If you are diabetic, you have at least an 80% chance of also having issues with the levels of your cholesterol. Adding red yeast rice to your diet as a foodstuff or a dietary supplement may make sense. Here’s the lowdown.Continue reading “Can Red Yeast Rice really lower cholesterol ?”
For a few simple reasons … they help fight diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers. In addition they are protein rich and contain lots of good fibre, and can help you lose weight. They are an ideal food for diabetics. Here are the science-backed verified facts.
Red in colour and shaped just like the kidneys of an animal or human, red kidney beans are commonly added to soups, stews, salads and other meals in most countries. You can buy them fresh, canned, or dried, and the nutrition they deliver means they should always be part of a healthy diet.
Nutrition facts of red kidney beans
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of boiled kidney beans contains:
- Water … 67%
- Calories … 127
- Protein … 8.7g (8.7%)
- Fat … 0.5g (0.5%)
- Carbohydrates … 22.8g (22.8%) of which;
- Sugar … 0.3g (0.3%)
- Fibre … 6.4g (6.4%)
As you can see, with moderate calories and very small amount of fat and sugar, as well as loads of fibre, these beans are an ideal part of a diet for diabetics. In addition, red kidney beans contain lots of beneficial micronutrients such as folate, iron and manganese.
Protein … kidney beans are rich in protein. A 100g has nearly 9 grams of protein, which is 27% of the total calorie content.
Carbohydrates … starchy carbs account for about 72% of the total calorie count in red kidney beans. Bean starch is a slow-release carb (ie, it has a low GI). It causes a lower and more gradual rise in blood glucose compared to other starches. Thus, red kidney beans are especially beneficial for those of us who have type 2 diabetes.
Fibre … red kidney beans are particularly high in fibre, including substantial amounts of resistant starch, a prebiotic. Prebiotics move through you colon until they reach you colon where they are fermented by beneficial bacteria. This fermentation results in the formation of short-chain fatty acids, which may improve the health of your colon and reduce your risk of colon cancer.
Micro-nutrients … red kidney beans are rich in various vitamins and minerals. These include … molybdenum … folate (aka vitamin B6 or folic acid) … iron (but the phytate in these beans may mean that iron is absorbed poorly) … copper … manganese … potassium, and … vitamin K1, which is important for blood coagulation.
Health benefits of eating red kidney beans
By incorporating red kidney beans in your diet, you can experience substantial health benefits. These include:
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Better control of blood glucose levels
- Protecting cells from damage
- Helping to prevent and treat some cancers
- Reduced risk of obesity
Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes … kidney beans have a much lower GI (glycemic index) than other carb-rich foods, probably due to the fibre and resistant starch they contain. The glycemic index is a measure of the speed with which individual foods increase blood glucose levels after you eat them.
A 4-year study of 3,349 people found that consuming large amounts of legumes and lentils was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study also found that eating half a serving of legumes a day instead of a similar sized serving of eggs, bread, rice or baked potatoes was linked to a lower risk of developing diabetes.
It seems obvious that eating red kidney beans instead of other high-carb foods can reduce blood glucose levels in both those who are and who are not type 2 diabetic.
Better control of your blood glucose levels … according to a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding pulses to your diet, such as red kidney beans, could reduce your fasting blood sugar and insulin, thus supporting control of blood glucose in the long-term.
Protecting cells from damage … red kidney beans are a great source of antioxidants, compounds that help neutralise free radicals, thus reducing inflammation and protecting cells from damage and disease. Foods high in antioxidants may also help prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancers and autoimmune disorders.
Improving heart health … research suggests that eating plenty of legumes, such as red kidney beans, as part of a healthy diet can reduce levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease.
In addition, other studies have shown that eating legumes can reduce markers of inflammation, many of which contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease.
Other research indicates that eating plenty of legumes as part of a healthy diet can reduce levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease.
Helping to prevent and treat some cancers … eating kidney beans is a good source of flavanols, plant compounds that act as antioxidants. According to a study published in 2009, consuming higher amounts of flavanols is linked to a lower risk of advanced adenomas (a type of tumour from which cancer of the colon can develop).
