Holiday cuisine can be a nightmare for GERD sufferers, or anybody else suffering from chronic acid reflux or heartburn. But acid reflux medications- protein pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium, frequently prescribed to alleviate symptoms of holiday overindulgence, can have harmful side effects in the long run.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the leading causes of heartburn, upset stomach, and vomiting. With GERD, foods and liquids that you consume are blocked from entering the stomach, and instead flow backwards into your esophagus. Stomach acids from undigested food may cause heartburn, nausea, sore throat, and vomiting.
In addition to severe pain, untreated acid reflux from GERD can cause damage to your esophagus.
Protein pump inhibitors (PPIs)
There are a variety of acid reflux medications, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescribed that are commonly used to treat chronic heartburn, indigestion, and stomach upset caused by acid reflux.
These may include:
- Prilosec (Omeprazole)
Used as directed and sparingly for acute flare-ups of acid reflux, PPIs can be helpful for relieving debilitating stomach pain and preventing damage to the esophagus from harsh stomach acids.
However, health experts warn people not to use acid reflux medications as their safety net for an evening of binging. Long-term use of medications formulated to treat occasional or even chronic acid reflux can cause severe health problems in the future.
PPIs and vitamin B12 deficiency
Acid reflux medications cut down on stomach acids. That’s fine for temporarily easing heartburn and nausea, but as a long-term treatment, it may cause more harm than relief.
In limiting stomach acids, acid reflux meds also limit your ability to make digestive enzymes that are necessary in order to access certain nutrients from the foods you eat.
Intrinsic factor is one such enzyme that rapidly declines with continued prescription of acid reflux medications. Your body needs intrinsic factor in order to digest vitamin B12 from foods you eat daily, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk products.
Without intrinsic factor to break down vitamin B12, you eventually develop symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, depleted levels of vitamin B12 in the blood supply.
Acid reflux medications such as protein pump inhibitors are among the highest risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency.
Also read: Vitamin B12 Malabsorption
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
People who use acid reflux medications for longer than six months may experience the early signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, including:
- Chronic fatigue
- Memory loss
- Brain fog (confusion)
- Painful numbness or tingling in the extremities (hands, feet, arms, and legs)
- Difficulty coordinating arm and leg muscles
- Muscle spasms
- Poorer balance
- Poorer hand-eye coordination
To find out if you have vitamin B12 deficiency, ask your doctor for a blood screening for active vitamin B12 levels.
Tips for acid reflux
The best way to avoid heartburn or stomach upset from acid reflux, without using acid reflux medication, is to follow the following health guidelines:
- Eat food slowly
- Chew thoroughly
- Keep portions small
- Avoid oily or spicy foods
- Limit or avoid alcohol
- Avoid ibuprofen, and opt for acetaminophen
- Drink plenty of water between meals
- Never lie down after eating
- Eat your last meal before 7:00 pm
- Stop smoking
- Control your weight
Tip: Use these healthy digestive enzymes in lei of protein pump inhibitors!
Also read: GERD led to B12 Deficiency- What do I eat now?
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease
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