Is stomach-acid blocking medication a solution to reflux?
If you suffer with the pain of reflux you have probably considered using stomach acid blocking medication to prevent your symptoms. Stopping your stomach from producing acid might give you temporary relief, but the cost to your health might be high. The long term effect on the rest of your health, over time, could be detrimental. Physical and mental symptoms could develop as a result of changing the way your body is designed to process food.
Absorption of key nutrients becomes compromised. Iron, zinc and B12 are all absorbed in the stomach and these are the first nutrients to become deficient. Common early deficiency signs of iron and zinc can include fatigue, poor immune system function and your memory and ability to think clearly can also be affected. B12 deficiency will impact on energy and cognition too but long-term deficiency can lead to nerve damage. Numbness in your hands and feet is a key sign that nerve damage is occurring. It might also affect your metabolism causing weight gain.
Inflammation, pain and depression
Chronic inflammation could develop as your disordered digestion begins to affect the rest of the body. This ongoing inflammation can manifest itself as aching joints, back pain or as depression in some susceptible individuals.
Gut bacteria, bloating and anxiety
Undigested food will provide food for the less-beneficial bacteria in your gut. This can cause further digestive discomfort, affect your immune system and in some cases this can lead to anxiety disorders. The bacteria could spread into the stomach causing bloating and discomfort after meals. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) develops when stomach acid levels are low allowing the bacteria to find a home in areas of the digestive tract where they would usually find it inhospitable. There is also a higher likelihood of developing bacterial infections like H.Pylori or gastroenteritis. Stomach acid is designed to provide protection against pathogens that might be ingested.
Low stomach acid and low zinc levels can lead to the development of food intolerances. This might manifest itself with symptoms like acne, bloating, tiredness and muscle aches. Identifying which foods are problematic will help with resolving reflux symptoms and finding relief without medication.
Long term effects
Long term poor nutrient absorption, chronic inflammation and poor gut bacteria could impact further other systems of the body including liver adrenal and thyroid function.
In summary, stomach acid blocking medication is not a simple solution to reflux. The short term gain can be outweighed by the long term negative health effects. Identifying problem foods and consulting with a nutritionist to apply a gut restoration protocol is an alternative approach to resolving reflux.
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About Sarah Hanratty
Sarah is an experienced practitioner at the Brain Food Clinic specialising in the link between gut function and cognitive well-being.