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Acid Reflux Disease
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FIRE DOWN BELOW Health Sciences Institute e-Alert December 23, 2002 **************************************************************
Dear Reader, I have great news for anyone who suffers from heartburn or acid reflux. HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., recently sent me an eye- opening article from the Boston Globe Magazine with an overview of the marketing of the prescription heartburn drug, Prilosec.
Here's a quote from the article: "That drug stripped misery from the lives of millions and became the world's best-selling prescription drug - and the number one medication prescribed for seniors - taking in $6 billion a year. Prilosec is so good, and patients so attached to it, that doctors jokingly call it 'purple crack.' It's an expensive habit, about $4 for each daily pill, or $1,500 a year." Believe me - that's just the tip of the Prilosec iceburg.
I'll give you all the details on the Prilosec story in an upcoming e-Alert. Today, however, I have something far more practical. After reading the Globe article, Dr. Spreen sent me an e-mail, sharing the details of a natural therapy he's often recommended to successfully treat heartburn - a welcome alternative to Prilosec and other heartburn medications. Here's Dr. Spreen...
Kicking out the purple
This is so sorry an issue that it gives me reflux. I can't tell you how many times I've stopped 'heartburn,' 'reflux,' 'acid indigestion,' whatever...now it's called 'GERD' [GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease] to make it really official! If everyone would just give me $1500/year to stop it, I'll pay for the supplements myself and retire a VERY wealthy man with what's left (and improve the patient's digestion at the same time).
The solution is ridiculously simple (and cheap). Using readily available acidophilus and digestive enzymes I stop over 2/3 of all cases. The more difficult cases (that may include overt ulcers, etc.) may involve a more aggressive approach, but omitting really serious GI illness the results are nearly always extremely positive. 'Reflux' (or any of the other scary sounding names) is nothing more than acid slipping past the junction of the stomach and esophagus. The stomach is designed for it, the esophagus is not...hence a trap door (sphincter) at the intersection (called the GE, or GastroEsophageal junction) set in place to keep the two areas separated.
People act like (from propaganda on TV) stomach acid is some kind of mistake on mother nature's part. How many times in my practice have I had to repeat that ACID IS SUPPOSED TO BE DOWN THERE...WE NEED IT! Here's the kicker: if you 'kill it off' (using antacids, acid blockers, etc.) the body, in its wisdom, saves the energy required to protect the esophagus from the stomach's (normally) more acid environment and weakens the GE sphincter. This allows any remaining acid to sometimes slip past and irritate the esophagus. So, you take an antacid (or whatever...we have so many choices these days) and you feel better, because you lessen even more what little acid remains that has been irritating your already sensitive esophagus.
The above association reinforces that you need more antacid next time, since it helps in the short term. So look what's happening - the short term 'fix' assures that the problem will continue (and even worsen). Is that not the most beautiful trick? The 'cure' assures its own increasing necessity...it's positively brilliant (and diabolical). And don't think for an instant that I'm the only one who's figured it out (and I make no money on the system).
Acidophilus & enzymes
Acidophilus supplements protect the esophagus without killing acid (while killing the pain almost immediately). The hassle is, you have to keep it handy and take it often if you don't solve the whole problem, which involves tightening the GE sphincter. That can be done using the English herbs (Potter's Acidosis) or by improving the environment of the stomach, which then tightens the junction on its own but requires a bit more effort.
When the stomach is low on acid it tends to also be low on digestive enzymes. Believe it or not, the solution (along with acidophilus protection) is to ADD acid and digestive enzymes at the same time. Remember, it isn't acid that's the problem (you need it desperately for digestion); it's acid reaching the esophagus. Proper digestion allows for higher concentration of acid while tightening the GE junction and protecting the esophagus.
I do that using two capsules at mid-meal. A trick with acidophilus capsules is that, with reflux, you must open the capsule and let the saliva carry it down the throat to the stomach. Dose is no problem, as the supplement represents a sample of the billions of 'good guy' bacteria that you want in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract (and in which most people are woefully deficient). Look for caps measuring at least 1 billion (with a 'B') cfu (colony forming units)
Occasionally the combo of acidophilus and digestive enzymes isn't enough (that's uncommon), or there is actual stomach trouble from low acid (the stomach's defenses weaken over time, too, with decreased acid, such that irritation there can form and progress to an ulcer...see how these things are connected?).
Then, I add DGL, a form of licorice that has one component removed (DGL means De-Glycerrhizinated Licorice). I use Enzymatic Therapy brand but there are other good ones. Chewing or sucking on one 20 minutes before eating can be very helpful in difficult cases. Avoiding refined sugar and white flour products also seems to help.
The Potter's solution can be very effective; just bear in mind that it is a 'fix' that does not repair the altered state of the gastric environment. Killing off acid, however it's done, is a serious mistake with long term consequences if pursued over time. Poor digestion is the genesis of all sorts of problems, in my opinion...but that's just me. Good Health, Allan Spreen, MD.
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