Reflux has become a very common condition, and one alarming trend is the number of children who are developing it. We have had clients as young as a few months old suffering from reflux, many on prescription medications that have never been tested for safety in children.
This is completely unnecessary. Reflux is almost always a result of consuming the rich Western diet, being overweight, and being in a poor state of health. It is rare that a program of dietary excellence, weight loss, and health improvement will not completely reverse it without the use of medications.
The side effects of many of the common medications for reflux should scare anyone into trying dietary excellence as an alternative.
One of the bacteria that resides in your GI tract is Clostridium difficile, or C-diff. C-diff and other pathogenic bacteria are kept in check by the "good" bacteria in your system.
There are several ways in which C-diff can become a problem. One is by taking antibiotics. Although sometimes very necessary, antibiotics are over-prescribed and the problem is that they kill bad and good bacteria alike, upsetting the delicate balance. C-diff often takes advantage of the lack of beneficial bacteria, causing C-diff colitis, an inflammation of the membrane that lines the large intestine. The result is abdominal pain and diarrhea, and it can be life-threatening.
Another way that C-diff can develop into a problem is through the use of H2 receptor antagonists such as Zantac and Pepsid by patients experiencing reflux. The reason is that these drugs suppress the production of gastric acid, needed for the proper digestion of food, and also needed to protect the GI tract against C-diff proliferation. Researchers at McGill Unicersity determined that patients using H2 antagonists have twice the risk of C-diff infection as compared to those who do not use the drugs. The risk was even worse for patients using proton pump inhibitors such as Prevacid and Prilosec, who were three times more likely to develop an infection.
It is almost never excess acid production that causes the pain associated with reflux, but damage to the lower esophageal sphincter resulting from poor food choices, being overweight, and constipation. Even a tiny amount of acid leaking into the esophageal tube will cause intense pain. Changes in diet and lifestyle will result in the LES repairing itself and returning to normal, negating the need for drugs.
C-diff, as well as every other bacterial infection, should be avoided at all costs. At the very least, these bacterial infections cause serious illness, and the death rate is increasing as a result of the number of people who have become antibiotic-resistant.
The use of drugs to treat reflux is just one more example of how traditional medical approaches tend to solve one problem while creating more. The advantage to using a Lifestyle Medicine approach is that the immediate health issue is resolved while the overall health of the patient is improved.
* Sandra Dial; J. A. C. Delaney; Alan N. Barkun; Samy Suissa, "Use of Gastric Acid-Suppressive Agents and the Risk of Community-Acquired Clostridium-Associated Disease," JAMA December 21, 2005;vol 294:2989-2995