In vitro research published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules found that certain compounds in white kidney beans were able to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. This suggests that kidney beans may be a powerful food for fighting cancer.
Reduced your risk of obesity … several observational studies have linked the consumption of beans to a lower risk of being overweight or obese. A 2-month study of 30 obese adults on a weight loss diet found that eating beans and other legumes four times a week led to greater loss than a bean-free diet.
Another study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition stated that increased consumption of beans may be linked to improved nutrition, lower body weight and reduced belly fat.
Kidney beans are high in dietary fibre and protein. Fibre moves through the body slowly thus prolonging feelings of satiety. Protein has been shown to reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger.
Risks and side-effects from eating red kidney beans
Eating red kidney beans is not all dietary heaven … problems include:
Flatulence … when eating kidney beans some people experience unpleasant side effects such as flatulence, bloating and diarrhoea. These effects are due to alpha-galactosides, ie insoluble fibres. Alpha-galactosides can be removed, at least partially, by soaking and sprouting the beans.
Toxicity … raw kidney beans contain large amounts of phytohemagglutinin, a toxic protein. Though this protein is found in many beans, it is particularly high in red kidney beans. Symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting.
To get rid of this toxin, soak and cook the beans … soak them in water for at least 5 hours (or overnight, preferably) and boil them for at least ten minutes at 1000C (2120F). Properly prepared red kidney beans are safe to eat and very nutritious.
Antioxidants … are substances that reduce nutritional value by impairing the absorption of nutrients from your digestive tract. The main antinutrients in red kidney beans are:
- Phytic acid … aka phytate … impairs the absorption of minerals such as iron and zinc.
- Protease inhibitors … aka trypsin inhibitors … inhibit the function of various digestive enzymes, impairing the digestion of protein.
- Starch blockers … aka alpha-amylase inhibitors … impair the absorption of carbohydrates from your digestive tract.
All these antinutrients are completely or partially inactivated when beans are soaked and cooked properly. Fermenting and sprouting the beans may reduce some antinutrients, eg phytic acid, even further.
How to cook red kidney beans
Red kidney beans come in three basic forms … fresh, dried and canned.
You must not eat raw kidney beans unless you want to experience the heady joys associated with bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea.
Ideally, raw beans should be soaked overnight for at least eight hour before cooking. If they are soaked and sprouted before cooking, this will improve digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
Cook for a minimum of one hour to one-and-a-half hours using 3-parts water to 1-part beans.
Rather than cook your own beans, you can buy canned (tinned) beans which have already been cooked. The canned beans are just as nutritious as the raw beans except that they are often much higher in sodium. You should be able find low sodium varieties. If not, you can drain and rinse the beans … this will get rid of up to 41% of the sodium content.
But note that draining and rinsing canned beans could remove other micro-nutrients, such as vitamin C or the B vitamins. You can get around this by adding other healthy foods, such as carrots, onions, bell peppers and celery, to your meal to boost its nutritional value.
So, once you have the beans ready, what can you do with them?
Find out in the next article in this series … Recipes using red kidney beans
The simple answer is maybe but unlikely. Adherents of the Keto Diet, a high-fat, low-carb diet, claim that it helps you reduce weight and can reverse your diabetes among many other health benefits. Is there much truth behind this contention?
As anybody who has read my book Beating Diabetes, or who follows this blog, knows: a sure-fire way to get your blood glucose down to manageable levels is to follow a diet that is low in sugar, low in fat, low in salt, high in fibre, made up of mainly natural foods with low GIs, while avoiding eggs and dairy products, washed down with plenty of water.
The Beating Diabetes diet does not specify low carbs, only low sugar. Other carbohydrates, such as starch and dietary fibre are part of this diet.
The alternate diet, the keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet.
What exactly is it and how does it work?
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet (or keto diet for short) is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. It involves reducing carbohydrate intake drastically and replacing the carbs with fat.
This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, a in which fat provides most of the fuel for the body. It occurs when there is limited access to glucose (blood sugar), which is the preferred fuel source for many cells in the body.
