New research shows that pharmaceutical drugs for heartburn may worsen allergies.
Acid-suppressing medication allows more allergens through to the intestines.
Natural heartburn prevention includes avoiding certain foods, changing your sleeping position, and practicing stress relief.
Acid Inhibitors Increase Allergies
It is hard to enjoy even the most delicious of meals when you know you are likely to experience the painful, burning sensation of heartburn afterward. Nowadays, there are plenty of pharmaceutical products available over the counter and by prescription that could offer you some relief. But you might want to avoid going down that road because new research suggests that it could lead to other problems, like an increase in allergies.
The study, which was conducted at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, found that individuals who take medication to suppress the production of stomach acid may have a much higher risk of requiring drugs to alleviate allergy symptoms. These results are based on an investigation that analyzed the prescriptions of 97 percent of the inhabitants of Austria. Four years of data were included, ranging from 2009 to 2013.
Subjects taking acid inhibitors were nearly twice as likely to require pharmaceutical drugs to combat their allergy symptoms. Even worse, those over the age of 60 using heartburn medications had more than five times the chance of also using an allergy relief drug. It appears that the effects are not necessarily worsened by aging, but by the length of time a person has been taking the heartburn medications.
The Link Between Antacids and Allergies
While it might not seem obvious why drugs formulated to reduce heartburn might affect our allergies, there is in fact a pretty clear reason this occurs. Medications that suppress the release of stomach acids disrupt the balance of acids and enzymes. This causes food and bacteria to make their way through the digestive tract and enter the intestines without being completely broken down. The immune system likely perceives the partially digested food as a potential danger, which triggers inflammation and an allergic response in people who never had them before.
All of this is very concerning, considering that between 15 and 30 percent of the United States population is estimated to have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Even more experience signs of heartburn weekly, and tens of millions regularly use pharmaceutical medication to get relief. And the current research shows that every common type of drug used to reduce acids—including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Prilosec and Nexium and H2 blockers such as Pepcid and Zantac—are associated with greater use of allergy drugs. What’s more, allergies worsened with just six uses of heartburn relief medication annually, although the risk rose more significantly in those using the heartburn drugs more often.
Natural Ways to Avoid Heartburn
If you are plagued by painful heartburn symptoms or have been diagnosed with GERD, there are a number of ways to improve your situation:
Figure out your trigger foods and avoid them. Some common culprits include coffee, alcohol, chocolate, and citrus
Slow down during meals. Consuming your food very quickly and overeating can both contribute to heartburn.
Eat an earlier dinner. Laying down shortly after a meal can bring on heartburn, so make sure you stay up at least three hours after leaving the table.
Reposition yourself for sleep. To prevent overnight heartburn from striking, elevate your head a little by propping an extra pillow underneath and lay on your left side.
Practice stress relief. Stress can cause heartburn symptoms to flare up, so set aside a little time to take a walk, meditate, or relax in a calming bath.
Take melatonin. Studies have shown that melatonin is much more effective than PPIs in alleviating heartburn symptoms.
Supplement with digestive enzymes to reduce the need for stomach acid — thereby giving the body a chance to rest and recover its ability to produce sufficient stomach acid.
Mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with water and a little honey and drink this with each meal. You may gradually increase the vinegar up to 3-4 tablespoons in water if needed.
And for the elderly who no longer produce enough stomach acid, supplementing with betaine hydrochloride (HCL) tablets can help, but anything beyond minimal doses as found in most health food store supplements should only be administered under the supervision of a health practitioner to avoid damage to the stomach lining.
For a complete examination of GERD, what causes it, and the problems caused by the pharmaceutical drugs used to treat it, check out Jon Barron’s article from his series on the Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Body from an Alternative Point of View: Your Stomach, Part 3.