According to researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the longer people take heartburn drugs (proton pump inhibitors), the greater their risk of dying prematurely from heart disease, kidney disease, and stomach cancer. Worse still, the risks increase according to the duration of treatment with these drugs, even if you lower the dose. (source)
Alarmingly, “More than 15 million Americans have prescriptions for PPIs. Further, many millions more purchase the drugs over the counter and take them without being under a doctor’s care and often indefinitely.”
Over the years, research has linked heartburn drugs to various health problems, including weak bones, dementia, and pneumonia. This is the first study linking the drugs to risk of death. (source)
If you or a loved one routinely takes heartburn drugs, it’s time to stop!
PPIs are sold under various brand names, including Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium and Protonix. If you or someone you know is taking them, you should consider treating the underlying cause of your heartburn naturally rather than resorting to these unsafe drugs.
So, what exactly causes heartburn?
My friend Craig Fear, a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, wrote the go-to book on heartburn, what causes it, and how to cure it. It’s called The 30 Day Heartburn Solution, and in it he argues that heartburn isn’t caused by too much stomach acid, but by too little.
He contends that in the presence of too little stomach acid, the not-fully digested sugars in our gut can create excess gas,
Bloating, belching, and bad breath are some of the symptoms that result. The maldigested mass of food and the gas that results builds up in the stomach and can start to put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve that keeps the stomach separate from the esophagus. Over time, the LES can weaken through this continuous increased pressure.
As pressure builds, some of the acidic contents of the stomach can reflux back into the esophagus. And as we’ve seen, unlike the stomach, the lining of the esophagus is not meant for acid so it burns. As previously described, this burning of the lining of the esophagus is known as heartburn. So the root cause of heartburn is the under production of stomach acid.(source)
Figure 1. Stomach acid secretion from ages 11-70. (From Wright, 2001, p 20)
Furthermore, Jonathan Wright, MD of the Tahoma Clinic in Washington state wrote that “When we carefully test people over age forty who’re having heartburn, indigestion and gas, over 90 percent of the time we find inadequate acid production by the stomach.” (source)
So what about all these antacids and heartburn drugs we are taking? Wouldn’t those make the problem worse?
While it is true that by lowering the acid content of the stomach, they successfully relieve the burning sensation of heartburn, these medicines ultimately perpetuate the problem (low stomach acid). And with the newest study linking PPIs to increased risk of death, it’s better to avoid taking these drugs altogether, if possible.
How to treat heartburn naturally.
Here’s where my friend Craig Fear’s book comes in. He developed a nutritional treatment plan that he uses with patients in his practice (Pioneer Valley Nutritional Therapy in MA), and that’s the protocol that he shares in the second half of his book.
It’s a 4 week protocol, divided in two, two week segments.
He goes into a tremendous amount of detail, so I’m a little apprehensive about hitting the highlights here for fear of misrepresenting Craig’s solution. But to put it simply, he prescribes a 100% real food diet for the full 30 days that promotes gut health and helps soothe the gut lining. The first two weeks are entirely grain-free, and the second set of two weeks can include a series of recommended (short-term!) supplements if you’re not already seeing marked improvement.
I appreciate how Craig handled this portion of the book. Not only does he provide sound reasoning and practical steps towards guiding you in the diet, but he also has “troubleshooting” sections to help you if a particular step seems difficult or hard to implement.
I’ve also had plenty of people tell me that regularly drinking kombucha has helped eliminate their GERD, acid reflux, and heartburn!
While this is purely anecdotal, enough people tout it as one of the health benefits of kombucha that I think it may be worth giving a shot for those of you who are desperate. You see, kombucha isn’t a cure-all, but it does help bring our digestion into balance (source). It’s likely that in doing so, it relieves the the symptoms of an out-of-balance gut.
WHERE CAN I GET KOMBUCHA?
You can usually find a bottle of kombucha at your local health food store, but I recommend making your own kombucha at home.
I’VE EVEN CREATED A HANDY, EASY-TO-FOLLOW, PRINT-FRIENDLY TUTORIAL FOR HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN FLAVORED KOMBUCHA AT HOME.
To make your own kombucha, you’ll also need a kombucha starter culture.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT KOMBUCHA TEA?
Check out these other articles on kombucha tea I’ve written:
- Kombucha Tea Questions & Answers Part One
- Kombucha Tea Questions & Answers Part Two
- Kombucha Tea: How to Make Kombucha
- How to Grow a Kombucha SCOBY
- Kombucha SCOBY Experiment
- Why Choose the Continuous Brew Method of Making Kombucha
- Is Kombucha Safe When Pregnant or Nursing?