So what's my big beef with drugs like Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec? It's not much, really. Just that they mask your digestive problems, don't solve them. Plus -- once you start taking one, you may never get off it. Let me explain why…
Millions of men and women across the country use proton-pump inhibitors (PPI) like Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec to improve their acid reflux, chronic indigestion, or peptic ulcers. These drugs work by shutting down the enzyme in your stomach that produces acid.
But shutting down your stomach's acid production is never a good idea. In fact, if you suffer from acid reflux, chances are you don't have enough acid in your stomach. And it's only by adding more acid and enzymes to your system that you can the make the symptoms of this "chronic" problem disappear.
More on how to do that in a moment, but first, consider this…
Scientists prove PPIs induce acid reflux in healthy patients
Scientists in from Copenhagen University studied the effects of PPIs on 120 healthy volunteers. (Just to be clear, these were people who'd never even had an occasional bout of acid reflux.)
The patients were divided into two groups. One group got a placebo (sugar pill) for 12 weeks. And another group got 40 mg per day of esomeprazole (the PPI in Nexium) for eight weeks followed by a placebo for four weeks.
So what did they find? Did both groups fare about the same?
Of course not.
In fact, during the wash-out phase (during weeks nine through 12), 44 percent of the patients who took a PPI experienced a "clinically relevant acid-related" symptom compared to only 15 percent of the placebo group.
That means, after they stopped taking the darned drug, almost half of these folks experienced acid reflux, heartburn, or dyspepsia for the first time in their lives!
Why did that happen, you ask?
The study's authors called it a "rebound." You see, when the patients stopped taking the acid-suppressant, their bodies went into withdrawal. The researchers theorize that their bodies started over-producing a hormone that stimulates stomach acid.
And this was during a clinical trial, with healthy volunteers!
Just consider how this might play out in millions of homes across the country with someone who really suffers from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Say a man has a bout of acid reflux. He has trouble getting rid of it. So he starts taking Nexium. He thinks he's got the reflux under control after eight weeks, so he goes off it. But then the symptoms return.
Based on the conclusions of this study, his rebound symptoms could technically have been induced by the PPI! But he doesn't know that, of course. He just knows the symptoms came back. So he goes back on the PPI.
I don't know about you, but in my book, that's called an addictive drug. It's a drug that you can never get away from scot-free.
Soothing your stomach without drugs
There are lots of options for controlling acid reflux without resorting to drugs like Nexium. Basically, the goal is to create a digestive environment that doesn't allow reflux to occur.
First off, I would encourage you to add a probiotic like acidophilus to your daily regimen. Go for a capsule that contains billions of units of this beneficial bacteria. And you don't just swallow it with meals. Instead, you'll want to open up the capsule and pour the contents down your throat. Let your natural saliva wash it down. That way, your throat and esophagus will get coated with all soothing bacteria. This will also aid in your overall digestion.
You should also add some "full spectrum" digestive enzymes to your regimen. You see, acid reflux occurs when your stomach doesn't produce enough acid. As a result, your food doesn't get properly digested and it starts coming back at you.
Digestive enzymes crank up your stomach's engine and allow helpful acid to flourish. The enzymes also help you to properly break down all food types (proteins, fats, and carbs). Take them immediately after meals, so as to augment, not replace, the body's manufacture of its own enzymes.
When acid reflux just won't quit
Occasionally the combination of acidophilus and digestive enzymes isn't enough to stop severe acid reflux. You may have even developed an ulcer.
If that's the case, you may experience relief with DGL, a form of licorice that has one component removed (DGL means De-Glycerrhizinated Licorice). Chewing or sucking on it 20 minutes before eating can be very helpful in difficult cases.
If you've been dealing with acid reflux for a number of years, you probably already know to avoid spicy and acidic foods. But you may not know about lesser-known triggers for acid reflux such as flour products (sorry, no pancakes!), sugar, and even alcohol. Definitely avoid these triggers as well. I would also suggest eating several small meals throughout the day, instead of three all-you-can-eat feasts. This is approach is far easier on your digestive tract.