Natural Alternatives to Heartburn and GERD Drugs
“There are studies showing that about 40% of patients don’t have an evidence-based reason to be taking a proton pump inhibitor, and that a lot of patients haven’t tried other alternative therapies such as lifestyle modifications or medications that aren’t as strong, or ones that have fewer side-effects.”
Dr. Emily McDonald, McGill University; 2016
The biggest issue with PPIs is the length of time that one uses the drug. Clearly, questioning the use of PPIs after a year of continuous use is a smart thing to do. A word of warning here: do not take yourself off a PPI without medical supervision. PPIs can be lifesaving for those with bleeding ulcers and other serious gastrointestinal issues. Going off of them suddenly can cause serious problems for some individuals, so always work with your doctor to wean off these prescriptions.
As far as I know, no one was born with a PPI deficiency. In my experience, less than 5% of patients prescribed this class of drugs really need to take them. Even if they do, the treatment length of time for heartburn unrelated to ulcers, gastritis, or serious pathology should be no more than a few weeks. Natural alternatives are just as effective and certainly much safer.
LIFESTYLE: Since stress, poor lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking, and physical inactivity can cause hyperacidity as well as just about any disorder, efforts should definitely be made to make major changes in these areas.
INFECTION: Helicobacter pylori bacterial infections are usually thought to be the cause of peptic ulcer disease and the symptoms that trigger doctors to prescribe either proton pump inhibitors or other drugs. There are a variety of tests your doctor can order for you to make the diagnosis. These include blood tests, breath tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, scopes and even biopsies. Medical doctors treat the H. pylori infection with antibiotics and a variety of antacids and/or acid suppressing drugs.
DIET: With respect to diet, the best thing to do is eat frequent small meals throughout the day instead of the usual three large meals. Drink more spring or purified water to help dilute acid excess. Therapeutic vegetable juices include carrot, spinach, beet, cucumber, parsley, celery, cabbage and potato. These should be used liberally throughout the day (2 quarts daily). Raw, organic, potato juice consumed just before breakfast can help reduce acid regurgitation. (Ed. note: As well, a glass of room temperature water with a squeeze of lemon juice or a spoonful of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar in it can calm the stomach and aid digestion.) Avoid red meat, alcohol, hot sauces, spicy and fried foods, added salt, caffeine products, sugar, and refined carbohydrate products. If you use aspirin, replace it with white willow bark capsules. At least this will not further aggravate the discomfort.
FOOD ALLERGY: A large number of people suffer from hyperacidity because of an allergy to milk protein (casein) or gluten found in most grains. Testing for food allergy or sensitivity might be a good idea in the more stubborn cases failing to respond to other diet and supplement changes.
SUPPLEMENTS: If you have been diagnosed as having an H. Pylori infection, a common cause of ulcers and gastritis, then the standard medical therapy is antibiotics plus antacids of one kind or another. Alternative natural health products that work like natural antibiotics include garlic, wild mountain oregano oil, mild silver protein (colloidal silver at 23 ppm or less) and berberine. Side effects (in comparison to prescription antibiotics) are minimal. You may already have heard of their safety and efficacy for numerous infections in the gut and other organs like the lungs and sinuses (bronchitis and sinusitis).
Both prescription and natural antibiotics can inhibit the growth of your friendly gut flora including bifido bacteria. This is why, if indeed there is proof of an H. Pylori infection, a multi-strain high potency probiotic (60 billion organisms) should be taken about two hours away from any antibiotic prescription. To soothe any gastrointestinal discomfort and help in the repair of damaged gut tissue, there is a long list of nutritional supplements that can be highly beneficial. Bovine colostrum contains immune modulating substances and has a long history of use to successfully treat chronic diarrhea and other gut disorders.
Essential fatty acid supplements (flaxseed oil, cod liver oil, salmon oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil) are anti-inflammatory and have numerous healing properties. Other nutrients than can either curtail H. Pylori or improve healing include choline, lecithin, PABA, bismuth, bentonite, goldenseal, slippery elm, burdock, manuka honey, ginger root, mastic gum, and aloe vera juice.
