What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue Part II

What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue Part II

Once upon a blogpost, our writers ripped the mask of a silent medical enemy and dragged its face into the unflattering limelight. We acquainted you with adrenal fatigue.

Perhaps you encountered that name in fleeting conversation, or while flitting from the doctor’s office to your car—someone you know is battling this enemy and you’re wondering how they’re doing it. You’re wondering, does adrenal fatigue even exist? Or is it some hyperbolic form of laziness and unrestrained gluttony draped as a diagnosable health condition? Adrenal fatigue is, in actuality, much more than a mediocre lifestyle; it’s when our adrenal glands crash and collapse beneath ongoing, compounding stressors, compromising our body’s healthy production of stress-fighting hormones; it’s when the good guys lose to the bad guys and we’re left catching our breath behind the darkest alleys of life.

Adrenal fatigue is real and it’s not pretty.

So why don’t several medical doctors recognize adrenal fatigue as a serious diagnosis?

It is true: most conventionally trained physicians don’t recognize adrenal fatigue as a real problem. Blood tests for these fatigued patients often reflect normal hormone production. Cortisol levels hover just above the healthy threshold—just enough to evade the common hormone-related diagnoses, such as Addison’s Disease or Adrenal Insufficiency (rare conditions in which the adrenals cannot produce enough hormones on their own and life-long steroid replacement therapy is usually required). So their doctors send them off with a chill pill prescription: “Just relax more,” they say. “Take it easy and you’ll feel better.”

What is the best way to test for Adrenal fatigue?

What is superior to blood tests, measures your cortisol levels several times a day, and is often accompanied by a “stick out your tongue and say ahh”?

Saliva tests. The results from these tests are like a log mapping your 24-hour hormone-secretion cycle. The functional and integrative medicine practitioners who make use of these tests collect your spit in vials at four points during the day to track your cell tissues’ hormone levels, enabling them to correlate your physical symptoms with medical data. More accuracy and no finger pricks required—how’s that for a medical hack?

How do you reverse fatigue and restore adrenal function?

As with all worthy feats in life, this one comes with no magic pill, no quick fix drink to whisk you back into recovery. A balanced life demands a balanced lifestyle, and your persistent initiative to overcome. Here are our three MUST DO’s for beating adrenal fatigue:

#1 Declutter your relationships.

Spring is upon us, a season that invites warmer weather, rain showers, and the human impulse to declutter. Skip the dusty books and untouched clothes this year; your decluttering party will take on a new approach, and you will have your adrenals thank you for it later. We can all endure our fair share of Debby Downers and Negative Nancys. But if your exhausted adrenals have left you in a sinkhole of symptoms, those Facebook “friends—whose only contribution to your feed is Grey’s Anatomy-level drama—need to exit your social stage. So do those casual acquaintances with trademark cynicism, filling every silence with a slanderous remark. They’re not serving you any good. If anything, they’re draining whatever traces of energy you have left to function. Here is your relationship decluttering checklist, at a glance:

  • Eliminate or minimize toxicity in your relationships.
  • Resolve ongoing conflicts with the people in your life whom you love.
  • Kindly set boundaries with negative/angry family members whose company is inevitable.
  • Unfollow and/or unfriend accounts on your social media feeds whose messages, attitudes, and comments serve no purpose but to spread negativity.
  • Build your social circle with kind, caring, and respectful individuals (even if that means making new friends!).

#2 Clock in some beauty sleep!

Let us let you in on a sleeping secret: somewhere between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., our bodies repair and regenerate themselves in preparation for the stressors ahead. Our adrenals, too, work their hardest during that time block. Exercise a bit of discipline and train yourself to sleep earlier. Calm the urge to binge-watch your latest Netflix obsession, and in hours leading up to bed, dim the lights and put away your electronic devices to maximize melatonin production. Here is your beauty sleep checklist, at a glance:

  • Commit to a relaxing activity before bed (yoga, meditation, praying, and stretching all help quiet your mind and prime your body for a good night’s rest).
  • Keep your coffee and caffeinated tea breaks before 2 p.m.; anything after will disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm.

