These days you can barely flip on the TV or open a magazine without seeing an ad for Prilosec or Tagamet. These prescription drugs are for heartburn. There’s a reason they are so popular. Up to 40% of American adults suffer with acid reflux disease. This condition causes painful heartburn, and people are desperate for relief.
If you are a heartburn sufferer, you know how uncomfortable it can be. That burning ache in your chest after you eat. The inability to get comfortable. The disrupted sleep. Sometimes the pain is so intense you fear it might be something more serious… like a heart attack.
Acid reflux disease is not a minor inconvenience. It’s a serious disease that can have serious consequences. In the worst cases, it can damage your esophagus, and that can lead to esophageal cancer.
The Solution is Part of the Problem
Most people think of heartburn as a problem with too much acid in your stomach. Even the official name—acid reflux disease—gives that impression. But acid reflux disease is not actually caused by stomach acid.
It’s true that your stomach acids are what causes the pain. But if your stomach acid just stayed where it’s supposed to—in your stomach—there wouldn’t be a problem. The problem happens when stomach acids are able to leak up out of the stomach and back into the esophagus.
Your stomach actually has a kind of lid to it. Think of it like the drawstring close you find on some plastic bags. You pull the bag open to put more stuff in, but then you close it to keep the stuff in. Well, when you experience regular heartburn, it means the bag is coming open and stuff is spilling out. The problem is with the closing mechanism… not the stuff inside.
The muscle that opens and closes at the top of your stomach is called a sphincter muscle. It gets weaker when its job is less important. What makes its job less important? Too little stomach acid!
That’s right. Acid reflux disease starts because you have too little stomach acid, not too much. The muscle that closes off the stomach becomes weaker when there’s less stomach acid. And then stuff from your stomach leaks out into your esophagus causing the burning, painful sensation you know as heartburn.
In other words, you get heartburn because you take too many antacids.
A Real Answer to Acid Reflux Disease
Tagamet and Prilosec are not the answer. They neutralize your stomach acids making good digestion difficult. They do relieve heartburn symptoms, but they do not cure the condition. If you are already taking them, you must talk with your doctor before discontinuing them. Stopping cold turkey can lead to some serious problems.
If you’re not taking a prescription yet, or even if you are, now is a great time to begin restoring balance to your stomach acids… and getting that sphincter muscle to do its job properly.
First things first. Stop taking over-the-counter antacids. They neutralize your natural stomach acids and give your stomach sphincter muscle a reason not to work. Instead, try one of the following two natural heartburn remedies: acidophilus or d-limonene.
I have my patients try acidophilus first because I’ve seen such good results with it. It relieves heartburn pain very quickly, but it does not lower the stomach acid content. So, it helps ease your discomfort without perpetuating the problem that is causing the pain in the first place.
When acidophilus doesn’t work, I have my patients try a d-limonene supplement. This supplement is derived from orange peels. Taking it every other day for three weeks can provide long-lasting relief to heartburn symptoms. This gives you a chance to lay off the antacids and break the vicious cycle that is causing you so much misery.
When it comes to heartburn, antacids aren’t the right solution. They create a catch-22 that’s difficult to break and uncomfortable to live with. Try these supplements instead and see how quickly you can get rid of heartburn, for good.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Photo Credit: health.com