Prescription drugs and over the counter remedies for acid reflux can be very effective for people with severe heartburn. For people with ulcers or Barrett’s esophagus this may be their only choice. But if your acid reflux symptoms aren’t so severe, you should consider other alternatives to acid reflux medications, because they can come with a host of severe side effects like bone fractures, bacterial infections that require hospitalization, diarrhea, increased risk of Alzheimer’s, kidney illness and hypertension.
In many cases of heartburn, the problem isn’t that excess stomach acid is being produced; it is that the stomach acid is not staying in the stomach. Rather, it is traveling up the esophagus and irritating it. Stomach acid is actually very important for protecting you from bacterial infection. Bacteria literally get digested by the acid before they can multiply. Proton pump inhibitors simply shut down the production of acid, rather than work to solve the real problem which is keeping the acid in the stomach. So when you take them, you face an increased risk of bacterial infection.
Furthermore scientists estimate that up to 40% of the people who take proton pump inhibitors for conditions like heartburn and indigestion really don’t need to take them. They could get off of them by making simple lifestyle changes like eating smaller meals, not smoking, not drinking and avoiding foods that trigger heartburn. So if you are one of the 40% you might want to see if you can avoid medications by making some simple lifestyle changes. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing this.
You also have to watch out for antacids. They don’t shutdown the production of stomach acid like proton pump inhibitors, but they do lower the amount of acid in your stomach by neutralizing it. So they can cause similar problems. When you reduce the amount of acid, food may not be fully digested. This can cause vitamin deficiencies which ultimately lower your level of health and vitality. The various chemicals used in antacids all come with different issues. Aluminum based antacids may cause Alzheimer’s. Magnesium based antacids may cause diarrhea. Sodium based antacids can aggravate high blood pressure. Calcium based antacids may cause kidney problems. So, all antacids come with potential risks.
Ultimately, you and your physician need to choose what the ideal remedy for you is. Given, you might be one of the individuals who have symptoms so serious that you need medication and in some cases, the advantages of medication might over-shadow the potential risks. But it’s smart to truly analyze if this sounds like the case.
Zeke is a independent author who is currently writing about health related subjects like acid reflux.