#3 Healing foods for your body and soul.

Historically, humans sought remedy from sources beyond a doctor’s prescription. “Let food be thy medicine,” they said. This ancient mantra spawned an alternative healing approach called “lifestyle medicine.” It is especially popular with preventable, lifestyle-related illnesses. Without shunning Western pharmaceuticals, holistic healers use food plucked from earth herself to restore balance to their patients’ bodies. Just as we are made from earth, we need her seasonal harvests to thrive and keep illness at bay. So here is your fatigue-warding, adrenal-restoring food checklist, at a glance:

  • Eat small meals often. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue spike when patients skip a meal or forgo eating for an extended number of hours.
  • Decorate your plate with rainbow-colored food for optimal nutrition. When planning your meals, alternate between a variety of lean protein (mostly plant-based with the occasional sustainably-sourced meat), complex carbs with a low glycemic index (quinoa, brown rice, potato medleys, whole wheat, beans, and legumes—all of which keep your blood sugar levels steady and release a constant flow of energy), healthy fats (avocados, olives/olive oil, nuts and seeds), and organic produce.
  • Consume more salt. Fatigued adrenal glands trigger low sodium levels and low aldosterone production, leaving patients craving salt like it’s nobody’s business. So eat salty! Don’t worry about the risk of high blood pressure; that doesn’t apply with adrenal fatigue (but feel free to wear a blood pressure monitor for good measure). If anything, an extra dash of salt on every dish is both essential and therapeutic to your adrenal recovery.

If adrenal fatigue is your current reality, know this: restoring your adrenal glands won’t happen overnight, just as they didn’t crash overnight. Be patient when making these changes; lifestyle medicine takes time. The feelings of rejuvenation, a good night’s sleep, and endless motivation to tackle your biggest, wildest dreams are just around the corner. As always, we’re rooting for you along the way.

Missed part one of this blogpost? Learn more about Adrenal Fatigue here.

What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue

What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue

Every so often, one of us encounters an enemy that locks us into complete paralysis. E-mail messages go unchecked, laundry stacks to the height of Everest, and personal relationships shrivel like leaves beneath a merciless breeze. It’s a silent enemy, leaving behind no physical side effects (except many empty coffee cups and energy drinks to help you reach Bare Minimum Adult Functionality). Your doctor assures you that all of your lab results are normal; medically, there’s nothing wrong with you. But you know, from the bottom of your tired and weary heart, that something is wrong… Your sinuses are flaring on a cool winter day (but doctor, I don’t even have allergies). Out of nowhere, pickles, Saltine crackers, and sushi rolls doused in soy sauce surge to your Top Three Foods list (what is happening to my taste buds?!). There’s something else disrupting your groove: bathroom breaks, which are inconveniently happening every hour (c’mon doc, what digs?).

While these could be symptoms of various health conditions, a silent enemy by the name “Adrenal Fatigue” is the most common culprit. It crawls into your life and leaves behind these life-crippling symptoms:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of motivation (mainly due to lack of energy)
  • Low sex drive
  • Low mood
  • Easily irritable
  • Decreased ability to handle stress
  • Brain fog
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Salty food cravings
  • Increased urination
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure
  • Allergies

How does this happen?

This story, like all medical stories, begins with a tragedy. Somewhere in your body, an ecosystem of organs and parts suffers an imbalance that leaves its members malfunctioning. The ecosystem in today’s conversation is the adrenal glands. Perched above your kidneys are these small glands whose sole purpose of existence is to produce hormones: cortisol, your body’s built-in alarm system and blood-pressure-regulator; adrenaline, your body’s boxing gloves and running shoes in high stress situations; aldosterone, your body’s traffic control center for sodium, potassium, and blood flow. Each of these hormones, as well as many others, is essential to your functioning and critical for your survival. And when their production is compromised, you’re left depleted and depressed, hobbling through life’s lowest hurdles like an injured race horse. Little tasks, like meeting a work deadline or paying your bills on time, become monstrous pressures. In layman terms, you’re burnt out.

