At the drug store, deciding between the various heartburn remedies can be an overwhelming experience. You’ve got antacids on the left, h2-blockers on the right and then PPIs showcased as the extra-strength option. Which do you choose?
With so much research showing negative side effects linked to heartburn remedies, it’s important to do your homework.
First, read the labels and understand your options. There are three classes of over-the-counter medications for the treatment of heartburn:
- Antacids, such as Mylanta, Tums and Rolaids
- H2-blockers, such as Tagamet HB, Pepcid AC, Zantac and Axid
- Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec and Zegerid
Secondly, ask yourself how often you experience heartburn. Is your heartburn frequent or occasional? Is it caused by a medical condition (such as a malfunction of the lower-esophageal sphincter) or the types of foods you eat? It’s important to take the heartburn remedy that’s appropriate for your specific condition. If you don’t, you may be doing more harm than good.
What Is Frequent vs. Occasional Heartburn?
Heartburn is a burning pain in the chest, just behind the breastbone, caused by acid moving from the stomach up the esophagus. Discomfort can be worsened by laying down or bending over.
Millions of Americans experience heartburn every day. This frequency has created a multi-billion-dollar industry related to drugs for heartburn relief for frequent sufferers.
Frequent heartburn is defined as heartburn that occurs more than twice per week, and it’s recommended to see a doctor to assess the cause. Occasional heartburn, however, results from eating a certain diet such as spicy or acidic food, or from a lifestyle factor such as smoking, weight gain or pregnancy.
The problem is that people with occasional heartburn take PPIs, which is a very strong medicine meant for frequent heartburn sufferers.
“Taking a PPI for occasional heartburn is not only overkill, but can be harmful to your health,” says Dr. Michael Murray, Chief Science Officer of Enzymedica. “It is possible to improve occasional heartburn symptoms through diet, lifestyle and natural supplements.”*
What Are PPIs and What Are Their Side Effects?
More than 15 million Americans currently use PPIs on a regular basis to treat heartburn. PPIs are proton-pump inhibitors, which means these drugs inhibit acid-creating proton pumps located in the parietal cells of the stomach. PPIs do this by blocking an enzyme that fuels the proton pumps, shutting down the pump from creating acid.
This reduction in stomach acid offers fast relief for those with heartburn, but it’s important to take these drugs as directed. PPIs are directed to be taken for 14 days every four months—so only 42 days of the year. The vast majority of people, however, are taking PPIs on a daily basis for decades.
There are two major negative effects of taking PPIs on a long-term basis:
- It’s important not to wipe out all of the acid in the stomach since it has many important functions in the body. For example, stomach acid is essential for proper digestion. It helps digest protein, activates enzymes in the stomach and starts the digestive process in the intestines.
A reduction in stomach acid can cause a disruption of the microbiome, resulting in reduced vitamin and mineral absorption, which may lead to malnutrition or bone fractures. Stomach acid also supports the immune system to prevent infections.
- The second reason not to take PPIs long-term is because proton pumps are not just in the stomach. They are found throughout the body, including the heart and brain, and they serve vital functions for our overall health. PPI drugs shut down proton pumps throughout the body, not just those in the stomach.
In the last five years, there have been multiple studies linking long-term PPI use with increased risk of heart attack, stroke, bone fracture, kidney disease and dementia. These studies were conducted at Stanford, Harvard and Johns Hopkins Universities, among others. These studies show that the longer you take PPIs, the greater the risk of these serious side effects.
“The key lesson is, if you’re an occasional heartburn sufferer, you don’t want to pull a nuclear option that shuts down all the acid in your body,” says Dr. Murray. “You need that acid, you just need the right amount. Natural supplements make more sense than PPIs for occasional heartburn sufferers.”*
Natural Remedy for Occasional Heartburn
Natural dietary supplements, such as Enzymedica’s Heartburn Relief, are not PPIs, and can provide fast relief for occasional heartburn in a balanced way.*
Heartburn Relief is an advanced formula for quick relief from occasional heartburn, featuring alginate as its active ingredient.* Heartburn Relief provides both immediate and lasting relief. An alginate raft forms and covers the stomach after taking the tablet, inhibiting acid from moving up into the esophagus.* This alginate raft stays intact for hours.
In an attempt to make Heartburn Relief the most comprehensive product on the market for occasional heartburn, Enzymedica added other natural ingredients to protect the esophagus from acid and repair the lining of the GI tract that may have been damaged in the past.*
Specifically, prickly pear extract and betaine (an amino acid found in beets) were added to the Heartburn Relief formula since they increase mucus production in the GI tract.* This mucus serves as a buffer between acid and the lining of the esophagus, as well as repairs damaged lining of the GI tract.
Combining prickly pear extract and betaine with alginate was the winning formula to create an effective occasional heartburn remedy that offers all three of these benefits in one product.*
“The approach we took when we created our Heartburn Relief formula was absolutely no compromises,” says Dr. Murray. “There are less expensive options out there, but you can’t lie to the occasional heartburn sufferer. They expect relief. The most expensive pill is the cheap pill that doesn’t work.”
This is good advice to remember the next time you’re deciding which heartburn remedy to buy!