Enormously Popular Drug Used to Treat this Harmless Condition Can be Addictive, Trigger Hip Fractures, and Spark Intestinal Infection

heartburnHere are some of the side-effect free methods U.S. News & World Report lists as ways to relieve heartburn:

  • Avoid heartburn-triggering foods
  • Stay upright for a few hours after you eat
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Go easy on caffeine and alcohol, and avoid cigarettes
  • Don't eat too quickly
  • Wear looser-fitting clothes
  • Find ways to relax
  • Lose any extra pounds
  • Bend with your knees rather than bending at the waist
  • Elevate the head of your bed
Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Now here’s a fresh idea, implemented by the journal Archives of Internal Medicine as of May: a brand new series, called “Less is More.” The series will “highlight situations in which the overuse of medical care may result in harm and in which less care is likely to result in better health.”

“There are many reasons why clinicians in the United States may provide more care than is needed,” the editorial states.

“These include payment systems that reward procedures disproportionately compared with talking to patients, expectations of patients who equate testing and interventions with better care, the glamour of technology, the fact that it may be quicker to order a test or write a prescription than explain to a patient why they are not being treated, and of course, defensive medicine.

Another reason is "technology creep." After a device is approved for use with a high-risk population in which there is a proven benefit, its use often expands to lower-risk groups in which the benefit does not outweigh the risk.

Evidence suggests that providing excessive health care service is most likely to occur in situations in which there is not strong evidence to document the benefit and harms of the service. The Archives aims to address this deficit by publishing articles that provide evidence that performing "more" of certain health care activities results in "less" health.

…Our hope is that these vignettes will generate future studies on ways to do more by doing less.”

While this is great news, it’s really hard to believe as this is a JAMA journal that is completely shackled to the traditional paradigm, as evidenced by the AMA’s position on the last health care bill. I really am shocked that this idea ever saw the light of day.

Their lead topic is, however, a perfect example of where over-medicating and over-treating has gone awry and is putting your health at serious risk, as opposed to helping you heal.

Drugs are NOT Advisable for Majority of Heartburn and Acid Reflux Cases

One of the most commonly prescribed drugs for heartburn and acid reflux are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or drugs that VERY effectively block your stomach’s ability to produce acid.

While that may sound like a good thing, in most cases it is the absolute worst approach possible for the problem as typically your stomach is producing too little stomach acid.

Here, a series of five studies on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) indicate that drugs like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid are severely overprescribed and misused and hurt far more people than they’re helping.

These drugs are actually designed to treat a limited range of severe problems.

According to Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health who wrote an editorial on this topic, 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

PPIs were never intended for people with heartburn, and according to Katz, "about 60 to 70 percent of people taking these drugs have mild heartburn and shouldn't be on them."

However, I believe the number may be even higher than that, because there are over 16,000 articles supporting the fact that suppressing stomach acid does NOT treat Helicobacter pylori infection, which Katz included above.

One of the explanations for this is that when you suppress the amount of acid in your stomach, you decrease your body’s ability to kill the helicobacter bacteria. So it actually makes your condition worse and perpetuates the problem.

“Modern” Medicine is Not Serving You Well When They Treat Your Heartburn and GERD

If you’re taking a PPI drug to treat your heartburn you’re doing two things, but neither of them is actually beneficial to your health:

  • You’re treating a symptom only; you’re not addressing the underlying cause, and
  • By doing so, you’re exposing yourself to additional, and potentially more dangerous health problems, courtesy of the drug itself

Let me provide you with a simple yet powerful analogy. If you were driving your car and your "check engine" light came on in your dashboard, what would you say if you brought your car to the mechanic and all he did was remove the light bulb from your dashboard?

You would probably call him a dangerous fool as he only removed the warning mechanism for a potentially far more serious problem, and you would likely seek to have him fired for incompetence.

Well this type of approach is precisely what is happening with many conditions “modern” medicine treats, and heartburn certainly qualifies as one of the most outrageous examples.

The Health Risks Outweigh the Benefits for Most People on These Drugs

PPIs suppress the production of stomach acid, and as listed above, there are severe cases when they may be warranted, at least short-term. However, as many as 95 percent of heartburn cases are actually not caused by too much stomach acid, but rather too little!

So taking these drugs will only WORSEN your condition.

In addition, reducing acid in your stomach diminishes your primary defense mechanism for food-borne infections, which will increase your risk of food poisoning.

