Do you suffer from heartburn?

If you do, you’re not alone. It’s estimated more than 15 million Americans take proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), using brands such as Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix, and Aciphex, some of which are available over the counter.

PPI’s reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes and so relieve the uncomfortable symptoms associated with heartburn and indigestion. Researchers at Washington University and the Clinical Epidemiology Center -- both in St. Louis -- analyzed a group of veterans and found those taking PPI’s were 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease and 96% more likely to suffer kidney failure.

This was as compared with those taking Histamine H2 Receptor Blockers, an alternative stomach acid suppressant.

Why do you get heartburn?

When the ring of muscle at the end of the esophagus relaxes and lets acid go back up, this causes pain and a burning sensation in the chest. Whilst PPI’s may be effective at treating the painful symptoms of heartburn, long term use may not be the answer, especially if, as this research suggests, it puts your kidneys at risk. Other side effects of PPI use includes increased risk of pneumonia and links with osteoporosis.

What you can do to help reduce your heartburn symptoms

  • Adding a teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to a glass of water can help neutralize the acid. This is because it is an alkaline (remember high school science?).
  • Aloe Vera juice is also good for reducing inflammation in your stomach.
  • The law of gravity doesn’t work in your favour when you have heartburn and therefore lying down will make things much worse. Keep upright and don’t go straight to bed after eating a meal.
  • Keep a diary of your symptoms and whether it’s related to food, drink, activities, or stress. You might not think there is a pattern, but there most likely will be.

What you eat can greatly affect the amount of acid produced in your stomach.

Acid forming foods include:

  • Meat, poultry, fish, seafood
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Animal fats
  • Grains (bread, pasta, cereals etc)
  • White sugar
  • Sodas
  • Coffee, tea, cocoa, wine

Alkalizing foods are foods that do not produce acid when you eat and digest them. These include:

  • Potatoes
  • Green veg
  • Coloured veg (except tomatoes)
  • Corn
  • Milk
  • Bananas
  • Almonds, Brazil nuts (and milk made from them)
  • Cold pressed oils
  • Natural sugar
  • Avocado
  • Black olives (in oil)

It’s not difficult to see why a typical Western diet results in so many people relying on PPI’s to help them get through the day.

Look after your digestive system by taking probiotics to increase the level of good bacteria. This will in turn help to protect your gut.

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