To achieve ketosis, you need, as a general rule to eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day perhaps as little as 20 grams a day. To do this you must remove carb-heavy foods from your diet, such as grains, candy (sweets) and sugary drinks. You also have to cut back on legumes, potatoes and fruit.
When you eat a very low-carb diet, your insulin levels go down and fatty acids are released from your stores of body fat stores in large amounts. Much of these fatty acids are transferred to the liver, where they are oxidized and turned into molecules called ketones (or ketone bodies).
These molecules can provide energy for the body. Unlike fatty acids, ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide energy for the brain in the absence of glucose. They can deliver numerous other health benefits, besides reduced insulin and blood glucose levels, as well as weight loss.
Different types of ketogenic diet
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet. These include:
- The standard ketogenic diet … a very high-fat, moderate-protein, and very low-carb diet … typically 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs
- High-protein ketogenic diet … this is similar to the standard diet but includes more protein … usually 60% fat, 35% protein and just 5% carbs
- Cyclical ketogenic diet … this diet alternates low-carb and high carb periods … such as 5 very low-fat days followed by 2 high-carb days
- Targeted ketogenic diet … this version of the keto diet allows you to add carbs around workouts
Only the standard and high-protein keto diets have been studied scientifically. The other two versions are mainly used by athletes and body builders.
But which foods exactly do you need to avoid, and which do you need to eat if you are following this diet?
Foods to avoid
You need to limit any foods that are high in carbohydrates.
This means that you should avoid carb-based foods such as:
- grains … wheat products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc
- sugary foods … sodas, fruit juices, ice cream, smoothies and sweets (candy)
- legumes … beans, peas, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and so on
- root vegetables and tubers … potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc
- most fruits … with the exception of berries
You also need to avoid low-fat or dietary products which are usually highly processed and are high in carbohydrates. In addition, you should ignore condiments and sauces that contain sugar and unhealthy fats. And you should eat very little processed vegetable oil, mayonnaise and similar foods which are choc-a-bloc with unhealthy fats.
Alcoholic beverages are also a no-no as they can throw you out of ketosis. Sugar-free diet foods can also affect your ketone levels especially when they are high in sugar alcohols … these foods tend to be highly-processed also.
Foods to eat
A ketogenic diet should be based on whole, single-ingredient foods that are high in fats and/or low in carbohydrates. Ketogenic experts recommend the following:
- meat … red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey
- fatty fish … such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel
- nuts and seeds … almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc
- eggs … from free-range chickens
- butter and cream … from grass-fed cows
- cheese … unprocessed cheese such as cheddar, goat’s cheese, cream cheese, blue cheeses, mozzarella
- avocados … whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
- healthy oils … extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil
- low-carb veggies … most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc
- condiments … you can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices
Ketogenic diet and weight loss
Several studies over the last 15 years indicate that the ketogenic diet is effective in helping you lose weight. In addition, you lose weight without having to count carbs or track your intake of food.
One such study of 42 healthy but obese women, published in the Journal of endocrinology and metabolism in April 2003, found that people on a ketogenic diet lost more than twice as much weight as persons on a low-fat calorie-restricted diet. Their triglycerides and HDL levels also improved significantly.
Another study, published in Diabetic Medicine, a journal of the British Diabetic Association, in December 1007, of 13 subjects with type 2 diabetes and 13 healthy subjects found that those on a ketogenic diet lost three times more weight than those following the diet recommended by Diabetes UK. But there were no differences between the two groups in changes in their levels of HbA1c, ketones or lipids.
Being overweight or obese is an important factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. The fact that following a ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight suggests that this diet might be helpful in reversing diabetes.
Ketogenic diet and diabetes
A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, published in March 2005 found that a ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by 75%.
In another study published in Nutrition & Metabolism in December 2008, 84 volunteers with obesity and type 2 diabetes followed either (a) a ketogenic diet (ie <20g of carbs a day) or (b) a low-glycemic, reduced-calorie diet (ie 500 kcal/day less than a diet calculated to maintain their current weight) for 24 weeks.
