Gastro-oesophageal reflux and cancer

1 November 2011

A friend of mine who is a pharmacist related to me that one of the most popular medicines dispensed and sold in pharmacies in Singapore is those dealing with gastric reflux, i.e. the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 receptor antagonists.

These drugs reduce the amount of hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach and decrease the pain associated with reflux (note: our body is not completely alkaline).  While short term use may provide relief, long term use has now been linked to gastrointestinal cancers (Graham & Genta, 2008). While this is still disputable, why take the risk?

A Population-Based Case-Control Study done in Denmark showed that the use of PPIs, especially when it begins recently,is associated with an increased risk of community-acquired pneumonia (Gulmez, S.E., et al., 2007).

Studies on postmenopausal women revealed that long term use of these drugs is associated with an increased risk of vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women (Roux, C. et al., 2009).

The reason for caution is very simple. Long term use of these drugs can lead to insufficient production of stomach acid, which is necessary for good digestion of proteins and in turn, is necessary for every cell health. Poor protein assimilation or intake is associated with allergies, poor liver detoxification (leading to increased risk of cancer), depression, anxiety, poor wound healing and low immunity (which increases risk of cancer, infections…), etc.

Most of the time, constant gastric reflux is caused by chronic stress and eating habits. You can safely treat or prevent it with simple lifestyle habits and herbs, such as –

  1.  Do not over eat. It is the rule for everything.
  2. Avoid fatty foods, chocolates, strong coffee  (more acidic with milk added), rye, oats and foods rich in salicylates.
  3. Eat the protein in a meal first.
  4. For mild gastritis, try fennel tea or chew the tablets before a meal. My favourite herb used in my clinic is meadowsweet. See a professional if gastritis or reflux is severe as there may be other underlying causes.


Pax (Peace)
Sebastian Liew, MNHAA (Australia)

Graham, D.Y., Genta, R..M. (2008). Long-term proton pump inhibitor use and gastrointestinal cancer. Current Gastroenterology reports, 10(6), 543-547, doi:10.1007/s11894-008-0100-1
Gulmez, S.E., Holm, A., Frederiksen, H., Jensen, T.G., Pedersen, C., Hallas, J. (2007) Use of Proton Pump Inhibitors and the Risk of Community-Acquired Pneumonia – A Population-Based Case-Control Study. Archives of  Internal Medicine, 167(9):950-955
Roux, C. et al. (2009). Increase in Vertebral Fracture Risk in Postmenopausal Women Using Omeprazole.  Calcified Tissue International, 84(1), 13-19, doi: 10.1007/s0022-008-9188-4
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The information contained in this diary is for educational purpose only. We encourage our readers to seek out a competent health professional for any treatment required. We do not take responsibility for the use of information contained in any article published in our journal or diary by the reader. We do, however, caution readers of possible unintended consequences of self–medication, and that the consultation of a competent health professional is always advisable.

About Sebastian Liew

Matthew Wood, the renowned American herbalist described Sebastian as ‘one of the most unique and talented practitioners of natural healing and herbalism.’ The New Paper (Singapore) called Sebastian Liew 'The Medicine Man'. Indeed, Sebastian is a qualified and registered Medical Herbalist (accredited by the National Herbalists Association of Australia), with a Master's degree in Herbal Medicine from the University of New England, Australia. He is the first medical herbalist in Singapore and is known to popularize phytotherapy (Western herbal medicine), European traditional medicine, and St Hildegard medicine (Germany) in Singapore and probably in Asia. Sebastian has 20 years clinical work experiences and treated numerous patients with different medical conditions from all age groups in his Singapore clinic. Sebastian authored the book, Leaf to Life: The Natural Approach to Slow Down Aging and Living a Healing Life, which set the fundamentals for healthy aging and the prevention or treatment for almost all diseases.
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