GERD and Peptic Ulcers:
ADJUNCTIVE THERAPIES AND ALTERNATIVES TO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
BY SHARY BLACKARD
Severe gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD or "acid reflux disease," occurs when the LES valve (lower esophageal sphincter valve) opens to let food enter the stomach, but does not close properly. When this happens, stomach acid can go where it doesn't belong (back up the esophagus) and a painful condition called acid reflux occurs.
ISSUES WITH PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS
All prescription and many over-the-counter acid reflux medications treat heartburn by significantly suppressing acid production. PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), such as Nexium, are some of the most prescribed medications in the United States. PPIs inhibit hydrochloric acid production and halt the body's ability to form a barrier against yeast overgrowth.
If hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) is needed to digest food, absorb nutrients and prevent harmful bacteria from growing in the stomach and intestines, and all prescription drugs significantly suppress acid production, how can a person deal with acid reflux and not interfere with the body's natural defense system?
There are many natural enzymes and herbs, such as papaya, ginger and licorice, that have been used to treat stomach distress, but a new product, REFLUXIN, specifically addresses acid reflux in a unique way. By combining mucoprotective agents with an effervescent base, a buoyant gastric "raft" (or barrier) forms. This "raft" coats the lower esophagus with a foam which floats on the surface of the gastric contents (much like a raft on water) preventing refluxing stomach acid from backing up and irritating the esophageal mucosa. By stopping the esophageal irritation, the damaged tissue can begin to heal.
Gastritis, an inflammation of the lining of the stomach, can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, irritations from aspirin or drugs, alcohol, stress or spicy food. Most peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection. Scientists from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, working at the University of Michigan Medical School, conducted two studies with laboratory mice. The mice that were treated with acid blocking prescription drugs (proton pump inhibitors or PPIs), acquired more bacteria and developed more inflammatory changes in their stomach linings than untreated mice (www.altmedicine.com).
When ulcer patients are prescribed antacids, proton pump inhibitors and histamine blockers (Tagamet®, Zantac®, Prilosec® and Prevacid®), stomach acid is greatly reduced and so is the body's natural defense mechanism against invading microbes. The UM study found that by inhibiting gastric acid production, greater numbers of bacteria were present in the stomach cell samples of the study animals.
DGL (deglycrrhizinated licorice) has been used to promote healing of gastric and duodenal ulcers for many years. When compared to antacids (Tagamet® and Zantac®) in 874 patients with chronic duodenal ulcers, the healing rate showed no significant difference, but fewer relapses were noted in the DGL group (Kassir, Z.A., Irish Med. J. 1985, 78:153-56). In another study, one hundred patients with gastric ulcers received either DGL (760 mg 3 times a day between meals) or Tagamet® (200 mg 3 times a day and 400 mg at bedtime). Ulcers healed after 6 weeks and 12 weeks were similar in both groups (Morgan Ag, et al, Gut 23:545-51).
Cabbage extract factor, also known as vitamin U, has been the focus of numerous studies. In one study, 55 patients were treated with vitamin U, eleven suffered from gastric, forty-two from duodenal and 2 from jejunal ulcers. All but 3 patients were symptomatically relieved in 2 to 5 days. Of the 3 who were not relieved, surgery was required for the chronic type of penetrating ulcer in two instances. The healing time of the craters varied between 8 and 23 days with an average of 11.5 days (Cheney, G. Calif, Med. 77 (4): 248-252. 1952).
For ulcers not requiring surgery and for those who are being weaned from antibiotic and/or antacid therapy, a product called GASTRAMET contains both DGL and vitamin U.
Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that can live in the stomach and duodenum. It is believed that this bacterium is the major cause of duodenal ulcers and gastritis. According to research by Khulusi, S. et al (J Med Microbiol 1995 Apr; 42(4):276-82), H. pylori is sensitive to unsaturated free fatty acids through their incorporation into phospholipids and membrane destruction.
A product by the name of HELICOBACTERIN combines fatty acids, capsicum (noted for its gastroprotective effect in Dig Dis Sci 1995 Mar; 40(3):580-3), and other physiological nutrients that have been studied for both anti-H pylori and mucosal repair.
The official guideline for the treatment of peptic ulcer disease is the use of double or triple therapy antibiotics. Although antibiotics are an effective treatment for peptic ulcers, we have recently discovered that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics has lead to drug-resistant bacteria and potential relapse. Good gastrointestinal health is critical to the health of the entire body. The repair of the body's mucosa and the return to physiological function is the treatment goal. Keeping this in mind, every person who suffers from dysfunction in this area can benefit from working with their licensed integrative health care provider and educating themselves on alternative and adjunctive therapies.