Both diets led to improvements in HbA1c, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and weight loss. Group (a) on the ketogenic diet had greater improvements in HbA1c, body weight), and HDL cholesterol compared to group (b) on reduced calories. Furthermore, diabetes medications were reduced or eliminated in 95.2% of those in group (a) against 62% of the participants in group (b).
How the high-fat, low-carb diet works
Persons eating the standard Western diet obtain their energy from glucose. When they digest their food, glucose (which comes mainly from the carbohydrates in their diet) is released into the blood stream where it travels to the muscle cells. At the same time the pancreas releases insulin into the blood stream. The purpose of insulin is to open the receptors in the muscle cells so that the glucose can enter the cells to provide energy.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your basic problem is that these receptors are blocked with fat and the insulin cannot open the cell doors. Hence the glucose cannot enter the muscle cells and you end up with too much fat and insulin floating around your body and causing severe damage to your health over time.
The trick to reversing your type 2 diabetes is simple. If you follow the Beating-Diabetes (low-sugar, low-fat) diet you will starve your body of fat and after a few weeks the receptors in your muscle cells will unblock, enabling glucose to enter the cells thereby ‘reversing’ your diabetes.
The effects of the high-fat, low-carb ketonic diet are entirely different. When you follow the keto diet, your body switches to using fat as its source of energy rather than carbs. This is known as ketosis, which involves the liver producing ketone bodies (aka ketones) out of fat and using these for energy instead of carbohydrates.
Ketone bodies or ketones (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone) are used in healthy individuals to provide energy to the cells of the body when glucose is low or absent in the diet.
Should you make the switch?
Though it is obviously effective in helping you lose weight and in all probability can enable you to reverse your diabetes, a ketogenic diet can have negative side effects.
Keto flu … is an unpleasant side effect that you may experience as you transition to a ketogenic diet. You may experience fatigue, dizziness, brain fog and insomnia. But those you have made the transition say that it passes after some time.
Nutritional deficiencies … the keto diet limits the kinds of food you can eat and entire food groups, such as beans, legumes, whole grains, as well as many fruits and vegetables are eliminated from your diet … many of these foods contain vitamins and minerals which you cannot get from any other sources. The keto dies is not a balanced diet so if you go this route on a long-term basis you need to take a wide range of supplements to make up for the loss of micro-nutrients.
Constipation … when you eliminate most fruits and vegetables from you diet you run the risk of becoming deficient in dietary fibre with the result that you become constipated. The solution is to add some low-carb, fibre-rich vegetables to your diet, such as asparagus (2% carbs), Broccoli (7%), Tomatoes (4%), Cucumber (4%), Cauliflower (5%), Eggplant (6%), Bell Peppers (6%) and Green Beans (7%).
Loss of electrolytes … as you enter ketosis, your body will start dumping its stores of glycogen (the main form in which glucose is stored in your body) through urination. An increase in how often you urinate will inevitably lead to a loss of electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium and potassium. These electrolytes are essential for cardiac function and a normal heart beat, and that loss can put you at risk of cardiac arrhythmia. To avoid this you should eat avocados, leafy green vegetables, asparagus and cruciferous vegetables which are natural sources of this electrolytes. Add a pinch of sea-salt to your meals to up your sodium levels. You can also take an over-the-counter supplement.
Dehydration … a keto diet is known as a ‘water flushing’ diet because the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver are reduced through urination. Thus, along with loss of electrolytes, dehydration is thus a real threat in the early stages of the diet. The solution is to drink copious amounts of water, at least 2.5 litres a day. The requirement to drink water is also a feature of the Beating-Diabetes diet.
Kidney damage … untreated dehydration can lead to acute kidney damage. In addition, high levels of nitrogen created by excess protein can also increase pressure on your kidneys, damaging the cells and leading to the formation of kidney stones. Thus, it is only sensible to seek medical advice before you embark on the keto diet, especially if you already have issues with your kidneys and liver.
Muscle loss … is a real possibility when you are in ketosis for a long time. While protein is the basic muscle builder, you muscles also need carbs for their formation and maintenance. Without those carbs your body starts to break down muscle. In itself this would not be dangerous for most of your muscle mass. Unfortunately, your heart is also a muscle, so it too could get damaged.