What causes adrenal fatigue?

Coping and responding to life’s stressors is easier when your adrenal glands are functioning at full capacity. They begin to fatigue, however, when that stress continues chronically and compactfully, giving you no room to rest. Picture this scenario: you came down with a case of bronchitis that eventually evolved into pneumonia. As you’re driving to your next doctor’s appointment, you’re rear-ended in highway traffic and spend what should be your recovery time making a police statement, calling your insurance agent, and visiting the auto repair shop for a claim estimate. You trudge along, coughing into your shirt sleeve, wondering what other misfortune is looming on the horizon. These are just the foreground events, major plot twists in the tragedy of your life; the background noise discloses a second layer of drama: a stressful job, an unhappy marriage, ongoing sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, failing friendships, and the loneliness that often accompanies middle age. Your adrenal glands struggle to catch up with these stressors, no matter how much more hormones they produce. Like yourself, they burn out and are no longer able to meet the body’s demands.

Perhaps our lives aren’t simply a string of tragedies. Perhaps we are healthy and well in our pursuit of a good life. There is no denying, however, that even the healthiest and happiest of us are products of the 21st century Western lifestyle. In our frittered good will, we pack our schedules with long work hours (we need the money) and graduate school (what’s a bachelor’s degree worth now, anyway?) and family obligations (let me just swing by my sister’s; I haven’t seen my nieces and nephews in weeks) and parenting (my daughter needs to be in sports and piano lessons, just like everyone else her age) and volunteering (gotta give back to the community!) and so-and-so’s dinner and so-and-so’s son’s birthday party and so-and-so’s social justice awareness event… “Chipotle for dinner okay with everyone?” you ask from the driver’s seat, remembering that you haven’t cooked for the fifth day in a row.

We are all chained to demands far beyond our capacity, and unfortunately, the very system designed to handle these demands suffers as a consequence. With too much unmanaged stress, our hormone-producing glands clash and we suffer from adrenal fatigue.

So why do many doctors refuse to recognize adrenal fatigue as a real problem?

That is a question for next week’s blog! When the conversation continues… Read Part II here.

The Untold Story of a Silent Superpower: Chaga Mushrooms

The Untold Story of a Silent Superpower: Chaga Mushrooms

There is a new food superpower in our midst, and it has gained ranking for its superb antioxidant properties: Chaga mushrooms. With a mix of charcoal and gold hues, these mushrooms slag and sprawl like infected meteorites on the backs of dead birch trees. They are powerful, parasitic, and (almost) as promising as Wakanda’s Vibranium.

…except you can’t make an epic suit out of it. But with the innate properties of Chaga mushrooms, you won’t need to. Research shows that this fungus contains promising health benefits for people of all ages. Its high antioxidant content makes it superior to its line of competitors, such as blueberries, pomegranates, acai, and their likes.

I’m going to get a bit personal now. Although I’m a pharmacist and functional medicine practitioner, I, too, like to live life on the edge. I indulged in some reading recently—just a casual afternoon cuddling with research studies and medical journals—and shortly thereafter, I decided to commit to Chaga mushrooms, once and for all. So I woke up the next morning, dumped my regular smoothie, and settled with a cozy cup of Chaga mushroom tea. My first sip brought with it a whiff of familiarity. I know this taste. It was like the shy little sister of bold black tea: humble, mute, and vaguely visible. I sipped some more.

Twenty minutes later, I found myself busting into my running shoes and bursting out my front door. Something felt different. A transformation occurred—like I had morphed from a suburban, mother-of-two pharmacist and into an unstoppable Wakandan warrior. I must wear out this energy! I ran for miles and miles, hours on end, until my feet met a previously unpursued path. I had never run that far before, but I continued anyway. And when I returned home, my newfound endurance carried me through more weight lifting and into a work day with utmost mental clarity. It was a beautiful sensation. That effect—that energy boost, that unabated agility, or whatever you want to call it—lasted for days.

