Are the Side Effects enough to give you Heartburn?

You had a great time and wonderful evening with friends.  Then lying in bed you are woken up by the burning sensation in your chest and throat.  Advertisements would tell you this is not a problem since there are drugs for heartburn but are they safe?

The most commonly prescribed drugs are PPI’s (protein pump inhibitors), also known as anti-acid drugs.  This category of drugs is one that treats the symptom, not the cause.

What is the cause?  Most of the time heartburn is related to overeating or consuming rich food and alcohol.  Your body can only handle a certain amount of food at one time.  And, it can only handle a set amount of carbohydrate at a sitting. 

So what happens when you eat too many carbs or just eat too much? 

The food sits there and creates pressure in the stomach which over time can create a leaky valve that allow acid to splash up from the stomach and there you have it – acid reflux also known as GERD.

That’s where the PPI’s come in.  So what’s the big deal?  Why not take these drugs?

The risks of PPI’s are not in your favor.

1.  Bone Fractures – A 2006 study in JAMA showed those taking PPI’s for more than a year had a 30-60% increased risk of hip fracture than those not taking acid blockers.

2.  Bacterial Infections – those taking PPI’s who were hospitalized were more likely to contract Clostridium difficile than those not taking acid blockers.

Pharmaceutical firms actively promote PPI’s and they are now marketing them to young adults.  Michael Katz, M.D., director of public health for the city of San Francisco states “I think PPI’s have become more of a lifestyle drug.  People don’t really understand the risks.”

So what do you do if you have heartburn or GERD?  Taking these drugs on a short-term basis is not associated with the risks listed above.  Beyond that however, you need to be treating the cause of your GERD.

1.  Eliminate processed carbs from your diet.  Eat your carbs from fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds, avocado and limited amounts (1/2 cup) of starches like quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat.

2.  Eat small frequent meals – eat when you are hungry and stop when just satiated or a bite or two before so your body can process the food you are taking in.

3.  Increase activity– if you are overweight start becoming more activeand consider changing your diet and lifestyle to lose weight.  Losing belly fat will lower heartburn and acid reflux.

4.  Limit rich foods and alcohol – keep your food celebrations to a minimum.  When you eat out, consider eating similarly to how you eat at home.  Have a food plan and take it with you whether you are out or at a party.

A client of mine recently told me he just thought taking anti-acid drugs was just part of his daily routine.  After changing his diet and losing 30 pounds, he hasn’t taken a PPI in over 6 months.

To avoid browsing the antacid aisle try a simpler approach by eating types and amounts of foods your body can actually handle.  Naturally avoiding heartburn and the drugs that treat it are healthy side effects you can live with.