Each year more than 100 million Americans are prescribed acid-blocking drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for heartburn and acid reflux, but a recent series of studies may have PPI users thinking twice about whether or not they really need them—or want them.
CBS this week ran a segment about drugs like Prilosec® and Nexium® that stated that “more than half of prescriptions for these drugs are unnecessary”. What’s more, PPIs often come with serious side effects that many people are unaware of—including a nearly 75 percent greater risk of developing a severe intestinal infection known as C. diff, as well as an increased risk of developing pneumonia, and a greater incidence of bone fractures (due to the fact that PPIs block calcium absorption in the body).
Essentially, taking PPIs upsets the healthy bacterial balance in your intestines (which is where the majority of your natural immune defenses can be found), leaving your body vulnerable to illness and infection. However, experts had some good advice about smarter, safer alternatives to harmful acid-blocking drugs, many of which include simple changes in diet and lifestyle that could reduce the chances of heartburn and reflux happening in the first place:
- Limit caffeine intake
- Avoid fatty and/or spicy foods
- Avoid chocolate
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Get plenty of exercise
- Quit smoking
A natural heartburn relief supplement made with ingredients such as ellagic acid (from raspberries and pomegranates) may also help ease the pain and discomfort of occasional heartburn, and a daily digestive enzyme with added HCl can help ensure complete digestion and prevent the onset of heartburn and reflux symptoms. Daily supplementation with a high-potency probiotic supplement may also help to reestablish and maintain a healthy bacterial balance in the intestinal tract.
Picnics, parties, poolside barbecues…ever notice how our favorite summer activities usually involve food? And we’re talking about the really good stuff too, like fresh-off-the grill hotdogs with all the fixings, smothered barbecued ribs, and a never-ending supply of chips and snacks that sure taste good going down, but that often come with an unpleasant side effect: heartburn. So for those of us who just can’t resist being a little indulgent this season, here are some quick tips for relieving summer heartburn from Digestive Care Expert Brenda Watson:
Don’t Overeat. It may sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s hard to stop eating when we’re really enjoying our favorite foods. Try to eat slowly and listen to your body; it will help you know when you are reaching your limit, and you will be able to stop eating before you become too full.
Eat Your Berries. One ingredient that helps soothe heartburn is ellagic acid, an antioxidant found in raspberries and pomegranates. Be sure to stock up on these fruits at your summer parties to help reduce stomach acid secretions and alleviate heartburn symptoms. If you don’t like them or can’t get enough of these fruits, there are natural supplements available that provide the same benefits.
Opt for Aloe: And not just for sunburn! Aloe vera and the amino acid L-glutamine have been shown to help heal and protect the delicate lining of the esophagus and stomach. Visit your local health food store and look for aloe vera drinks and supplements made with L-glutamine.
Keep a Record. Do you experience heartburn on a regular basis? Here’s a tip: Keep track of when it happens, including the time of day and what foods you ate recently. This will help you determine what might be triggering your heartburn, which is the first step toward preventing it from returning.
Go Natural. When heartburn rears its ugly head our first instinct is often to reach for over-the-counter or prescription meds, but the reality is that there are many natural options out there that can help alleviate discomfort without the harsh side effects. Plus, while most conventional drugs merely act like a band-aid without actually getting to the root of the problem, many natural formulas include proven ingredients to help establish a strong and healthy digestive system for life.