Over the last decade, we have seen acid blockers go from requiring a prescription to over the counter. The commercials for them depict them as benign in side effect and beneficial as taking a vitamin C drink for the common cold.
While the packaging inserts for this classification of drug is enough to scare your socks off, no one is paying attention, especially the doctors who recommend them like they do drinking more water.
The normal PH of our stomach is highly acidic. This is to allow enzymes form our pancreas to work efficiently in breaking down proteins and for absorption of minerals that would otherwise not be absorbed. Another function of our stomach acid is to kill the normal bacteria that live in our mouths or that we might ingest.
i Stomach acid is also necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12, an extremely important vitamin. Deficiency of which leads to anemia and a whole host of diseases.
The small intestine, relative to the colon, is supposed to be almost bacteria free. The colon is home to billions of beneficial bacteria. The small intestine remains low on bacteria in large part due to the acidity of the stomach.
When an acid blocker is taken with any regularity, proteins are not digested, minerals are not absorbed and bacteria enter and flourish in the small intestines. One of the possible side effects of proteins being poorly absorbed is an increase in food allergies. One of the definite side effects of protein malabsorption is a decrease in muscle mass and therefore bone mass. Studies have shown that women who take acid blockers during pregnancy have babies with a 5 times greater risk for asthma.
When minerals are not absorbed, again we see a decrease in bone mass and strength.
When excessive bacteria in introduced into the small bowel, we see bacterial overgrowth with foul breath, gas and bloating as obvious and not so pretty side effects.
When the stomach has a decrease in acid on a regular basis, the bacteria H. Pylori is allowed to flourish. H. Pylori has been implicated as a trigger for stomach cancer.
While the pharmaceutical companies would have you believe that it is a normal daily function to take acid blockers, it is anything but. In addition, the acid blockers do not stop the reflux, in fact, they increase reflux do to the slower gastric digestion when acid is removed form the picture.
The blockers just remover the acid and hence the sensation of burning form the picture.
There are numerous reasons why people have acid reflux and there are many ways to determine the cause(s) and very simple treatments. I have successfully treated many patients with reflux in my Chicago area office and continue to do so.
What is most surprising is this went form being a common scenario in my adult patients, but in the last few years, I have seen this with increasing frequency in pediatric patients.
What I hope to see less of in the future is patients with osteoporosis, allergies, fatigue,
muscle waisting, gluten intolerance and H. Pylori associated stomach cancer because of this foolish and misguided daily practice.