Another very effective gut remedy is licorice root, but be careful here. It should be noted here that the long-term use of licorice can elevate blood pressure in some sensitive individuals. The glycyrrhetinic acid component of licorice is what is responsible for this potential side effect. The best way of getting around this problem while still taking advantage of licorice’s ability to protect the gastrointestinal lining from acid irritation is to use deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). Many herbal brands manufacture DGL, a supplement widely available at most health food stores and pharmacies specializing in natural remedies. DGL encourages the goblet cells of the stomach to secrete more mucin, a natural agent that protects the lining of the stomach and duodenum from acid. It is not an antacid but works like one without preventing mineral absorption.
The amino acid L-Glutamine can also be very useful in treating most hyperacidity symptoms. Well known for its ability to improve muscle definition, L-glutamine can also play a major role in repairing the lining of the gut while reducing food cravings and heartburn symptoms. The usual effective dose is 5000 mg twice daily. I recommend that people use it in a powdered form, mixed with water.
The four-herb combination of burdock, slippery elm, Turkish rhubarb, and sheep sorrel (a.k.a. Essiac) is effective for a wide range of gut problems including hiatus hernia, duodenal ulcers, gastritis, colitis, Crohn’s disease, non-specific indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids and bowel infections. It can be used alone or in combination with DGL, aloe vera juice, or prescription medications in more resistant cases. Check with your doctor or naturopath for a personalized treatment regime.
(*It is ironic that Health Canada is doing much more to curb cannabis use than it is to curtail the availability of opiates, but that’s another story.)
Catch Dr. Rona at Whole Life Expo, where he will give a talk on “The Top 5 Killer Drugs – and Best Natural Alternatives” on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 4:30 pm. Admission included with Weekend Lecture Pass ($15 Advance / $17 at the door). Or visit Tristar Naturals booth 236, 237 where Dr. Rona will be signing books and answering questions for much of the weekend. For more information visit: www.wholelifeexpo.ca or see Showguide in October issue of Vitality.
 Common Heartburn Drugs Killing Thousands Every Year. (Report in the Spectator, London, UK) http://tinyurl.com/y7r63sw8
- Yan Xie, Benjamin Bowe, Tingting Li, Hong Xian, Yan Yan, Ziyad Al-Aly. Risk of death among users of Proton Pump Inhibitors: a longitudinal observational cohort study of United States veterans. BMJ Open, 2017; 7 (6): e015735 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015735
- The Dangers of PPIs (by Chris Kresser). http://tinyurl.com/h8sw6cw
- Overmedication with PPIs (report on CBC). http://tinyurl.com/y9njyto6
- Zoltan P. Rona. Drugs You Don’t Need. http://tinyurl.com/b3nsfmd
- Proton pump inhibitors drug class. http://www.medicinenet.com/proton-pump_inhibitors/page2.htm
- How Two Common Medications Became One; posted on ProPublica: Journalism in the Public Interest. http://tinyurl.com/yccrvd8o
- L-Glutamine for ulcers; published in the Harvard Gazette: http://tinyurl.com/yaf4a3y4
- L-Glutamine: the ultimate healing supplement.http://www.naturalnews.com/035956_glutamine_supplements_healing.html
(Excerpt from “Drugs You May Not Need”, written by Dr. Zoltan Rona originally in April 2014 issue.)
“Thousands of drugs are available in the drug compendium but only a few dozen are truly disease curative or what you might call life saving. The vast majority of them temporarily or permanently suppress symptoms, failing to get to the root of the real physiological or biochemical imbalances. Some of these drugs that are in everyday use are actually dangerous. The usual outcomes of their long-term use are highly detrimental in terms of one’s general health, longevity or sense of well-being. Years after their release, some of these are the subject of lawsuits while other drugs are simply pulled off the market due to dangerous side effects. Vioxx and Propulsid were just two such examples. One must remember that every treatment, even drugs, have a place but drugs are not necessarily your only or best choice.”