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 –
- Do not over eat. It is the rule for everything.
- Avoid fatty foods, chocolates, strong coffee (more acidic with milk added), rye, oats and foods rich in salicylates.
- Eat the protein in a meal first.
- 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.
Sebastian Liew, MNHAA (Australia)