Heartburn Pain: Why Proton Pump Inhibitors Are Not Your Safest Option

Many people suffer from “Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)”, a complicated name for a chronic digestive disease. GERD results when stomach acid, pepsin and bile back up into the esophagus. This is “acid indigestion”, or, more commonly, heartburn. Because your esophagus runs down the center of your chest and behind the breastbone, that burning sensation can feel like it’s surrounding your heart, which is how the term “heartburn” came about.

Image of man with heartburn painThe burning heartburn pain from acidic influx often extends into the abdomen and the throat. The intrusion of very powerful stomach acid onto the sensitive esophagus and throat tissues is a misery! It can cause health issues such as ulcers, chronic coughing, vomiting, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, wheezing or hoarseness, and the unpleasant sensation of a lump in your throat!

Our Garland Chiropractic Clinic wants you to feel your best and live a pain free, active life. This is one of the reasons we offer a range of nutritional options that can reduce or eliminate the discomfort of heartburn pain.

What Causes Heartburn Pain?

There is a narrow band of muscle located around the base of your esophagus called the “esophageal sphincter.” When this sphincter relaxes, food and liquid can enter your stomach. Once food is safely in the stomach, the muscle retightens. This is the body’s simple, direct means of protecting the esophagus from the stomach.

It’s the health of the esophageal sphincter that prevents, or causes, acid indigestion. If something happens to the sphincter that either makes it relax abnormally or makes it weak, reflux and heartburn pain can occur. An open sphincter is an easy route for fluids to flow back up the esophagus. The influx is even worse when you bend over or lie down.image of gastroesophageal-disease

Stress, anxiety, and fear have long been linked with heartburn symptoms. In addition, the risk of heartburn increases for people who are overweight or pregnant. With more than 36% of Americans being overweight, heartburn is a major issue across the country!

The initial trigger for heartburn pain in some people results from the types of food and drink they consume, including but not limited to:

  • Spicy foods like peppers
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Citrus products
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Vinegar
  • Tomato products like ketchup or salsa
  • Fatty foods
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol, caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea or soda, and carbonated beverages
  • Large high-fat meals

Problems with Proton Pump Inhibitors

When faced with heartburn many people reach for over the counter antacids. When that doesn’t work, people will often turn to their doctors for a prescription. One of the most common categories of drugs used for heartburn are  proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which directly block the millions of tiny pumps in your stomach that generate acid.

One commonly known proton pump inhibitor is Prilosec. Ideally, this drug should only be taken once a day for two weeks.

Absorption of the drug doesn’t begin until it reaches the intestine, about an hour after being swallowed. The drug isn’t a quick relief for heartburn, instead providing more substantial relief over a longer period of time. PPIs are usually eliminated from the body within 90 minutes of absorption, but their effect continues for more than 24 hours.

PPIs are effective as a treatment for ulcers, improve pancreatic enzyme absorption, provide healing of erosive esophagitis, and prevent stricture formation.

However, there are side effects. Many people tend to use the drug for relief long after the recommended two week cycle, and the longer it is used, the more PPIs reduce stomach acid. It doesn’t matter that PPIs don’t remain in the blood for very long. The problem is the manner in which they bind to proton pumps is irreversible! That affect suppresses the body’s capacity to absorb necessary minerals, including iron, magnesium and B-12.

Here is a list of many adverse effects that can develop from long term use of PPIs:

  • increases the risk of wrist, hip or spine fractures
  • acute pancreatitis
  • anxiety
  • cough
  • depression
  • drug toxin-related hepatitis
  • erythema multiforme
  • flu-like symptoms
  • myalgia
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • thrombocytopenia
  • toxic epidermal necrolysis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • upper respiratory hypersensitivity reaction
  • upper respiratory infection
  • vomiting
  • reduced kidney function
  • may mask the symptoms of stomach cancer
  • may increase infections in the colon
  • may increase the risk of heart attacks
  • allergic reactions

Of great concern is how PPIs suppress stomach acid keeps ingested microorganisms from being destroyed. This allows them to reach the intestines, which can significantly alter the bacterial balance in the Gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract. That imbalance leads to an increase in bacterial strains dangerous to the system, such as streptococcus. This type of bacteria causes diarrhea and abdominal pain. These bacteria also increase the colon’s susceptibility to serious infections from clostridium difficile, a bacterium that releases toxins into the linings of the intestine.

Considering the potential side effects from long term use, it’s important to keep PPI usage to low doses and short duration. In fact, the best approach is, when possible, to avoid PPIs altogether.

Alternatives for Better Digestive Health

Dr. Ellen Cutler, DC, author of MicroMiracles: Discover the Healing Power of Enzymes” states:

image of fresh vegetables“Even if you eat good food every day, if you don’t digest it properly, undigested food can actually seep from the small intestine into the bloodstream, and the immune system reacts.”

Lack of energy and digestive discomfort are among the first symptoms of poor digestion, but there are many others: craving certain foods; weight gain; thyroid problems; bloating, heartburn, gas, indigestion or burping after meals; constipation or diarrhea; hair that is dull, thinning, or falling out; lackluster skin; weak or cracked nails; trouble getting up in the morning; sleep problems; arthritis or joint pain; feeling too tired to exercise; depression; mood swings; headaches or migraines; ADHD; rashes; hives; hot flashes; PMS; and, sometimes, fertility problems. Poor digestion also speeds up the aging process.

Just knowing the consequences of poor digestion encourages us to seek a remedy.

With our patients we use two powerful nutrients in a combination approach. Okra Pepsin, produced by Standard Process, works to soothe the symptoms of heartburn pain, while professional grade digestive enzymes, help the body by supplying dietary enzymes their body might be lacking.

The Power of Digestive Enzymes:

• Digestive enzymes help convert food into nutrients that produce energy in our bodies. They also work to repair and support our physical structures and their functions.
• Digestive enzymes are safe for adults and children.
• Raw fruits and vegetables contain the essential digestive enzymes needed.
• Many Americans don’t consume enough raw fruits and vegetables; therefore, enzyme supplements are beneficial.

Our digestive enzyme supplements contains all the enzymes required for a healthy digestive system.

The Okra Pepsin made by whole food supplement leader, Standard Process, includes okra, fat extracts from alfalfa, sunflower seeds, carrot roots, buckwheat, pea vine, gelatin, milk, water, and soy. This supplement supports the intestinal function of mucosal tissues and bowels, and provides a good bowel cleansing. It is excellent for easing gastric aches and heartburn pain.

Lifestyle Tips for Better Digestion

In addition to taking our recommended supplements, you might also want to make certain changes in your lifestyle and diet. Try to avoid stress, but if you can’t, work to reduce its influence by relaxing more often, getting more sleep, exercising, or engaging in an activity that calms you. Avoid foods that bother your stomach, and don’t eat within two to three hours of bedtime. Also important, chew your food thoroughly. As you chew you produce saliva. Your saliva contains key enzymes which start the process of digesting fats and starches.

Eating should be an enjoyable activity. Don’t let the unpleasant effects of heartburn pain make your life miserable! Contact us today to learn how these two supplements can help your enjoy your meals again.