What exactly is Chaga Mushroom?

In two words: a fungus. It’s not the prettiest plant in the woods, but what a Chaga mushroom lacks in outer beauty, it makes up in medicinal aptitude. Chaga mushrooms have one of the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity (ORAC) scores of any food, which speaks to their ability to protect the body from aging and fight disease-causing free radicals. Hmm, maybe they are just as good as Vibranium, after all?

What are some of Chaga Mushrooms’ superpowers?

  • Anti-Aging
  • Anti-Viral
  • Improve physical endurance
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Prevents and treats cancers
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts  immune system
  • Lowers inflammation
  • Lowers blood glucose

How do you consume this superfood?

You don’t need to be a Kimberly Snyder or a Dr. Mark Hyman to whip up a Chaga-infused concoction. The method is simple. Add two to three chunks of Chaga mushrooms to one to two quarts of water in a slow cooker/crock pot. Set the mixture on low and cover the pot while the mixture steeps for up to 12 hours. Drink it hot or chilled, as a base for flavored tea, coffee, or your favorite fruit smoothie. There are no rules! Chaga mushrooms are versatile enough to be bent to your preference, so be creative. For the little ones, blend half a cup of Chaga mushroom tea with ice and honey and serve! The kiddos will absolutely love it.

If you do give this superpower a chance, like I did, please share your experience with me in the comments below! I would love to hear all about it. Here’s a brand I really recommend.

6 Must-Have Supplements for Wellness and Vitality

6 Must-Have Supplements for Wellness and Vitality

In this pill-piling health industry, not all supplements are created equal. We’re here to teach you how to navigate the supplements aisle and make investments that matter.

Let’s be honest: the Standard American Diet is depleted of nutrients. And for every nutrient deficiency, we are sold a supplement to fill the void where food once belonged. This isn’t the sole fate of fast-food enthusiasts feasting from a drive thru; even health-conscious individuals are suffering. As it turns out, those bell peppers and kale bits starring in yesterday’s salad rank lower in nutrients than the ones our great-great-grandparents ate, leaving you curiously famished and raiding your snack cabinet before bedtime. There are many reasons for this epidemic, the first being our country’s mediocre agricultural practices.

Our farmers are racing the clock to meet the demands of bustling, industrial communities. In order to stock our grocery stores with glistening apples and picture-perfect apricots, farmers mass-produce their crops using old soils that grow stale with time. These old soils then produce crops that are inevitably depleted of essential vitamins, minerals, and microbes.

Crops are further stripped of their nutrient-potential after being doused in pesticides. These pesticides interfere with a plant’s polyphenol production—that’s nature’s secret trick to ward away bugs and pathogens threatening a plant’s growth. What happens when these plants are heavily covered in pesticides and herbicides? Their polyphenol production declines, along with their nutrient supply, leaving you, Dear Reader, famished and craving more.

Farmers try compensating for these agricultural practices and enhancing crop nutrition by using fortified fertilizers. Nutrition in these fertilizers, however, is minimal—just enough to keep the crops alive until harvesting, but not enough to support our health. What’s more, most plants are harvested prematurely; they are shipped for hundreds of miles across the country, finding temporary shelter in shelves, trucks, and counters for weeks before being eating. Their nutrient stores erode during this prolonged time.

This story ends with the rueful realization that we could all use some help with our nutrition. All of us, no exception. And while supplements are not a replacement for a healthy diet, they are back-up sidekicks when your diet falls short (and most often, it will).

Below are the six supplements I recommend to all of my clients—the holy grails of wellness and vitality. Let the listing begin…

PROBIOTICS: These live bacteria are key players in our digestive tract. Their benefits range from increasing our resistance to illnesses, to enhancing our ability to maintain a healthy weight. That’s just the physical stuff. Research suggests time and again that probiotics boost our mental well-being, countering symptoms of anxiety and depression.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: These fats classify as essential—an intimidating and weighty word denoting their necessity for our bodies to function. Because our bodies cannot produce these fats on their own, we need to consume them through our foods and supplements. Sufficient amounts of omega-3s offer multiple benefits, too, including longevity, physical wellbeing, a leaner physique, a clearer mind, and softer, more youthful skin.

