Perry Ambrose, C.N.
There is an epidemic of digestion problems in this country. If you watch any TV at all you are bombarded by advertisements for products to quell the stomach fires. It is impossible to enjoy good long term health if digestion is impaired. Good health literally starts and stops in the digestive tract. Between 60 and 100 million Americans suffer from heartburn, and 15 million of them deal with it on a daily basis. According to the John Hopkins Medical Letter, untreated heartburn can eventually lead to esophageal cancer. Chronic heartburn can be caused by a deficiency of the digestive secretions: enzymes, bile, and hydrochloric acid. Reactions to various drugs and over secretion of stomach acid can also cause the problem. Coffee tends to cause an over secretion of stomach acid as does smoking cigarettes. Food allergies can cause heartburn, especially dairy. Gallstones or liver problems can reduce bile secretions and cause heartburn when fatty foods are consumed. If the consumption of fats and oils primarily cause your symptoms, consider a liver/gallbladder flush. Supplementing with choline and inositol will encourage the production of bile from the liver which breaks down fats. Hydrochloric acid is secreted in the stomach to digest protein. When deficient amounts exist symptoms of acid reflux may appear. It may seem absurd to take acid for an heartburn, but it works miracles in many instances. This would be contraindicated if an ulcer is known to exist. A bacterial infection in the stomach can produce heartburn symptoms and progress to a full blown ulcer. Antibiotics are called for here. I prefer the natural versions for safety reasons. Undesirable bacteria in the stomach are suppressed by normal stomach acid and so the use of drugs to suppress stomach acid may actually contribute to ulcers. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs), such as aspirin, Ibuprofen, Aleve, Voltarin, Motrin, and dozens of others can cause heartburn symptoms. Twenty six billion over-the-counter tablets are taken annually. In a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the potential danger of this class of drugs was emphasized. One of the causes for actual overproduction of stomach acid is an over secretion of aldosterone by the adrenal glands which causes sodium retention. This usually happens if magnesium is deficient. Supplementing with magnesium (1200mg), which suppress aldosterone production, usually resolves this imbalance. It is astounding how many people are on acid reducers such as Pepsid, Acid, Tagament, Zantac, Prilosec and others. It is the largest single category of drugs in the pharmaceutical industry, accounting for over $6 billion in sales. We are led to believe through the TV ads that somehow the body, for no apparent reason, over produces stomach acid and the solution is to take a drug that suppresses that acid. There are serious drawbacks to this strategy. Stomach acid is necessary to break down protein and extract minerals from food. This class of drugs carries a long list of potential side effects, some serious. Propulsid, a popular drug for heartburn, recently made the news because of an FDA report of heart damage and many deaths attributed to its use. This class of drugs deplete the critical nutrients calcium, folic acid, iron, B12, vitamin D and zinc, according to the Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook. Antacids are another class of medicines that are used to treat heartburn and like the acid reducers, they treat symptoms, not causes. I consider them less dangerous than acid reducers but they still carry risks. These are usually made of compounds of aluminum, calcium, magnesium, and sodium bicarbonate. Possible concerns here include constipation, diarrhea, pH changes in the blood, interference with nutrient absorption, and brain cell concern with aluminum.