Drugs can save lives and do. They are a triumph of science over some of the most deadliest conditions.
They have great value in the treatment of acute ailments, life threatening conditions, and in pain control. They fall short however in the treatment of chronic conditions, many of which are due to poor diet and lifestyle.
In the US about 50% of people are on at least one prescription drug and the numbers are rising.(1) (Canadian numbers are similar)
The number two top selling selling drug goes by the trade name Nexium. It grossed 6.3 billion (the “b” is not a typo) dollars in sales in 2010.(2)
Nexium is indicated for erosive esophagitis, a condition that involves injury to the esophagus due to acid reflux (sometimes referred to as GERD – Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disorder).(3) However, it is often prescribed when a patient complains of any upper GI discomfort, usually a result of LOW stomach acid.
I have come across this many times in practice, when a client is complaining of reflux and too much acidity. They usually present with the following symptoms: bloating, burning, sense of fullness, indigestion, allergies, flatulence. This is usually a sign that there is actually not enough stomach acid begin secreted. I treat them for low stomach acid and they experience a complete recovery.
Nexium is a class of drug called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). PPI’s work by shutting down the cells (parietal cells) that pump hydrochloric acid (HCl) into the stomach. As a result, HCl production is decreased by 99% which results in various issues.
Issues With Taking Acid-Blockers
- HCl is needed to digest proteins by activating important protein-digesting enzymes. If proteins are not properly digested you are at greater risk of developing food allergies.
- In order to absorb minerals you need to secrete large amounts of HCl. If you cannot absorb minerals then you will not be able to maintain bone density. So the drug company writes in the their monograph, “Several published observational studies suggest that proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy may be associated with an increased risk for osteoporosis-related fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine.” (4)
- The production of HCL in your stomach is important as a first line of defence to micro-organisms that you consume. Without this defence you are more prone to infection. In fact, people who take PPIs are three times more likely to develop a severe form of diarrhea called pseudomembranous enterocolitis.(5)
Imagine you went the gym every day and worked out the same muscle. Eventually you would get tired, then weak, and then injured. The digestive system is the same way in that if you over-stress it, it gets tired, then weak, and possibly injured.
Restoring Digestive Capacity
- Digestive Bitters: Bitters have been one my greatest tools in alleviating acid reflux and improving digestion with clients. There is a full description of digestive bitters here.
- Betaine Hydrochloride: If you are low in stomach acid, taking Betaine Hydrochloride can give your stomach the break it needs in order to start producing enough stomach acid on its own. (Consult a qualified practitioner to assess whether you are deficient and how to dose HCl)
- Lemon juice or apple cider vinaegar: Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar prime the stomach for digestion.
2. IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. The use of medicines in the United States: review of 2010. IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics Web Site. www.imshealth.com/deployedfiles/imshealth/Global/Content/IMS%20Institute/Static%20File/IHII_UseOfMed_report.pdf. Published April 2011. Accessed April 23, 2011.
5. S. Dial, J.A. Delaney, A.A. BArkun, and S, Suissa. “Use of Gastric Acid-Suppressive Agents and the Risk of Community-Acquired Clostridium difficult-Associated Disease.” JAMA 294(23) Dec. 21, 2005: 2989-2995.