You may have heard of nitric oxide. This important molecule is created within your body and is responsible for health in several ways. Among them, nitric oxide boosts energy and stamina. It’s involved in sexual function and many function enhancing medications work to stimulate nitric oxide. It’s vasodilating properties are responsible for promoting blood, oxygen, and glucose to your brain, helping with memory and cognition. And the most studied effect of nitric acid is its effect on coronary artery dilation and its role in promoting healthy cardiovascular function and blood pressure.
But, did you know that taking acid blockers for indigestion or other reasons can significantly stop your body from producing nitric oxide?
Acid blocking drugs, especially Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) have side effects that are not openly discussed. Do you take acid blocking drugs either by prescription or over-the-counter for reflux or burning sensations? If so, you could unwittingly be reducing your nitric acid production and jeopardizing healthy function of several important body systems.
Yes, acid blockers seem to provide benefit initially. They may even seem like miracle drugs after suffering years with increasingly uncomfortable symptoms. But many people find that in order to maintain this relief they have to progressively increase the amount they take. We see many patients who have been on these drugs for years come in with complaints that “they aren’t working anymore” or suspicions of side effects, seeking advice on how to get off them. You see, once started it is not easy to get off these drugs and many people have tried to stop taking their acid blockers unsuccessfully. They are typically met with a strong resurgence of the burning sensation they had before starting and mostly worse than what they were experiencing in the first place. This generally forces them back on the acid blocking drugs, leaving them in a conundrum.
We have found that few people are successful in getting off these drugs on their own. However, there are effective ways to help promote a healthy digestive tract, eliminating the need for acid reduction. Most of us have been led to believe through TV advertising that the problem comes from high stomach acid. But you may be surprised to learn that studies show most people with GERD and burning sensations actually have low, insufficient stomach acid. That really shouldn’t be that surprising. If you think about it. Marketing for acid blocking drugs is targeted toward older adults, not younger people. This is because it is older adults who typically have the problem. As you have aged, does your body work better than it did when you were younger? Most people notice that with age comes reduced function in many areas, including eyesight, hearing, and digestion. Since digestion is largely related to stomach secretions, do you really think your stomach became better able to produce stomach acid over time, or less able? For all but a very small percentage of the population, as you age your stomach does not function as well as it did in your teens and twenties….when you could eat anything.
In short nothing works as well as we age, including your digestive system. So the answer to resolving your reflux and burning sensations is not to further reduce your acid production but to restore it to the level of an optimally functioning digestive system. This is a tricky situation and requires professional guidance from someone experienced and trained in Functional Medicine restoration of the digestive system. Most people fail at getting off their acid blocking drugs because they simply don’t know how to go about this process. Make no mistake, this is not necessarily a fast process and may take some time to get through comfortably. But many people have done it and now are pain free without drugs and able to once again enjoy many foods they have had to cut out of their diet over the years.
If you have been suffering with GI distress and haven’t been able to find a happy resolution, contact our office to find out more about how our program could work for you.