By now you’re probably well aware of how I feel about acid-suppressing drugs. I suppose it would be hard not to be.
I’ve made it no secret that I believe they’re not only essentially useless…simply masking your digestive woes and not doing a thing to help…but, to make matters even worse, they can also trap users into an endless cycle of acid-suppressant dependence.
The fact is, whenever you shut down your stomach’s natural acid production you’re playing with…well, if you’ll pardon the pun…fire. Because, as I’ve explained before, if you suffer with acid reflux the chances are very good that your problem is not too much stomach acid, but rather too little.
Yet, there are literally millions of men and women who, on the advice of their doctors, are using proton-pump inhibiting (PPI) drugs like Prilosec, Nexium, Zegerid and Prevacid to quell their heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux symptoms.
The Big Downside of Acid-Suppressants
As you know, PPIs work by suppressing stomach acid. But the problem is with long time use they can also interfere with your body’s ability to break down protein and calcium and absorb vital nutrients including magnesium.
This is bad news for every single organ in your body…especially your heart where magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and regulate your blood pressure.
And the bad news doesn’t end there.
In June of last year the FDA announced that long term PPI use may put you at a significantly higher risk for wrist, hip, and spine fractures. No surprise really since stomach acid plays a major role in how the body absorbs calcium.
Starting to get the picture now? Acid-suppressing drugs are just plain trouble. So, why on earth then are we exposing the most innocent among us…infants…to their potential dangers?
Yes…babies on heartburn drugs!
The Most Innocent Victims
Thankfully, at least one doctor out there is sounding the alarm. Dr. Eric Hassall, a member of the gastroenterology staff at BC Children’s Hospital in British Columbia recently published a warning…uh, I mean a commentary…in the Journal of Pediatrics on the subject of over-prescribing acid suppressing drugs to infants.
According to Dr. Hassall the practice of dosing infants up on proton pump inhibitors is simply not based in medical science. And, frankly, I couldn’t agree with Dr. Hassall any more on that point.
In the last decade as the marketing for these drugs has skyrocketed the use of them for children has risen alarmingly. Yet, at the same time, studies have clearly demonstrated the PPIs are no better than placebos for the majority of infants for resolving, spitting up, general irritability, and unexplained crying.
Okay, let’s recap.
Acid suppressing drugs only temporarily hide digestive problems. They don’t address the real problem most people have…low stomach acid. They’re often difficult to stop taking. The may cause magnesium deficiencies, which can lead to heart problems. They can interfere with the absorption of calcium, which can lead to broken bones. And they’ve been proven to be ineffective for infants.
So, I ask again…why in the world would anyone be giving them to babies then?!
I’d probably sound a bit paranoid if I said that considering how difficult it is to get back off of these drugs once you start them that this is beginning to look strangely like a Big-Tobacco style hook ’em while there young plot.
So instead I’ll just say that, at the very least, it’s clearly another case of the almighty dollar winning out over the health and safety of our children.
Tossing the PPIs
There’s no doubt that a fussy crying baby that can’t be comforted is upsetting for parents and other family members. But my advice to you if your doctor diagnoses your less-than-a-year-old infant with GERD and prescribes a PPI is simple…find yourself a new one (doctor, that is!).
Look for a nutritionally oriented doctor or naturopath who is willing to work with you to resolve the problem. For breastfeeding mom’s changes in your own diet might help and for babies fed with a bottle a change to a hypoallergenic formula can sometimes work wonders.
Oh, and if you’re suffering from heartburn yourself instead of shutting down the enzyme in your gut that produces acid you should be adding more acid and enzymes to your system.
Look for a digestive enzyme supplement that either says “full spectrum” on the label or that contains three important enzymes…. proteolytic, lipolytic, and amylolytic…as well as betaine hydrochloride (or HCl).
And to get the most out of your enzyme supplement instead of taking it before meals as the bottle might suggest take it right after meals when symptoms tend to be the worst.
Dr. Allan Spreen
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