I’d like to now share with you a bit about digestion and acid reflux (aka heartburn). So many of my patients complain of acid reflux or heartburn. There are a few things I suggest they try before reaching for that anti-acid medication or a prescription PPI (proton pump inhibitor) as both have risks for long term health of your digestion.
What is a PPI?
Proton pump inhibitors are a group of drugs whose main action is a pronounced and long-lasting reduction of gastric acid production. (Wikipedia)
When you use these drugs, your gastric secretions are impaired. This means your food will then be improperly broken down in the stomach. As that undigested food moves further down into the small intestine, it’s going to be really hard to deal with. Not only is it hard to digest, but your body will not be able to properly absorb the nutrients from that food. This can lead to deficiencies of iron, B12, minerals and increase the permeability of the gut lining. This is commonly called Leaky Gut.
I’m sure you’ve heard of that, as it’s all the rage right now. When your stomach acid is fully functioning, it is the first line of defense that will fend off possible bacteria, which can cause food poisoning and other illnesses. When those acid inhibitors are used long-term, the complications can be enormous. Many patients have no idea of these long terms risks to their health.
Here are just a few issues that can occur with chronic PPI use:
(This is from Dr. Ronda Nelson, a naturopath in northern California)
- Low magnesium
- Heart Attacks
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Gastric Cancer
- Iron Deficiency
- B12 deficiency
- Acid reflux
- And much more.
Repair begins now.
So, what do you do and how do you repair this? Start with digestive bitters. This will help restore the digestive function and heal the damaged gastric mucosa.
What is a digestive bitter and where do you buy them? You can find them at any health food store as well as buy them online. I do like a professional brand so if you work with an acupuncturist, they can order something for you as well. Bitters contain botanical ingredients historically consisting of aromatic herbs such as bark, roots and or fruit for their flavor and medicinal properties. Some of the more common aromatic herbs are gentian, cassia, cascarilla, orange peel, and cinchona bark.
- Curb sugar cravings.
- Soothe gas and bloating.
- Relieve occasional heartburn.
- Encourage digestive enzymes, bile & HCL production.
- Calm upset stomach and nausea.
- Increase absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.
- Help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
- Balance appetite.
Take the bitters before each meal and they will stimulate and normalize your gastrointestinal function by increasing gastric acid production and pancreatic enzymes as well as support bile production in the liver.
Why do you need good bile production in the liver? Well, bile is critical for digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine.
I would also suggest taking a digestive enzyme before each meal. This will aid your stomach in digesting your meal. Remember, the best time to eat dinner is between 5-7pm and the best time for breakfast is 7-9am. In TCM there is an optimal time for every body function so working with your body will help you feel better. Taking time to chew your food will also increase digestive enzymes as well as starting your day with warm lemon water.
Consult a doctor.
You will need to work with your doctor to lower your prescription as you heal your gut and improve your digestion. The reduction of your meds needs to be done in small steps so don’t do this on your own and just stop taking your meds. If you have a return of acid reflux or heartburn, it means you’re stepping down on your medications too quickly. You’ll need to stay at a level where you don’t experience pain and then step down a bit more and level out each time. So take your time on this one and you will, eventually, be able to get off the PPI.
As always, if you have specific questions, I’m happy to help.