What Is Heartburn? 4 Things You Can Do About It!

Did you know? Medications that lower stomach acid are intended for short-term use—about six weeks!

Prescription antacids change the inner ecology of the gut.

The FDA cautions us against anything more than three 14 day courses of antacid therapy in one year.

In spite of this, many people who take prescription antacids or PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) have been taking the medication for several months to several years.

This March in the Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, researchers explain that in spite of new acid suppressing drugs, “symptoms and injury persist in many patients” with acid reflux. (1)

Unfortunately, there is more to the story.

When it comes to acid reflux—or heartburn—we know that the lining of the esophagus is damaged from a reflux of stomach acid. Often, the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach is to blame. This barrier is also called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES.

When you have heartburn, the lower esophageal sphincter may be too relaxed. This allows stomach acid to reach the delicate tissue of the esophagus.

The Risks of Antacid Medication

Antacid medication may lead to other disorders and even dependency. (2) Antacid medications—when used longer than recommended—can cause issues like:

Antacid overuse is more common than you may think. Using an antacid medication over the long-term could lead to food allergies, fatigue, a vitamin B12 deficiency, or even an irregular heartbeat.

  • Food allergies (3)
  • Increased risk of bone fractures (4)
  • Fatigue and vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat
  • Magnesium deficiency (5)
  • Zinc deficiency (6)

Over the short-term, risks include gut and respiratory infection, vitamin B12 deficiency, and magnesium deficiency. (7)(8)

Studies have also found that there is the likelihood of dependency, or addiction. Also called rebound hyper-acidity, when you stop taking antacid medication symptoms of reflux often return. Rebound hyperacidity can keep you on the medication—sometimes for years.

And even worse, the trouble may not be over once the medication is discontinued. One study published last year in Surgery found that those on antacid medication were in greater danger of experiencing esophageal: (9)

  • Metaplasia, or abnormal changes in cell growth
  • Erosion
  • Edema
  • Inflammation

An Impaired Inner Ecosystem Can Lead to Heartburn

When it comes to heartburn, people need to start looking beyond stomach acid. Strong stomach acid protects the body against invading bacteria. It turns “on” enzymes. And it helps break down protein.

So, what’s causing the reflux? And why have the past two decades seen such a dramatic increase in the number of cases? (10)

Studies have found that the inner ecology of the esophagus is as unique and complex as the stomach, the intestines, the birth canal, and the skin. (11) Like anywhere else in the gut, the inner ecology of the esophagus is influenced by diet, Candida overgrowth, and antibiotic use. (12)

That’s not all.

Studies have found that prescription antacids also change the inner ecology of the gut. (13) Antacids damage the inner ecology of the esophagus, the stomach, and the small intestine.

When the inner ecology of the esophagus is out of balance, unfriendly bacteria produce something called endotoxin. Endotoxin is as it sounds—a toxin. Besides being inflammatory, endotoxin also affects the lower esophageal sphincter.

Endotoxin from a wounded inner ecosystem can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. (14)

While antacid medications change the acidity in the stomach and destroy the inner ecology of the gut, the damage doesn’t stop there. Inflammation of the tissue lining the esophagus also contributes to the growth of an imbalanced inner ecosystem.

4 Tips to Manage Heartburn

1. Support Stomach Acid: We know that stomach acid carries out two very important functions. The first is that it protects the body against infection. The second is that it activates enzymes and helps to break down proteins. Assist Dairy and Protein is designed to help maintain proper HCl levels.

2. Limit Hard-to-Digest Fiber and Sugar: Sugar is expansive and feeds both Candida overgrowth and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Hard-to-digest fibers also feed bacterial overgrowth. Examples are starchy vegetables, some fruit, and many grains. These fibers can sit in the gut and putrefy. This damages the inner ecology and leads to gas, bloating, cramping, and heartburn.