Low blood pressure … one of benefits of the ketogenic diet is that it can help reduce elevated levels of blood pressure. Thus, if you are already taking prescription medicines to control hypertension, it can cause abnormally low blood pressure levels, taking them so low that it can be dangerous, even deadly. The solution is to discuss whether you should reduce or stop your medications with your doctor and follow his or her advice.
When you consider the risks involved, the answer to the question is you probably should not switch … especially if the Beating Diabetes diet is working for you.
Flaxseeds or linseeds have been eaten for thousands of years. But how nutritious are they? What is the best way to eat them? And how do they compare with chia seeds? Continue reading “Flaxseeds V Chia Seeds ― which are more nutritious?”
Metabolic age is a word that is bandied about a lot by fitness gurus. But what is metabolic age and what does it signify? If it is too high, how can you improve it? And is it relevant when you are trying to beat your diabetes? Continue reading “Why your metabolic age matters”
You need some fat if you body is to function properly. But too much fat will harm your health. Most diabetics are overweight when they are diagnosed. So you need to monitor your fatness and take corrective action. Here are eight ways you can check your adiposity. Continue reading “How to monitor your weight (and why you should do so)”
So the doctor says you have pre-diabetes. You are scared and so you should be … you know the consequences should your pre-diabetes morph into actual diabetes. But you can avoid developing full-blown type 2 diabetes with a few simple adjustments to your lifestyle. Here’s how … Continue reading “How to prevent pre-diabetes getting worse”
Your kidneys contain millions of minute blood vessels that filter waste products from your blood. But diabetes can damage these amazing organs, so they lose their filtering ability. How is kidney disease caused and what can you do to prevent or reverse the damage? Continue reading “How diabetes can damage your kidneys (and what you can do about it)”
Is there a link between diabetes and gout, that intense pain you feel in your joints? What is gout and how is it caused? And, if you are diabetic, what is the best way to treat your gout and avoid debilitating attacks? Continue reading “The link between gout and diabetes”
Diabetics are especially prone to acid reflux, aka heartburn … that burning sensation you get in your throat, after a meal, as stomach acid is regurgitated up into your mouth. But what really causes acid reflux and what is the best way to treat it?
Heartburn usually kicks in when you lie down to sleep, especially after a heavy meal.
You wake up in the middle of the night with a fire in your throat and a sour taste in your mouth. A blob of something vile with a burning sensation pops up from your stomach and you have to spit it out.
After you get rid of it, your throat feels sore and you sound hoarse when you talk. Sometimes you start to cough or your chest sounds wheezy.
What you have experienced is heartburn … which has nothing to do with your heart.
It happens when stomach acids, which you use to digest your food, flow back into your oesophagus (the long tube between your mouth and your stomach). These acids irritate and burn the lining of your oesophagus and throat.
Everyone experiences some heartburn now and then. But it can become chronic, ie recur constantly. If you experience heartburn a few times a week, it is likely you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known in short as GORD (or GERD if you are American).
The chronic condition should be treated with seriousness for several vital reasons.
What chronic acid reflux (GORD) does to your body
The constant back-flow of stomach acid into your oesophagus can lead to:
 Dental problems … stomach acids in the mouth can wreak havoc on tooth enamel, requiring more trips to the dentist than usual.
 Voice and throat problems … stomach acid in the throat can cause hoarseness and laryngitis, and even changes in the voice. However these problems tend to resolve easily when GORD is treated.
 Asthma … studies have found that up to 80% of patients with asthma also have chronic acid reflux. Whether asthma causes GORD or chronic heartburn causes asthma is not known, but some medical scientists are of the opinion that acid that backs up from the stomach can get into the airways and damage them.
 Other respiratory problems … GORD has been statistically linked to other respiratory conditions including … chronic bronchitis, chronic cough, chronic sinusitis, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis (scaring of the lung), and recurrent pneumonia.
 Narrowing of the oesophagus … chronic acid reflux can, over time, produce scarring (strictures) that narrow the opening of the oesophagus. This can make swallowing difficult. It can also cause oesophageal spasms that can mimic a heart attack (a frightening experience).
