Last week Health Canada released an official warning regarding the use of Proton Pump Inhibitors or PPIs (a particular kind of drug used as an antacid in treating acid reflux) and the increased risk of bone fractures. If you’re taking Nexium, Losec, Prevacid, Pantaloc or Tecta you’d better listen up!

A number of scientific studies suggest that these medications are associated with an increased risk of hip, wrist and spine fractures related to osteoporosis. To us nutritionists, this has been a concern ever since the word “antacid” was entered into the dictionary. Antacids raise the pH (lower the acidity) of your stomach and in doing so render your stomach ineffective in all regards – including your ability to properly digest and assimilate essential bone building minerals such as calcium ions. Health Canada has instructed all manufacturers of these drugs to include these risk findings on their label.

Antacids have long been the conventional drug of choice in treating and preventing acid reflux (GERD), however, there are some important features to know about what causes acid reflux and ALTERNATIVES to prescription drugs.

There is a fantastic little valve called an esophageal sphincter that connects your esophagus to your stomach. In any circumstance other than when you swallow food, that valve should remain closed to prevent back-splash of stomach acid up your esophagus where it can burn and erode your esophageal lining which also obviously leads to a great deal of pain and discomfort. The conventional method in dealing with this problem is to further neutralize the acid so that what IS there is as close to watered down as possible. This neutralization of stomach acid using PPIs or antacids will ease your symptoms, but destroy the benefits of stomach acid entirely, namely to digest your food, kill pathogenic bacteria, and dissolve mineral ions into a soluble form.

Naturopaths aim to address the problem with the valve itself. WHY is the valve open? WHY won’t it close and keep the contents of the stomach where they belong? Indeed, naturopaths come armed with the tools to help address such an issue and the answer is so counter-intuitive it might make your head spin. One of the more common solutions is ADDING MORE ACID. The esophageal sphincter is sensitive to changes in pH, and research suggests that when the gastric acid of the stomach is more acidic (lower pH), the esophageal sphincter closes reflexively. Not only does this conclusion address all of your reflux symptoms because the acid is nicely contained in the stomach where it belongs but it also keeps your digestive health intact by giving the stomach a purpose again. You’ll be happy to know that the stomach has special cells that secrete a mucus to protect it from acid, but then again, that is the purpose of the stomach after all so it should come as little surprise.

It is important to know that not everyone has reflux symptoms with a common cause, so such strategies are best discussed with a naturopath before being implemented.

How is such a feat carried out? Naturopaths use a combination of dietary therapy and possibly short-term use supplement therapy if necessary with astounding success. No acid reflux, no compromise in digestion and most of all, no increased risk of fractures.