The pharmaceutical drugs commonly prescribed to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have a number of serious side effects. Among other negative effects, proton-pump inhibiting (PPI) drugs can prevent the proper absorption of nutrients by the gastrointestinal system, which makes patients more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Also known as “acid reflux” and “heartburn,” GERD afflicts four out of every 10 adults in the U.S. It is caused by the improper closure of the sphincter valve that serves as the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach.
When the sphincter valve stays partially open, stomach acids and other harsh stuff can escape the stomach. Once expelled by reflux, these substances can enter the esophagus and reach as far as the throat and nose. These escaped gastric content will harm the sensitive tissues that they come into contact with.
Symptoms of acid reflux include pain in the chest and the taste of acid in the mouth. If ignored, GERD can eventually cause the onset of esophageal cancer and similar complications. (Related: A natural approach to treating GERD.)
Proton pump inhibitor drugs do not actually stop acid reflux
Most acid reflux patients seek relief in the form of prescription drugs. Prilosec and other PPI drugs can neutralize acids, thereby providing relief for the painful symptoms of heartburn.
However, regular use of these pharmaceuticals will also harm other aspects of the patient’s health. They decrease the efficiency of nutrient absorption, which in turns makes the patient more vulnerable to suffering fractured bones, heart diseases, and nutritional deficiencies.
The problem with PPI drugs is that they only alleviate the symptoms of the disorder. They do not stop the physical reflux of the contents of the stomach that cause the pain in the first place.
As long as the delicate tissues of the esophagus are continuously exposed to stomach acids and enzymes that break down proteins (such as the proteins that make up the esophageal lining), they will suffer damage. Eventually, they will develop Barrett’s esophagus or other conditions that can lead to esophageal cancer.
Furthermore, PPI drugs can decrease the amount of vitamin B12 that the body gets from digested food. The B vitamin requires a lot of stomach acid to be extracted from food. Since PPIs neutralizes acids, they make it much more difficult to get the vitamin.
A 2006 study by the National Institutes of Health (IH) found that three out of every four PPI users have low levels of vitamin B12. In comparison, only one out of every 10 non-users suffer from this vitamin deficiency.
Other nutrients affected by PPI use include magnesium and calcium. Magnesium deficiency can lead to hospitalization, while the lack of calcium is linked with weaker bones, higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and heart attacks.
PPI drugs can also prevent the production of nitric oxide. This molecule gets the blood vessels to dilate, and low levels can lead to hypertension or high blood pressure, which is another risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Pick natural solutions for treating GERD
There are natural ways to alleviate the symptoms of GERD. They include dietary changes, lifestyle improvements, and non-pharmaceutical remedies.
Stop eating processed foods and rich foods, especially the ones considered to be desserts. Instead, eat moderate amounts of healthier food. And instead of swallowing as quickly as possible, take the time to chew your food.
Smoking is one of the causes of acid reflux. Quitting this bad habit will improve your health in so many ways, not least of which is preventing GERD.
Finally, there are natural remedies like essential oils and medicinal herbs that assist the body in recovering from GERD and preventing its return. An alternative medicine expert can determine the appropriate herbal remedy for acid reflux patients.