ZINC: This essential nutrient is nature’s elixir for the common cold. The body also requires zinc for basic body functions: to produce hormones, to grow and repair cells, to boost immunity, and to facilitate digestion. Like an antioxidant, it slows the aging process and restores hormonal imbalance. And to counter energy spikes and energy dips throughout the day, trust zinc to help you regulate your blood sugar.

MAGNESIUM: If we could give one supplement a Pharmacists’ Choice Award for Most Beneficial to Americans, it would be magnesium. About 80 percent of adults are deficient in this essential mineral, creating an array of health problems: muscle aches or spasms, poor digestion, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

B-COMPLEX: This supplement contains all of the known, essential, water-soluble B vitamins that are absolutely needed for energy and healthy metabolism. Most Americans are deficient in these vital nutrients, resulting in energy slumps, a sluggish metabolism, and more.

VITAMIN D3: Most Americans are also deficient in this essential vitamin—an epidemic correlated with depression, insomnia, pain, osteoporosis, cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, and many other health conditions. This sunshine vitamin is closest to what sunlight naturally produced when shining its rays on our skin. Stock up on this supplement if you have limited outdoor time, cover constantly, or are from the snowy state of Minnesota.

Six supplements. Six new superheroes in your journey toward health. Do yourself a favor and invest in these little capsules, because even the best of diets is bound to fall short sometimes.

The Dark Side of Antacids—What You Need to Know (PART II)

The Dark Side of Antacids—What You Need to Know (PART II)

In last week’s blog, we whisked you, Dear Reader, into a deep discussion about the dark side of antacids (PPIs). You know, those medications touted for suppressing symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux, returning calm to your dinner experience? Yeah, those. We wrote all about it here and want to continue the conversation in the space below.

Long-term dependence on PPI1 antacids, as you know, often triggers a host of dysfunctions in the body. This isn’t revelatory; PPIs work temporarily by suppressing the stomach’s healthy and necessary acid production to control the symptoms of heartburn. They are patchwork over a deeper issue, and unless we address the root cause of heartburn, we cannot expect to restore harmony to the body’s inner ecology. More problems will prop onto your diagnostics chart as the root problem is left untreated.

So what can you do? Should you quit taking PPIs cold turkey?

As with many things in life, quitting PPIs cold turkey isn’t recommended. The withdrawal agonies from quitting antacids are somewhat comparable to those of caffeine and sugar withdrawal (the former, or course, being many degrees worse). While quitting caffeine makes you irritable and lethargic and prone to a bad case of madness—snapping at your succulents from your bed at 1:35 p.m., wondering if you will ever have the energy to adult again—quitting antacids actually worsens your reflux problem. Having suppressed your stomach acid for so long, quitting PPIs cold turkey causes your body to produce high levels of gastrin, the hormone that stimulates the secretion of gastric acid by the parietal cells of the stomach. Your body overcompensates by producing larger-than-normal amounts of stomach acid which then translates into a worse case of acid reflux. It’s common that people who take PPIs for long periods of time grow addicted to them; when they decide to quit, their reflux is worse and more unbearable than it was when it started.

How to get off these medications?

It goes without saying: consult your healthcare provider! This is especially crucial if you are taking PPIs for conditions other than acid reflux and heartburn. Some patients take antacids for more serious conditions and need thorough consultation and evaluation of their condition before they can safely terminate their prescription. Most functional medicine doctors, pharmacists, and naturopaths might be able to wean you off safely and effectively. In any case, below are general pro-tips for weaning off of antacid pills:

FIRST, employ the principles of gradualism: decrease your dosage slowly and gauge your body’s response. If you are taking Omeprazole 40 mg, for example, reduce the dose to 20 mg. If you are taking a double dose daily, slash it to once-a-day. Keep at this for at least two weeks, and if you find that you’re managing, reduce the dose to every other day… and then to every third day… and if you are experiencing side effects (i.e. acid reflux, heartburn) on the medication-free days, try H2 blockers2 to relieve those symptoms. Switch over to a daily dose of H2 blocker if needed and then gradually decrease that in a similar style until you have no symptoms.

