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Do you frequently experience heartburn? If so, you’re not alone. Approximately half of U.S. adults have heartburn at least once a month according The American College of Gastroenterology. In fact, more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms every single day! To extinguish the flame of heartburn symptoms, most people pop a purple pill. But this habit may lead to osteoporosis.
The Problem with Treating Indigestion Symptoms with Medications
Proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) – Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix and Nexium—are most commonly used for treatment of chronic heartburn (indigestion), stomach ulcers or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). PPI’s reduce the production of stomach acid by blocking “proton pumps” in the stomach wall. They’re some of the most commonly prescribed drugs around the world and are advertised in newspapers, web, radio and television daily. In fact, in 2009 they were the third-largest class of drugs in the country with $13.6 billion in sales, representing more than 110 million prescriptions.
According to research, these proton pump inhibitors are associated with an increased risk of development of osteoporosis and bone fractures, especially in postmenopausal women. A study of chronic use of PPI’s found that hip fracture risk increased by 44 percent after taking the drug for one year. Even more disconcerting, taking the drug for as long as seven years results in a 92 percent increase for any type of osteoporosis fracture! The concern was so serious that the FDA issued a “Safety Announcement” in May of 2010 warning physicians and patients of the increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine with the use of these medications. You see, these meds inhibit the production of stomach acid which is needed to break down the protein in the foods you eat. But that stomach acid also plays a major role in how your body absorbs calcium, B12 and many other nutrients needed to reform strong bones.
Natural Heartburn Remedies Can Prevent Osteoporosis
- Probiotics: The gut is lined with good bacteria that keep the intestinal lining tight-locked. When the good bacteria are depleted or stomach acid levels are imbalanced, tiny holes can permeate this lining. Probiotics are healthy, beneficial bacteria that can restore proper intestinal balance. They are also very beneficial in supporting calcium uptake and helping to build bone density. In fact, without a healthy probiotic colony in the gut, calcium can pass right through undigested. Or, even worse, excess calcium turns into unhealthy deposits in soft tissue and arteries. The best probiotics as supplements are usually refrigerated and contain the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species of bacteria. When selecting a probiotic, try to choose one that contains both of these species. Take the dosage recommended on the manufacturer’s bottle and double up on your dose if you’ve recently been on antibiotics or if you experience heartburn or stomach upset. If you are currently taking antibiotics, take your probiotics two hours before your antibiotic.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is one of the good foods for osteoporosis because it is rich in calcium. One cup (156 grams) of steamed broccoli equals 7.5 percent of your daily needs of calcium. It is also an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, and potassium, which are other important nutrients that can prevent osteoporosis. Try eating a serving of broccoli at least 3 to 5 times per week. If this is not realistic for you, then you can purchase broccoli supplements at your local health food store. Again, take the supplements at least 3 to 5 times per week and double up the dosage while experiencing heartburn.
- Apple cider vinegar: The mineral content of apple acid vinegar counterbalances the levels of strong hydrochloric acid of stomach, thus helping to calm heartburn. And like probiotics, apple cider vinegar improves calcium absorption and other nutrients in the body, which help prevent osteoporosis. Although it is available in capsule form, the recommended way to consume apple cider vinegar is in liquid form from an organic, unpasteurized source. For treating heartburn, you can take apple cider vinegar in dosages from one to three teaspoons up to three times per day after meals.
Originally published in 2012, this blog has been updated.
 IMS Health. 2010.
 Visible Journal of Endoscopy. “PPIs and Risk for Bone Fractures.” Peter R. McNally, DO, FACP, FACG, University of Colorado Denver, Vol. 9.
 Dutta SK, Agrawal K, Mahmoud MA. Modulation of salivation and heartburn in response to the site of acid infusion in the human oesophagus. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Sep;32(6):795-800.