PPI drugs are also fraught with serious side effects, including:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bone loss
  • Hip fractures
  • Infection with Clostridium difficile, a harmful intestinal bacteria

You’ll also develop both tolerance and dependence on them, so unfortunately you can’t stop taking them without suffering repercussions.

In fact, you should NEVER stop taking proton pump inhibitors cold turkey. You have to wean yourself off them gradually or else you might experience a severe rebound of your symptoms, and the problem may end up being worse than before you started taking the medication.

This is why the drug companies LOVE these types of medications. They very effectively relieve the symptoms and actually make you “addicted” to them, because once you stop them you become far worse than you were when you initially started taking them. 

Pretty slick way to line your pockets with tens of billions of dollars of profit…

Ideally, you’ll want to get a lower dose than you’re on now, and then gradually decrease your dose. Once you get down to the lowest dose of the proton pump inhibitor, you can start substituting with an over-the-counter H2 blocker like Tagamet, Cimetidine, Zantac, or Raniditine.

Then gradually wean off the H2 blocker over the next several weeks.

While you wean yourself off these drugs (if you’re already on one), you’ll want to start implementing a lifestyle modification program that can eliminate this condition once and for all.

The First Line of Treatment – Probiotics!

Ultimately, the answer to heartburn and acid indigestion is to restore your natural gastric balance and function.

One of the first things you’ll want to do is to make sure you’re consuming enough probiotics. This will help balance your bowel flora, which can help eliminate helicobacter bacteria naturally. It will also aid in proper digestion and assimilation of your food.

Ideally, you’ll want to get your probiotics from fermented foods. One of my favorites is natto, but there are many other food products that are excellent choices for natural probiotics, such as fermented vegetables, and kefir, a fermented milk drink made from RAW milk and yogurt.  Just be sure and avoid most commercial products and get good ones from the health food store, as most conventioal brands are loaded with sugar.

Another option is taking a high quality probiotic supplement.

The one I use personally contains the Bacillus Coagulans strain, which has been proven highly effective. It’s also the one we recommend in my Natural Health Center.

Its main benefits are that it is present in spore form, and survives the acidic environment of your stomach -- making it to your small intestine where it does the most good. They also survive high temperatures and do not need to be refrigerated, which adds convenience.

Safe and Effective Strategies to Eliminate Heartburn and Acid Reflux

The following strategies will also help you get your heartburn under control:

Eliminate food triggers -- Food allergies can be a problem, so you’ll want to completely eliminate items such as caffeine, alcohol, and all nicotine products.

Increase your body’s natural production of stomach acid -- Like I said earlier, heartburn/acid reflux is not caused by too much acid in your stomach -- it’s usually a problem with too little acid. One of the simplest strategies to encourage your body to make sufficient amounts of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) is to consume enough of the raw material.

One of the most basic food items that many people neglect is a high quality sea salt (unprocessed salt), such as Himalayan salt. Not only will it provide you with the chloride your body needs to make hydrochloric acid, it also contains over 80 trace minerals your body needs to perform optimally, biochemically.

Take a hydrochloric acid supplement – Another option is to take a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without prescription. You’ll want to take as many as you need to get the slightest burning sensation and then decrease by one capsule. This will help your body to better digest your food, and will also help kill the helicobacter and normalize your symptoms.

I would also encourage you to read natural health pioneer Dr. Jonathan Wright’s excellent book Your Stomach: What is Really Making You Miserable and What to Do About It.

Modify your diet – Eating large amounts of processed foods and sugars is a surefire way to exacerbate acid reflux as it will upset the bacterial balance in your stomach and intestine.

Instead, you’ll want to eat a lot of vegetables, and high quality, organic, biodynamic, and locally grown foods.

Optimize your vitamin D levels -- As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, vitamin D is essential, and it’s essential for this condition as well because there’s likely an infectious component causing the problem.

Once your vitamin D levels are optimized, you’re also going to optimize your production of 200 antimicrobial peptides that will help your body eradicate any infections that shouldn’t be there.

You’ll want to make sure your vitamin D level is about 60 ng/ml. As I’ve discussed in many previous articles, you can increase your vitamin D levels through appropriate amounts of sun exposure, or through the use of a safe tanning bed. If neither of those are available, you can take an oral vitamin D3 supplement.

Implement an exercise routine – Exercise is yet another way to improve your body’s immune system, which is imperative to fight off all kinds of infections.