Ask most doctors, and they’ll tell you that when it comes to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you have one of two choices: drugs or surgery. But a recent study should have them – and you – considering a third option.
After following patients for 12 years, the researchers determined that “both treatments leave room for therapeutic improvement.”
That’s one way of putting it. Of the patients who had surgery, only about 50 percent remained in remission, and only 40 percent of the patients on meds remained in remission.
But even then, postoperative difficulties had many patients trading one set of symptoms for another: heartburn and regurgitation for difficulties in swallowing, excessive flatulence, and the inability to belch or vomit. And to make matters worse, many of the surgery patients (38 percent) eventually had to go on drugs anyway.
If you think this makes acid-suppressing drugs like Prilosec look like the best possible option, you’re not the only one. Dr. Sutart Jon Spechler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said, “I find it difficult to fathom why a typical GERD patient would opt for a potentially hazardous surgery to fix a problem managed almost as well by a reasonably safe medication.”
Of course you’d expect him to say that. The study was funded by AstraZeneca, the maker of Prilosec.
If this study was all you had to go by, you might come to the same conclusion. Fortunately, there’s plenty of other information on this drug.
For starters, Prilosec is only approved for short-term use. The manufacturer itself doesn’t recommend using beyond 14 days. Could that be because long-term use of the drug in rats led to an increase in gastroinstestinal cancers? Or maybe because it can cause joint, muscle, and leg pain? Or possibly it’s because of the diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea?
Whatever the reason, I can’t think of one person who only took this drug for 14 days. The study itself examined patients who had been taking it for 12 whole years! Even if patients tried to stop taking the drug, they’d be on it again before long because it doesn’t fix the problem. Once you stop taking it, all of your old symptoms are likely to flare up again in less than a week.
The bottom line is that drugs like Prilosec will come up short every time. It’s part of a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors that work by reducing stomach acid to around 10 percent of normal levels. Problem is, you need stomach acid. And in reality, many of the people who have reflux problems are actually suffering from too little stomach acid – not too much. Which is why, as contradictory as this might sound, you should actually be looking for ways to increase your stomach acid levels.
One of the great pioneers of stomach acid is Dr. Jonathan Wright, and you can learn more on the real causes of heartburn, acid reflux and GERD from his website. For a more detailed explanation – and a solution – pick up his book, “Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You.” It’s widely available from bookstores, online booksellers and libraries.
In the meantime, try some DGL, or deglycyrrhizinated licorice. You can find it in a vitamin shop or health food store, where it’s often sold as a chew. Just don’t confuse it with sugary licorice candies – they’re definitely not the same thing.
Many people who use DGL get the quick relief they’re looking for… with none of the problems of meds.
Edward Martin is a health journalist who writes about today's most pressing health issues. He chronicles the most cutting-edge alternative methods for beating everything from diabetes to cancer and reports on the latest FDA foul-ups and Big Pharma conspiracies.