The Natural Control of Stomach Acid

Stomach hyperacidity is a common medical problems for which people often seek medical consultation. We are all aware that stomach acid can cause heartburn, upper abdominal pain or discomfort, and feelings of a sour stomach. So common are these upper digestive complaints that examples of the most commonly used drugs are those used to control upper digestive complaints, related to the body function of acid secretion.

I have researched and published extensively on the subject of drugs that can reduce acid secretion by the stomach. For more than 20 years, I have researched these drugs and have been involved in their development as both prescription medications and over-the-counter products. These days, the attractive option of providing and antacid that can immediately neutralize stomach acidity together with a drug that can have a delayed and later effect on reducing acid secretion has become quite popular. This initial neutralization of acid with a more prolonged delayed effect has been referred to as a biphasic or two-phase mode of action with initial relief of upper digestive function that may be combined with more prolonged relief.

Modern dietary supplement technology has evolved to present natural substances that may both act like an antacid by immediately neutralizing stomach acidity and by other means that may actually reduce acid secretion for more prolonged period of time.

There are disadvantages and limitations with the use of standard antacids. For example, calcium containing antacids may cause constipation and magnesium used in some antacids may cause diarrhea. What proponents of natural medicine have also argued is the complete abolition of stomach acid with powerful drugs that stop the secretion of stomach acid may not be a healthy circumstance especially when this occurs over the long term.

Many people have learned the importance of infection with the bacterial organism Helicobacter pylori. The management of upper digestive function and disorders may often involve the treatment of an infection with this organism which has been associated with the development of peptic ulceration, dyspepsia and even gastric cancer. A number of natural substances have been proposed as adjuncts, or “helpers,” in the management of Helicobacter pylori infection; but research on these natural substances has not been undertaken to the same degree as it has been with prescription drug and antibiotic combinations that are used to eradicate this infection.
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In recent studies, certain antioxidants have been shown to alter acid secretion in the stomach by blocking the pumps in stomach that cause the production of stomach acid. Certainly, this mechanism is well described with use of drugs such as Prilosec®, Prevacid®, and Nexium®, but only recently have these stomach acid pump inhibitor effects been associated with natural substances, which can potentially be used in dietary supplements. I stress that the description of the inhibitions of acid secretion may appear to be similar to the mechanism of actions of some drugs (eg. Prilosec®), but readers must understand that dietary supplements are not to be used to prevent or treat disease. That said, third party literature has been published that does suggest that there are natural proton pump inhibitors in nature that have a mechanism or action in the body somewhat similar to commonly used proton pump inhibitor drugs.

It is wrong to promote the use any dietary supplement and even any drug as the complete treatment of unwanted alteration upper digestive function. It is known that change of negative to positive lifestyle such as smoking cessation and correction of alcohol abuse play a major role in managing upper digestive complaints. Lifestyle changes are very important in the management of heartburn and its associated digestive disorders. In fact, lifestyle changes and behavior modifications are first line approaches to functional upper digestive problems or even to problems that come from more serious causes such as tissue inflammation (gastritis, esophagitis) or even peptic ulcerations.

I would like to provide some useful but simple hints on the management of heartburn. Heartburn is a burning sensation that occurs behind the breastbone and it affects about 45% of the American population on a recurrent basis at any time during their life. Heartburn can respond to good nutritional changes where multiple small meals are taken and there is the avoidance of eating heavy meals lasting at night. Sleeping propped up and wearing loose fitting garments are valuable ways of avoiding heartburn in many people; and the use of acid fighting substances or substances that provide nutritional support for digestive health may be beneficial. Finally, it must be noted that serious gastrointestinal disease can present with very simple symptoms and individuals are not advised to medicate without checking with a health care practitioner, especially if symptoms are prolonged or associated with other problems such as weight loss or bleeding from the digestive tract.

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