The weird thing is that people who develop strictures find a bit of relief from their heartburn … as the narrowing stops the stomach acids from refluxing into the oesophagus.
 Oesophagitis …. the sensitive lining of the oesophagus can be injured by refluxing acid and this can cause a painful inflammation called oesophagitis. Eventually the acid causes bleeding which, if it is heavy enough, it can pass into the digestive tract and show up as dark tarry stools.
Oesophagitis can also cause painful ulcers on the lining of the oesophagus.
 Barrett’s oesophagus and cancer … in a small number of people, long-term acid reflux can lead to a condition (Barrett’s oesophagus) in which abnormal cells take the place of cells damaged by the acid. These cells have the potential to turn cancerous.
Persons with Barrett’s oesophagus have an increased risk of cancer of the oesophagus. This risk is increased if you smoke, are obese or are a white male over the age of 50.
A few decades ago, most cancers of the oesophagus were caused by cigarette smoking and alcohol. But over the last 15 years oesophageal and other cancers of the upper digestive tract caused by GORD have been developing into an epidemic. This is likely caused by changes in diets in the modern world.
Whatever the cause, it is obvious that putting a stop to the backflow is vital. There are many ways in which this can be done successfully once you understand what is going on.
What causes heartburn?
Your oesophagus joins your pharynx (at the back of your throat) to your stomach. A ring of muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) controls the junction between the oesophagus and the stomach. The LES acts like a valve, opening and closing the entry to the stomach.
When you swallow the LES opens to allow the food or drink coming down the oesophagus to enter the stomach. The LES then closes to prevent the food and your digestive juices flowing back up the oesophagus. Each time you swallow, the LES relaxes and allows the food into your stomach.
Certain medical conditions can weaken the LES and prevent it from closing properly after you swallow. These include:
- Hiatal hernia (an abnormality where a part of the stomach slides up into the chest cavity)
- Some asthma medicines
- Delayed stomach emptying (a consequence of nerve damage, often due to diabetes)
Acid reflux statistics
In both Europe and America, chronic heartburn is becoming extremely widespread, affecting about one-third of the populations on both continents.
There is a strong link between chronic heartburn and being overweight. Research shows that people who are overweight are 50% more likely to have GORD compared to persons who are at a healthy weight. Persons who are obese are 200% more likely to have the disease.
Diabetics are also likely to suffer from GORD. A study published in 2008 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that about 40% of people with diabetes suffer from chronic heartburn.
The researchers also found it to be more common in people with diabetes who also had neuropathy or nerve damage due to diabetes. In addition, the study showed that people with both diabetes and neuropathy were more likely to have the disease, regardless of their weight, compared to people without neuropathy.
Medical treatments for heartburn
Conventional doctors have several approaches to treating chronic heartburn.
Antacids such as Tums®, Maalox® and Rennies® are very popular. These products come in the form of tablets that you chew or dissolve in your mouth. They work by using simple mineral salts such as calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate to neutralize stomach acid.
You do get temporary relief from your symptoms… but they treat the symptom, not the cause. Using them, however, is unlikely to damage your health.
Some doctors prescribe H2 blockers (more properly called histamine H2-receptor antagonists) such as like Zantac®, Tagamet® and Gertac®. These medications block the action of histamine, which normally stimulates the secretion of stomach acid. Personally, I have found that Gertac®, which contains ranitidine, to be gently effective in reducing GORD.
Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid, also block the production of stomach acid. These drugs target the last stage in the production of stomach acid and the blockage is irreversible. These drugs are significantly more effective than H2 blockers and reduce the secretion of gastric acid by up to 99%.
With more than 100 million prescriptions written for these three medicines every year, Big Pharma pockets a cool US$14 billion a year on just these drugs alone.
Many professional organizations recommend that people take the lowest effective PPI dose to achieve the desired therapeutic result when used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease long-term. In the USA, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has advised that no more than three 14-day treatment courses should be used in one year.
For good reason … here is why blocking the production of stomach acid is not a smart thing to do:
Why you should NOT use proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs)
The parietal cells in your stomach secrete the stomach acid used in the digestion process. The secretion of the acid is governed by proton pumps which provide energy for the process.
