If you’ve got chronic acid reflux or GERD, chances are you’ve wound up with a scrip for a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).
From a dental standpoint, there’s good sense in controlling reflux. After all, the stomach acid can destroy the enamel on your teeth, leaving the dentin exposed and vulnerable to decay. Chronic acid reflux can also increase irritation and chronic inflammation of your esophagus, which could progress to esophageal cancer.
Yet pills bring their own risks. This year alone, three recent studies have pointed out an association with proton pump inhibitors and chronic kidney disease, an increased risk of bone fractures, and dementia. Previous research has shown that PPIs may also
- Inhibit nitric oxide in the body. (Nitric oxide is vital to heart health.)
- Increase pneumonia risk.
- Increase C. difficile risk.
- Reduce calcium absorption.
- Contribute to an iron/B12 deficiency.
- Contribute to bone loss.
- Increase risk of food poisoning.
- Interfere with the ability to digest food completely.
Despite all that, PPIs are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the US. They’re so prevalent, in fact, that they’re often mistakenly considered a benign treatment for our modern lifestyle habits.
Fortunately, pills aren’t the only option. (Of course, before making any changes, you should speak with your health care provider first to make sure the changes will be right for you and your specific health situation or challenges.)
Get Real with Your Diet
For starters, eliminate soda and other sugary beverages, coffee and other caffeinated drinks, alcohol, mints, fast food, white flour, sugar, and any other foods that you feel trigger your heartburn. Opt instead for healthy oils – including coconut oil – fermented foods, fruits, vegetables, fish, and grass-fed/grass-finished meat. Increasing the healthy bacterial flora in your gut can help eliminate H. pylori, a common cause of heartburn.
Manage a Healthy Weight
Losing even just 5% of your weight can help reduce symptoms of chronic acid reflux because it alleviates pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter. And speaking of pressure, do yourself a favor and avoid “tight-pant syndrome.” Shapewear can actually worsen acid reflux (and contribute to other health issues, as well).
Because PPIs neutralize stomach acid, we assume we have too much acid. But the truth is we have too little. According to Dr. Mercola,
It might seem counterintuitive to add acid to an acidic environment, but as you’ve already discovered, many cases of heartburn are triggered by low acid production. One strategy is to take 3 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in 6 to 8 ounces of fresh water before each meal.
For most people, heartburn is worse after large meals, at night, or when lying down. Try eating your last meal of the day three to five hours before bed. Because lying down puts more pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter than sitting, take care to not to lie down within three hours of eating. When sleeping, elevate your head in a comfortable way that doesn’t increase the pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter.
The Watering Hole
Drink six to eight glasses of water a day, throughout the day, not just at mealtimes. This will help neutralize and move out stomach acid that’s hanging out in the esophagus. If you drink water when you are eating, it may dilute stomach acid, which could lead to incomplete digestion and increase reflux symptoms. In addition, drinking water with eating can overfill your stomach and lead to the backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus.