix itself!

Have you read Part II? Read in Relief For Heartburn Sufferers - Part II how to eliminate your heartburn symptoms naturally!


References:
1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16858534
2 http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/503676
3 http://www.marksdailyapple.com/gerd-symptoms-causes-natural-remedies/#axzz2wDuXDaZu
44 Heartburn Cured, Norm Robillard, Ph.D., Self-Health Publishing; 1st edition, August 1, 2005
5 http://www.betternutrition.com/drug-free-acid-reflux-relief/features/featurearticles/1447 http://www.doctoroz.com "Should You Ditch Your Heartburn Meds? Parts 1 and 2 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/169467.php
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02882/acid-reflux.html
http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/h2-blockers-acid-reducers-for-gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd
http://www.medicinenet.com/proton-pump_inhibitors/article.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proton-pump_inhibitor http://chriskresser.com/heartburn