Millions of Americans suffer from heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD symptoms (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Anyone who has had a severe attack of acid in the upper intestines or throat will understand the crushing discomfort this creates. During these times, most of us just want “relief” at any cost. Watching television commercials makes it seem as if the miracle cure is a quick drive to the drugstore. This is what I call “The Illusion of Wellness.”
Let’s look at the root cause of GERD symptoms. That will allow us to closely examine the conventional treatments. Bandaid approaches are seldom the answer to our health concerns. In fact, a bandaid approach for people that suffer with GERD may actually do more harm than good.
What is the Cause of GERD?
The problem many times with GERD symptoms and heartburn is not excessive acid. Instead, sometimes a leaky gasket in the gastrointestinal tract allows the acid to reach the esophagus. Exactly like a piece of defective plumbing on your sink can cause leaks, a weak sphincter muscle near our diaphragm can allow acid to leak into our esophagus. The question, of course, is what causes this gasket to weaken? Here is the short list of reasons:
- Trigger foods as listed below.
- Exercise that stretches or presses on the abdomen. The discomfort many times is not felt for hours after the event.
- Pharmaceutical drugs taken for other health issues. The 3rd leading cause of death is properly prescribed and properly taken prescription drugs.
- Eating on the run or gobbling down foods without being relaxed.
- Eating excessive unhealthy or even healthy fats.
- Hiatal hernia.
- Missing meals.
- Excessive quantity of foods at one time.
- Eating too close to bedtime.
- Allergies or sensitivity to certain foods such as gluten, milk, soy or wheat.
Coming Off Heartburn and GERD Medications
One of the most frequent topics of conversation today is how someone can stop taking medications due to the growing concerns of side effects. Millions of Americans have become addicts of powerful pharmaceuticals. And the majority of the mainstream medical world does little to help educate patients to taper their usage. The pharmaceutical company labels state these drugs should not be used for more than two weeks; however, the average person today has been on them for years! The problem with GERD drugs is that the body gets used to the medication. Then it’s nearly impossible to stop taking them. That’s because these drugs have a rebound effects. The rebound, in simple terms, means that, if you stop taking it, the body gets signals to overproduce acid. And then the person has to return to the drug.
Believe it or not, this happens with people who are asymptomatic as well. When given one month’s dose of an acid blocker, and then the drug is stopped, heartburn would ensue within hours! Some medications have no rebound effect. But in drugs like antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and acid blockers, quickly stopping can cause a radical swing in body chemistry.
This means, if suddenly stopped, you could experience the worst heartburn of your life simply because of the addictive nature of these drugs. The question asked by millions of people today is how do they taper off of these addictive and unhealthy acid blocker drugs (aka proton pump inhibitors) that, in most cases, probably should have never been prescribed in the first place?
I must first state that I am not giving any medical advice in this article. If you have medical issues, check with your healthcare professional before changing medication. This information is simply to educate in order to make wise decisions.
Risks of Proton Pump Inhibitors for Fighting GERD Symptoms
Understanding the biochemistry of the group of drugs referred to as “proton pump inhibitors,” such as omeprazole, is important if you desire to get off of them. Proton pump inhibitors operate within the body, similar to a sprinkler in your yard that waters the grass when needed. Taking PPI is exactly like turning the water valve completely off and not allowing any water to pump through to the grass. It completely turns off the switch that produces acid.
When someone has been taking PPI’s for more than a month and suddenly stops taking them, it is like someone turning the sprinkler valve fully open and flooding the yard with water and no one comes to shut it off. This is why halting intake results in the rebound effect of horrific discomfort.
Histamine blockers, such as Tagamet, work far differently. Tagamet works by decreasing the signal to the body that reduces acid, which is far safer and results in significantly less rebound effect than proton pump inhibitors. This would be like a homeowner instructing the maintenance man to cut the sprinkler off when it is not needed, but to turn the valve on with adequate water when it is required. Histamine blockers simply lower the signal to the body to reduce acid, as opposed to shutting down the internal factory that produces it.