3. Support Enzymes: Enzymes play an extremely valuable role in the digestive process. Besides breaking food down into smaller pieces, enzymes also work with the lining of the gut to keep things moving. Too little enzymes, and food stagnates. This can throw off the inner ecology of the gut—leading to heartburn. Assist Full Spectrum Enzymes are designed to support proper digestion.

4. Replenish Beneficial Bacteria: Research tells us a damaged inner ecology may be the real cause of heartburn. Bring balance to the inner ecology of the gut with fermented foods and probiotic liquids. The good bacteria and yeast in these foods soothe inflammation and keep bad bacteria and Candida yeast in check. 

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Very few people realize that heartburn medications used to lower stomach acid are intended for extremely short-term use, just six weeks at a time. Yet countless people take proton pump inhibitors or prescription antacids for months or even years.

Long-term use of antacid medication could lead to dependency or health disorders, like food allergies, fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, and magnesium and zinc deficiency. Antacid dependency comes when you suffer from rebound hyper-acidity that can cause reflux symptoms once you stop taking the medication.

Unfortunately, prescription antacids can change the inner ecology of the gut, the esophagus, the stomach, and the small intestine.

You can take 4 steps to safely manage heartburn today by:

  1. Supporting stomach acid with Assist Dairy and Protein to protect the body against infection and better digest proteins.
  2. Avoiding hard-to-digest fibers and sugars that can feed bacterial and Candida overgrowth.
  3. Supporting digestive enzymes with Assist Full Spectrum Enzymes to keep food moving in the gut for a healthy inner ecology.
  4. Replenishing beneficial bacteria with fermented foods and probiotic liquids to sooth inflammation and control bad bacteria and Candida yeast.
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  1. D Armstrong, et al. Novel pharmaceutical approaches to reflux disease. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2013 Mar;42(1):93-117. Epub 2013 Jan 5.
  2. P Bytzer, et al. Proton-Pump Inhibitor Therapy Induces Acid-Related Symptoms in Healthy Volunteers After Withdrawal of Therapy. Gastroenterology. Jul 2009; 137 (1): 80–87.e1
  3. E Jensen-Jarolim, et al. Anti-acid medication as a risk factor for food allergy. Allergy. 2011; 66 (4): 469–77. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2010.02511.x. PMID 21121928.
  4. WD Leslie, et al. Use of proton pump inhibitors and risk of osteoporosis-related fractures. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2008; 179 (4): 319–26.
  5. R Zietse, et al. A Case Series of Proton Pump Inhibitor–Induced Hypomagnesemia. American Journal of Kidney Diseases. Jul 2010; 56 (1):112–116.
  6. Farrell. Proton Pump Inhibitors Interfere with Zinc Absorption and Zinc Body Stores. Gastroenterology Research. 2011.
  7. KS Lee, et al. Use of acid-suppressive drugs and risk of pneumonia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2010; 183 (3): 310–9.
  8. D Talmor, et al. Iatrogenic Gastric Acid Suppression and the Risk of Nosocomial Clostridium difficile Infection. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010; 170 (9): 784–90.
  9. TN Walsh, et al. Acid suppression increases rates of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal injury in the presence of duodenal reflux. Surgery. Mar 2012; 151 (3): 382–390.
  10. El-Serag HB. Time trends of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a systematic review. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007; 5:17–26.
  11. MJ Blaser, et al. Bacterial biota in reflux esophagitis and Barrett’s esophagus. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG. 2005; 11(46): 7277.
  12. Hooper LV, Gordon JI. Commensal host-bacterial relationships in the gut Science. 2001; 292: 1115– 1118.
  13. JA Ra- dosevich, et al. The effect of proton pump inhibitors on the human microbiota. Curr Drug Metab. 2009; 10: 84-89.
  14. S Rattan, et al. Inducible and neuronal nitric oxide synthase involvement in lipopolysaccharide-induced sphincteric dysfunction. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2001;280: G32–G42.
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