Antacids and acid blockers have serious drawbacks and should never be used long term.

Lunch Hour Lesson #9

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Happy New Year! Thanks for being part of my Lunch Hour Lessons that started back in November. I hope you have gained some valuable information so far, passed the lessons on to others, and are ready to continue learning in 2019.

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My New Year’s resolution is to bring you a valuable and engaging Lunch Hour Lesson and Weekend Tip every week this year. I am passionate about growing the world’s knowledge base of small nutrition and lifestyle concepts that influence our daily life to a huge degree!

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Today’s lesson is the first in a three part series about our stomachs. How many people do you know who struggle with heartburn, GERD, or general stomach troubles? In today’s Part 1, I’ll discuss the common approach to these conditions and the dangers inherent in the treatments. Next week, Part 2 will cover how the stomach and digestion is supposed to work, and what can go wrong. And in Part 3, I will give some practical solutions to optimize the acidity of your stomach and ensure maximum nutrient absorption.

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There are two types of drug products that are used to treat stomach issues. The first are antacids, which are products like Tums and Alka-Seltzer that neutralize the acid in the stomach due to their alkaline formula.

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Then there are the acid blockers called proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs. These drugs irreversibly bind to the parts of the stomach that produce stomach acid, deactivating them. Some common brand names are Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium.

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Both antacids and PPIs include warning labels that they should not be used long-term, due to risks of bone fracture, nutritional deficiencies, and overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. But, these negative consequences are not publicized, and people do find relief from stomach symptoms, so they keep taking the drugs for years, or even decades! They get sicker and sicker and rarely make the connection.

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I’d like to take a moment now to publicize the negative consequences of antacids and acid blockers.

  • Bone fracture: Calcium needs a high-acid environment in the stomach in order to be broken down and used to strengthen our bones. A 2006 study from the University of Pennsylvania found a 44% increased risk of hip fractures when PPIs were taken for more than one year. Less acid means less bone-building calcium.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: a high-acid environment in the stomach cleaves proteins into amino acids so they can be digested, and triggers the digestive process to begin for all the food we eat. Our nutrient status is only as good as our digestive capabilities. We can put the healthiest foods into our mouth, but if they’re not being digested, it is worthless. Less acid means worse digestion.
  • Pathogenic bacteria: a high-acid environment in the stomach is one of our greatest barriers to unwanted bacteria coming in from the outside and making us sick. People with lower stomach acid would have been more susceptible to contracting e-coli from romaine lettuce in the recent outbreak. Lowering stomach acid lowers the protective barrier.
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But, if people have GERD or heartburn, what else can they do but take the drugs? The commercials make it seem that acid is the main culprit – something that should be eradicated at all cost.

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Tune in next week for Part 2 to find out why stomach acid is actually so important to overall health, even to the point of benefiting those with heartburn, once the stomach heals.

Weekend Tip

Make a special New Year’s resolution focused on something you have learned from my previous Lunch Hour Lessons.

Lunch Hour Lesson #9: Heartburn, Antacids, and Your Digestion, Part 1

Posted by Allison Mädl Nutritional Therapy and Education on Wednesday, January 2, 2019