Recent statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services suggest that over seven million people suffer from severe acid reflux in the U.S. alone. It is estimated that over fifteen million Americans suffer from chronic heartburn, as well.
The incidence of acid reflux is greater in people over the age of forty, but it can affect anyone, even infants. Acid reflux affects people of every age, socioeconomic class and race.
Simply put, acid reflux occurs when stomach acid splashes up through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) into the esophagus and throat. This reflux of acid can be the result of many things including diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, hiatal hernia, stress and even pregnancy. When this refluxed acid hits the tender lining of the Acidaburn esophagus, it causes a painful burning sensation in the chest and, or throat. Other symptoms include difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia), hoarseness, asthma and dental erosion.
If left untreated, this condition can evolve into more severe and life threatening diseases like Barrett’s Esophagus, which is a precursor to esophageal cancer. In an attempt to avoid the more serious consequences of acid reflux, people are resorting more and more to pharmaceutical drugs.
There are three classifications of drugs which treat and acid reflux. The first of these are antacids, which neutralize the acid in your stomach and are at best only a temporary fix. They are loaded with harmful ingredients such as sodium and aluminum. The next group of drugs is called H2 Blockers. They reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces and provide longer lasting relief than antacids. Finally there are the PPI drugs (proton pump inhibitors), which shut off the proton pumps in the stomach that manufacture hydrochloric acid.
PPI drugs should only be used for eight weeks, at most. It says so right on the package. Doctors certainly know this but allow if not encourage most patients to continue taking these drugs on a permanent basis.
PPI drugs actually shut down the pumps that produce the stomach acid necessary to digest and assimilate food. This is an essential function of our physical anatomy. Another point of concern is that stomach acid keeps very dangerous bacteria, which live in the stomach and intestines, in check.
There are, unfortunately, no studies that can determine the long term effects of these drugs. We do, however, know what the potential harmful side effects are and there are hundreds of them. They include: allergic reaction, back and chest pain, fatigue, fever, flu-like disorder, hypertension, constipation, GI hemorrhage, vomiting, tinnitus, anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, weight gain, arthritis, fibromyalgia syndrome, anorexia, depression, dizziness, impotence, insomnia, migraine, visual field defect, menstrual disorder, asthma aggravated, pharyngitis, acne, taste loss, fungal infection and Barrett’s esophagus – just to mention a few!