SECOND, with Jedi-like intentions, uncover the culprits undermining your gut health and develop drug-free strategies for restoring balance to the force. Or, more accurately, restoring health to your gut. Begin by eliminating processed foods, bad oils (vegetable, soy, corn, canola), processed sugars, and refined carbohydrates from your diet. Stomp them out like you would an infiltrating army of Stormtroopers: immediately and without question. In their place, load up on fresh and organic produce and their nutritious sidekicks. But avoid anything that may irritate your recovering stomach, such as citrus foods (tomatoes, oranges, lemons, etc.), deep fried foods, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, chocolates, and soda pops. Keep in mind, too, that our generation of Americans is becoming increasingly sensitive to gluten and dairy products. So maybe pass on that latte and scone during your lunch break?

THIRD, begin a food diary documenting the foods you eat alongside any symptoms you experience—both their frequency and severity. You can even undergo a food sensitivity lab test for good measure. During this time, follow these basic food rules for preventing acid reflux:

  • Do not lie down right after you eat.
  • Always eat an early dinner, approximately four hours before you go to bed. Eating or snacking too close to bedtime is detrimental, not only to your stomach health, but to your overall health and wellbeing.
  • Eat smaller meals and chew your food thoroughly.
  • Find innovative ways to elevate your head above your chest while you sleep. Larger, fluffier pillows? An adjustable mattress?

FOURTH, sprinkle fermented food onto your meals like you would confetti at your friend’s wedding party! These healthy-gut-bacteria-restoring foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, organic raw honey, among many others. Also, don’t succumb to commercially-sold yogurts; not only are they bereft of healthy probiotics, but they are also loaded with sugar—sometimes even more than your favorite tub of ice cream. While these yogurts masquerade as “healthy,” they often go through a pasteurization process which inevitably strips them of their good bacteria. Probiotic supplements and digestive enzymes can help improve your gut health too.

Another friend to your healthy-gut-bacteria-restoring ventures is Aloe Vera juice, which eases acid reflux symptoms by reducing inflammation in your gut. Drinking about one-half cup before meals helps prevent unwanted symptoms.

Ginger root is also extremely beneficial and far superior to lansoprazole, according to a 2007 study. It works amazingly well in blocking acid and suppressing bad stomach bacteria, including H Pylori. Drinking ginger tea, or just plain ginger water, half an hour before meals helps prevent symptoms.

Here’s one that will take you by surprise: melatonin. A humble supplement3 of this sleep hormone (3-5 mg) is enough to help you wean off your PPI medication, as it restores gut health and curbs gastrointestinal symptoms. Believe it or not, our stomachs produce 400 times as much melatonin as the pineal gland, making this hormone a key player in this discussion.

And that, Dear Reader, is your ultimate list of go-to strategies for tackling heartburn and acid reflux, medication-free. The time of chest-wrenching meal experiences is over. The era of smooth food indulgences (nutritious, of course) is about to begin. And in your pursuit of healthy gut bacteria and stomach acid balance, remember that PPI medications can have a role in your health narrative, but they shouldn’t budge as an all-star cast.

Foot Notes

1 Common Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) include: Omeprazole (Prilosec), Esomeprazole (Nexium), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), Pantoprozole (Protonix), Rabeprozole (Aciphex), Omeprazole/Sodium Bicarbonate (Zegerid).

2 H2 blockers include: nizatidine (Axid), famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet), or ranitidine (Zantac)

3 Other effective supplements for GERD are L-Tryptophan, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Methionine, Betaine HCL Pepsin, Vitamin D, Glutamine, Slippary elm, and Astaxanthin.