I have observed thousands of clients attempt to get off proton pump inhibitor acid blockers and, honestly, most have not been successful. Coming off acid blocking medications cold turkey is the absolute worst method because of rebound and the fact that the underlying condition was never addressed. Plus this actually can damage the body due to the excessive acid.
The following protocols have been beneficial to individuals who have successfully achieved staying off proton pump inhibitor acid blockers for GERD symptoms.
Take two digestive enzymes containing the following ingredients with every meal.
- Lipase-381 FIP
- Amylase-2772 SKB/DU
- Protease-12 GDU
- Cellulase- 99CU
- Lactase-300 ALU
Take a natural product containing D-Limonene from Orange twice daily.
I have found this product to be amazing on lessening symptoms of acid reflux.
- MelatoninOddly my experience and also research on Pubmed shows melatonin offers potential benefits for healing. Taking 3 to 10mg at bedtime is a normal range of dosage. Melatonin is now found to offer a plethora of health benefits as we age.
Start using your proton pump inhibitor every other day and rotate it on the off day with Tagamet from the drug store.
When ready, attempt to switch over to Tagamet every day for a few weeks. This usually takes 4 to 6 weeks.
At a point when your symptoms are under control most of the time, attempt to wean off Tagamet by using every other day.
This usually takes 4 to 6 weeks.
Be very aware of your trigger foods.
Acid reflux and heartburn can be controlled with diet. Chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, peppermint and grains (wheat, pasta, bread) will loosen the natural gasket in your abdomen which then allows acid to enter your esophagus and causes gerd symptoms. You must be a detective on all other foods that may be a trigger. Remember that most times the symptoms may not occur until hours after eating.
Also be aware that bending over or certain exercises that put pressure on your abdomen may cause flare-ups.
This would usually occur a few hours later and can be from activities such as weight lifting, yoga, or kids climbing on your abdomen, etc. This must cease or symptoms will continue due to the gasket allowing acid to reach the esophagus.
You may need to elevate your bed by a few inches on the headboard side with your head to prevent draining of acid while sleeping.
Oftentimes many people get flare ups while sleeping. Elevating your head can help.
Stay hydrated and do not miss meals.
Hydration is a serious commitment so be prepared to have in your day clean, pure water available.
Consider drinking small amounts of apple cider vinegar with each meal
if additional assistance is needed to soothe the intestines.
Know that regardless of how well you eat and follow this program there may be times for all of us with occasional discomfort.
Stress, lack of sleep, exercise, and foods are usually to blame. This is when you may want to consider a dose of Tagamet or whatever natural options you find effective just for that day. Staying off Proton Pump Inhibitors is your primary goal due to how fast you can fall back into the addictive nature of these drugs.
Please know this: Attempting to stop the PPI drugs can sometimes become a complex issue that requires consulting a trusted health professional who understands the naturopathic or holistic approach to health. Barrett’s esophagus is an extreme irritation of the trachea from the acid that, if left untreated, does increase the risk of throat cancer. This is why a wise conversation should ensue with a well informed, open-minded health professional.
Our bodies are amazing and designed to operate with an efficiency that would rival any high tech computer. Using methods or drugs that radically oppose the normal function of our beautiful chemistry will almost always result in a serious payday down the road. Honoring, respecting, and supporting our bodies inherent wisdom is the only method that results in long-term health and vitality. Part of the problem is our broken healthcare system trains health professionals to utilize synthetic drugs almost exclusively and has almost complete disregard for supporting the body as to natural options and healing.
Secondly, the American desire for instant results has led the drug companies to offer so many quick-acting, powerful drugs. Informed, wise consumers realize that healing requires patience and also the learning of methods that address the underlying problem instead of just treating the symptoms. This type of approach changes the whole game.