Proton Pump Inhibitors Endanger Your Bones
Nearly 20 million Americans are prescribed esomeprazole (better known as Nexium, Prilosec, Aciphex, and Protonix) to treat heartburn, GERD, and acid reflux. And they spend $6.2 billion annually for it. These drugs are called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) because they neutralize stomach acid as a way to stop reflux and the heartburn that follows it.
But sadly, millions of people – possibly you – are wasting their money because they may not need PPIs to effectively treat acid reflux. What’s more, PPIs wreak havoc on your body.
Studies link PPIs with:
- Increased chance of bacterial infections
- Increased risk of broken bones
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Anxiety and depression
- Digestive problems
- Increased risk of heart attack
There are better and safer ways to naturally treat your acid reflux without any of these side effects. It all starts with a better knowledge of how your stomach acid works.
What’s Causing Your Acid Reflux?
What most of us call acid reflux or heartburn, doctors call GERD – gastro-esophageal reflux disease. That painful burning sensation in your stomach, chest and throat is its signature symptom. And that pain is caused by acid escaping your stomach up through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
Your LES is the flap that separates your esophagus from your stomach. When functioning normally, it opens only to allow food and liquid to pass down into your stomach, and to allow vomit and gas to escape up when necessary. Normally, the LES immediately seals shut to prevent acid from escaping. But in most cases of acid reflux, the LES is not sealing tightly and acid passes through into your esophagus, throat and mouth.
The medical community’s M.O. is to treat reflux with PPIs. Their thinking: if there’s less acid in your stomach, it’s less likely to escape upwards. I’m trying not to slap my forehead at this logic because it ignores two very key concepts: the importance of your stomach acid and the reasons why your LES is allowing acid to escape.
Let’s tackle these one at a time.
Stomach Acid is a Good Thing
If you’ve experienced acid reflux, you are familiar with its dry, disgusting aftertaste. It tastes like you drank… well, acid. That putrid aftertaste is just a preview of how powerful stomach acid is and what it does inside your stomach.
Your stomach acid breaks down food so that proteins, vitamins, and nutrients can be absorbed and passed into your bloodstream. It also prevents infections and food poisoning by killing food-borne bacteria.
But PPIs suppress stomach acid and slow down your body’s creation of it, which can give harmful bacteria in your food a second life in your bloodstream and intestines.
Just as dangerous, if not worse, PPIs inhibit the absorption of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
I want to make one thing very clear. Those six nutrients are extremely important to your health.
Iron deficiency leads to anemia. A vitamin B12 deficiency is so serious that it is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. Folic acid is required to create new cells and repair old ones. Too little magnesium leads to heart problems. Zinc boosts the immune system. And calcium not only keeps bones strong, but also helps keep you trim and slim.
I also want to make it very clear that your stomach acid is a good thing. If anything, you need more of it to digest food quickly and more completely so that you better absorb those vitamins and minerals.
How Does Acid Escape Your Stomach?
The real cause of acid reflux isn’t the amount of acid in your stomach but the fact that it’s escaping to begin with. More specifically, your LES is not sealing tightly, which allows acid to pass through.
But why is your LES malfunctioning? Reflux is commonly linked to eating a spicy meal, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A variety of foods are known to relax your LES: tomatoes, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, chocolate, coffee, and other caffeinated products. Smoking and alcohol relax the LES and also stimulate stomach acid – a one-two reflux punch.
In addition, a number of factors can cause stomach acid to roil: stress, allergies, lack of sleep, meals high in fats and oils, hernia and obesity. LES problems are caused by dozens of lifestyle and dietary factors, and they differ from person to person.
It’s clear to me that that a one-size-fits-all approach to treating reflux is ineffective. Stamping out stomach acid with PPIs not only misses the mark. It exacerbates the problem and creates a host of new ones.
Treating Reflux Without PPIs
A natural and effective reflux remedy requires a twofold approach: Preventing your stomach acid from boiling over and ensuring your LES locks the door every time it closes it.
In many cases, getting rid of acid reflux and heartburn boils down to six main actions:
- Be mindful of your portions so you don’t overburden your stomach.
- Eat less food that upsets your stomach.
- Eat less food that relaxes your LES.
- Reduce stress levels and get more sleep.
- You may need MORE acids in your stomach to digest food more effectively (ask your doctor about hydrochloric acid supplements).
- If you are taking medications, talk with your doctor to find out if they are causing acid reflux.
In addition, a simple but dedicated effort to improve your lifestyle is a powerful way to combat reflux. For example, getting more exercise will naturally reduce your stress levels and improve your ability to sleep better and for longer periods.
You can also add supplements like digestive enzymes, which help you break down food and digest it better. The three most important digestive enzymes are lipase (which helps digest fat), amylase (which targets carbohydrates) and protease (which targets protein). These and other enzymes help make digestion more efficient. Probiotics, of course, help promote healthy digestion and elimination.
Finally, consider taking a melatonin supplement for a variety of reasons. Several recent clinical studies concluded that melatonin:
- Promotes a well-sealed LES, which keeps stomach acid where it belongs
- Supports your body’s biochemistry to avoid inappropriate opening of your LES after eating
- Helps relieve heartburn
- Helps protect the mucus membranes of the esophagus
- Promotes optimal sleep and improves sleep efficiency during REM cycle
- Provides antioxidant protection against free radicals
I recommend that you take daily melatonin supplement of 6 mg. But be sure you only take it 30 to 60 minutes before you go to bed because melatonin is also a natural sleep aid.
Kiss Goodbye to PPIs
If you are one of the 20 million people using PPIs to treat reflux, I think that it’s time to talk with your doctor before spending another dollar. PPIs carry a long list of harmful side effects yet they don’t solve the underlying problem. At best, they temporarily help your symptoms. At worst, they aggravate your heart, weaken your bones, and increase your chances of infection and disease. It’s a losing game.
Attacking reflux at its source – the LES – will prevent acid from escaping your stomach. And you can take comfort in knowing that your stomach acid is working hard breaking down food without worrying if your LES forgot to lock the door again.
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: August 14, 2018