The Dark Side of Antacids—What You Need to Know (PART I)

The Dark Side of Antacids—What You Need to Know (PART I)

Beside bloating and unbearable fullness, here’s another post-meal sensation none of us want to experience: heartburn. You slurped the last spaghetti noodle and savored every drop of saucy goodness, and you’re now preparing to break with the latest episode of The Crown. And then it begins—something like a flame furled in the pits of your stomach begins blazing up your throat. “It’s like throwing up burning coal that you can’t digest,” some describe it. Heartburn is a common experience, and one that usually ends up with handfuls of antacids added to your weekly pillbox organizer.

But there are many things about antacids that you should know:

  1. There is a popular class of antacids called “Proton Pump Inhibitors” (PPI), and they’re widely prescribed to treat Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and other acid-related disorders.
  2. In 2016, they were among the top selling drugs in the U.S., prescription and over-the-counter, and made billions of dollars in sales.
  3. Patients often consume these antacids for a longer duration of time than recommended by manufacturers. And because these pills are available over the counter, they’ve become the quick pick-me-up for any acid related conditions, with little warning of their side effects (and there are many).

Now let’s explore the effects this drug has on the human body: when you pop that PPI pill, it absorbs into your system and quickly blocks your stomach from producing acid, thereby decreasing your gut’s acid levels. Sounds great, right? Not quite; medication effectiveness is hardly that linear. While PPIs provide the immediate relief of an acid-reflux-free meal and a cheerful chest, that relief comes with a heavy cost…

FIRST: ineffective food digestion, which decreases nutrient absorption, thereby increasing nutritional deficiencies. Like other elements of your physiology, your stomach’s acid serves a crucial purpose—that is, to activate digestive enzymes and break down food for digestion. PPIs disrupt this process by inhibiting your body’s acid production. And what follows can be dangerous. For example, you’re eating your favorite wings and a side of nacho bean dip on Super Bowl Night and decide to take an antacid for good measure. As you watch the Eagles completely obliterate the Patriots, you bask in the beauty of a heartburn-less food experience with your friends. This is the good life. Meanwhile, something else is happening in your body: the proteins from your saucy wings cannot break down into individual amino acids for absorption because your gut’s acid levels are too low. These undigested proteins then cross the intestinal barrier and trigger an array of problems, including food allergies and sensitivities.

Even more, when your body doesn’t recognize these unbroken proteins, it unleashes its stable of antibodies against them, which, in the long run, can lead to autoimmune diseases.

SECOND: nutrient deficiencies that ultimately evolve into other serious conditions. Long-term use of PPIs hinders our body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium—two critical minerals for bone health that, when depleted, wither our body’s bones into fragility and weakness. In other words, osteoporosis is another common side effect of long-term PPI use.

The dark nature of antacids doesn’t end there. With newfound magnesium deficiencies triggered by PPIs, the body could prematurely offset Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, depression, seizures, and more—all of which are linked with long-term magnesium deficiency.

THIRD: a jeopardized immune system. When you devour that first round of Super Bowl wings, your stomach acid acts as your first line of defense against harmful bacteria, virus, and parasites. It battles menacing microbes with more intensity than Nick Foles’ winning throws. And when you have an inadequate amount of gut acid, these microbes survive and thrive, sprawling into full-blown gut dysfunctions. It’s a nasty cycle, all because of an acid suppression that lasted far too long.

Another unspoken side of PPI use is its ability to trigger gastrointestinal infections, such as H pylori and candida. PPIs have also been shown to be potentially involved in cognitive decline and dementia risk, especially in elderly people. Testing in lab animals has shown that the use of PPIs increased β-amyloid levels in the brains of mice.  β-amyloid are the amino acids involved in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, as the main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer patients. Epidemiological studies in human show that patients who used PPI medications had a significantly increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared with non-users.

The bouts of heartburn interrupting your family meals, the persistent pain penetrating your throat, the chronic cough—you shouldn’t have to endure any of these. And a heavy reliance on antacids isn’t your only way out. In next week’s blog post, we will delve into the many ways you can wean yourself off of PPIs and swap growing medical bills with many drug-free treatment options. Stay tuned… the conversation continues!

 

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