Why Stomach Acid is More Friend than Foe, Even for Acid Reflux (GERD) Sufferers

Given the troubling and sometimes painful symptoms of acid reflux/GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), it’s no wonder that acid is considered the enemy. Leakage from the stomach into the esophagus can cause heartburn, sleepless nights, a sore throat and a host of other miseries throughout the day. While current medications go to battle by blocking acid production, the reality is that stomach acid can be a necessary ally for nutrient absorption and the prevention of serious infections.

Currently, the most prescribed medications for ongoing acid reflux/GERD are Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), like Prilosec and Nexium, and H2 Blockers such as Zantac and Tagamet (for more information, see the previous post “Reflux 101 (Part II): What You Should Know About Acid Reflux Medications”). These drugs treat the symptoms of acid reflux/GERD by suppressing acid production in the stomach. Then, if stomach contents leak back into the esophagus, there’s less irritation because the acidity isn’t as strong.

Please note: You should always consult with your doctor first before making any changes to your drug regimen.

Acid blocking medications are useful weapons against acid reflux, given a narrow scope. However, in broad view, stomach acid is seen for the many purposes it serves – from aiding in the absorption of nutrients and minerals to providing a first line of defense against unfriendly bacteria. Without strong stomach acid, infections can more easily invade your digestive tract, bringing unpleasant symptoms and – in some cases – serious health problems.

Consider a bacterium that’s become an epidemic over the last decade. Clostridium difficile, also referred to as C. difficile or C. diff, causes symptoms that range from chronic diarrhea to inflammation of the colon. Particularly unnerving is that certain strains of this foe are resistant to antibiotics and are more difficult to treat. The degree of the illness varies from mild to life-threatening and sometimes a hospital stay is required to fully recover.

Coincidentally, acid suppressing medications have also been on the rise during the same time period, prompting an analysis of the possible link between PPI treatment and C. difficile. The conclusion, following a review of thirty studies, was that PPI therapy was associated with a 2-fold increase in the risk of acquiring this hostile pathogen. Another study reported that patients on acid-suppressing medications, were more likely to have an increased severity of illness with C. difficile and a greater incidence of death.

Additionally, back in February, 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety announcement warning about the association between C. difficile and PPIs. Their data summary reported the review of 28 studies with 23 showing a higher risk of C. difficile infection or disease, associated with PPI exposure, compared to no PPI exposure.

While stomach acid can feel like your bitter enemy when reflux symptoms flare up, it’s really an ally in the fight against infection and helpful in the absorption of nutrients and minerals

As you battle reflux, consider making lifestyle changes that can shield you from acid attacks – like eating smaller meals, taking short walks throughout the day and sleeping both on an incline and on your side with the MedCline reflux relief system, which works to prevent acid reflux and speeds the emptying of your stomach while you sleep.

As the only GERD specific sleep system that allows you to sleep comfortably in an inclined position while on your side, MedCline positions you with a two-fold strategy – sleeping with your head and upper body elevated to prevent reflux and on your side to accelerate the emptying of your stomach.With an empty stomach there is nothing to reflux, so there is often little or no need to concede essential acid to medications. 

MedCline not only gives you back your restful sleep each night, but by reducing your need for acid blocking medication, MedCline can also reduce your likelihood of contracting a life threatening C. difficile infection.

References:

1. Heartburn/GERD Health Center, Proton Pump Inhibitors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/proton-pump-inhibitors-for-gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd. March 16th, 2010.

2. Halperin, Keith, DC. Stomach Acid, pH, and Health. www.keithhalperin.com

3. Morrison, Rosemary H, EdithR.Lederman, et al. Risk Factors Associated With Complications and Mortality in Patients With Clostridium difficile Infection. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2011;53(12):1173–8. April, 2011.

4. Medical News Today. What Is Clostridium Difficile (C. Difficile)? http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/172329.p... November, 2009.

5. Deshpande, Abhishek et al. Association Between Proton Pump Inhibitor Therapy and Clostridium difficile Infection in a Meta-Analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Volume 10, Issue 3. March 2012.

2. Safety Alert. Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea can be associated with stomach acid drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/ucm290510.htm... February 8, 2012.