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Gut Health

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Popping an Antacid May Halt Heartburn — But is it the Safe Option?

For many people, a bit of heartburn in the middle of the night from a double burger with cheese and extra mayo at dinner can be remedied by chewing a couple of dry antacid tablets. Between these chalky tablets and that little purple pill endlessly advertised on Matlock and Murder She Wrote television reruns, the problem appears solved. Almost instantly.

And when we say heartburn, we’re also referring to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux, and ulcers. But here’s the thing. Yes, those over-the-counter cures do the trick for many sufferers, but have you considered the potential impact on your health? We’re talking cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and even cancer.

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recently recalled the prescription and over the counter (OTC) ranitidine medication commonly known by the brand name Zantac. The feds said their scientists discovered a probable human carcinogen — a substance that could cause cancer — in some ranitidine products. Containing N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), these products were found to expose consumers to unacceptable levels of carcinogens when stored at higher than room temperatures.

Ranitidine is a histamine-2 blocker — a form of heartburn medication — and it is described as far less harmful for those with heartburn than proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). A recent study of PPIs (Estimates of mortality associated with proton pump inhibitors among US veterans) published in May of last year in the British Medical Journal, found that PPIs were associated with cause-specific mortality rates of 45 out of every 1,000 subjects. That study was conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Saint Louis University, and Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis. In a second study, published in 2006, the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that long-term PPI therapy is associated with an increased risk of hip fracture.

Dementia, chronic kidney disease, pneumonia, diarrhea, iron deficiency, and vitamin B12 deficiency were other potential unhealthy side effects of PPIs.

Most of us know what acid indigestion feels like. The term heartburn is quite literal. It’s a condition where food from the stomach reverses course and backs up into the esophagus. The result is an unpleasant taste and an alarming feeling that some describe as that of an impending heart attack.

Proton Pump Inhibitors Were Designed to Reduce Acid in the Stomach

It was in the 1980s that drug manufacturers developed PPIs to treat acid-related disorders in the upper gastrointestinal tract — and the pharmaceutical industry had an instant customer base of between 15 to 20 million Americans who used prescriptions for PPIs in order to bring them comfort.

The drug was designed to reduce the production of acid in the wall of the stomach, thereby preventing ulcers and helping to heal ulcers found in the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. Today, there remain a number of PPIs on the market, including: continue reading

Why Do I Feel Bloated?

Do you feel bloated? Abdominal bloating refers to the sensation of abdominal inflation or swelling that may or may not be accompanied by measurable distension of the belly. According to an article by Dr. Brian E. Lacy, Dr. Scott L. Gabbard, and Michael D. Crowell, PhD, titled “Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating,” studies have shown that 15–30 percent of the U.S. population experience bloating symptoms. Obviously, that statistic doesn’t represent occasional bloating such as a full belly after Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, the stat refers to people who suffer from chronic or recurring bloating that cannot easily be traced to a specific cause.

If you’ve experienced such bloating, you know all too well that it can be uncomfortable, annoying, painful, and embarrassing. At BioDesign Wellness Center, a Tampa Functional Medicine practice, we often hear complaints from patients that their clothes no longer fit or that they look pregnant! Bloating can be a real setback to a person’s self-esteem, and it can be a frustrating problem. That’s because regardless of how diligent someone may be in following a strict diet and exercise regime, many patients continue to feel bloated.

Worse yet, modern medicine has no single solution. We have pills for indigestion and gas, but no pharmaceutical equivalent for bloating. (Granted, you can find numerous de-bloat supplements on the market, but in medical experience, they’re mostly ineffective or provide only temporary relief.) Given how common bloating is, the absence of a medication for bloating may seem surprising, but bloating is usually just a symptom of an underlying condition, such as a food sensitivity or yeast or bacterial overgrowth in the gut.

Causes of Bloating

Many conditions can cause bloating, including the following: continue reading

Understanding Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

If you frequently feel bloated after eating or you experience repeated bouts of abdominal pain or discomfort, gas, cramps, diarrhea, or constipation, you probably already suspect dysfunction in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, also known as your digestive system or “gut.” However, the problem may not be with your digestive system itself but what is inside a part of it, specifically the microorganisms living in your small intestine.

The small intestine is a narrow tube-like organ approximately 20 feet long that connects the stomach to the large intestine and is responsible for extracting most nutrients from food. The large intestine is a much wider and shorter tube-like organ that primarily absorbs water from undigested food and carries solid waste out of the body.

Bacteria and other microorganisms (both beneficial and potentially harmful) naturally reside in both the small and large intestines. Beneficial microbes perform essential functions, such as producing nutrients that the body cannot obtain from food alone. However, when bacteria (good or bad) multiply too fast in the small intestine, it leads to a condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which results in symptoms described at the beginning of this post.

Left untreated, SIBO can lead to nutritional deficiencies, unplanned weight loss, and continue reading

Heartburn Medication is Again Linked to Fatal Risks

Heartburn has been in the news a lot lately — and we’re not referring to the type you might experience while watching a talking head or pundit on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC.

Rather, we’re referencing recent reports that drugs commonly used to alleviate symptoms associated with heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux, and stomach and small intestine ulcers, may raise the risk of numerous fatal health conditions. Among these risks are cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and upper gastrointestinal cancer.

One such study — Estimates of mortality associated with proton pump inhibitors among US veteranswas published in May of 2019 in the British Medical Journal. In that peer-reviewed study, researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs-Saint Louis, Saint Louis University, and Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis concluded taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) is associated with continue reading

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