Proton-pump inhibitors prevent the proton pumps from working and so reduce the amount of acid produced by the parietal cells. This prevents acid reflux (no acid, no reflux!).
The problem is that proton pumps are present in just about every cell in your body, not just the parietal cells in the stomach. These proton pump systems are necessary for the production of the energy used in a wide variety of your body’s processes. Though this energy can be produced in several ways, without proton pumps them these processes could not work at their best.
While proton-pump inhibitors are designed to interact specifically with the proton-pumps in the parietal cells in your stomach, research suggests that it is likely that their effects are not limited to the specific acid producing cells of the stomach.
There are many other good reasons why you should not use proton-pump inhibitors:
(1) Stomach acid is a critical part of your immune system
PPIs reduce the acidity of your stomach. This is dangerous as certain harmful bacteria thrive in low-acid environments. Examples include H Pylori, which is a major cause of stomach and duodenal ulcers, gastritis and can even cause gastric cancer (according to a report in Drug Safety in 2003).
Several recent studies have shown that PPIs alter the micro-organisms in the gut by reducing its overall diversity. As a result, dangerous pathogens, such as Enterococcus, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and E. coli, tend to be more prevalent in the guts of PPI users.
As stomach pH becomes less acidic, many ingested microorganisms that get in through the mouth but which would normally be destroyed are able to make their way into the gut. Those who use acid blockers increase their chances of acquiring Clostridium difficile, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, and pneumonia compared to persons using other medications.
(2) PPIs impair the absorption of nutrients
Stomach acid is essential for the digestion and absorption of food, both macro- and micro-nutrients. Studies show that persons who use PPIs have an increased risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including vitamin B12, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Persons who use acid blockers can also end up with achlorhydria (a lack of stomach acid). This, combined with atrophic gastritis (stomach inflammation), allows bacteria, which compete with the host (you!) for the consumption of micro-nutrients such as vitamin B12, to flourish.
Studies have found an association between the use of PPIs and the total number of bone fractures in the elderly. The association was significant enough for the FDA in the USA to issue a warning in 2010. A more recent study has shown a similar association between PPI use and bone fractures in young adults.
(3) PPIs damage the cardiovascular system
A study published in May 2016 found a link between proton-pump inhibitors and the premature aging of blood vessels, with the cells losing their ability to split into new cells.
Other recent studies indicate that PPI users have a significantly greater risk of heart attack compared to person using other antacid medications.
PPIs reduce the production of nitric oxide, a nutrient that increases lung power, helps your heart pump blood and oxygen to your cells, and even helps with erectile function by allowing blood vessels to expand and relax when you are on the job.
PPIs also affect lysosomes. Those are acid-producing cells in your body that clear up unwanted debris. Without enough acid to remove the waste, the cells protecting your blood vessels age rapidly. That can lead to a stroke, heart attack or kidney failure.
(4) PPIs harm the kidneys
Patients using PPIs were compared to patients using H2 blockers, another common antacid drug in a study published in 2016.
The study indicated that, over five years, the PPI users were 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease and 96% more likely to develop end-stage renal disease.
(5) PPIs harm cognitive function
A study published in 2015 that assessed cognitive function in users of PPIs compared to controls found statistically significant impairment in visual memory, attention, executive function, and the working and planning function among the PPI users.
Another study in 2016 found that regular PPI users had a 44% increased risk of dementia compared to non-users.
Why this is so is not known. However, communication between brain cells requires the action of proton pumps. It may be that the proton pumps in the brain are affected by PPIs that target stomach acid.
(6) Rebound reflux
When your body senses a reduced production of stomach acid, it produces gastrin, a hormone that stimulates the secretion of gastric (stomach) acid by the parietal cells.
As a result, the individual parietal cells expand in size. Larger parietal cells have more proton pumps and can produce larger amounts of stomach acid. An overproduction of stomach acid caused by PPIs is called rebound hyper-secretion.
Rebound hyper-secretion illustrates why getting off PPI therapy is so difficult once you start using them … long-term use fundamentally changes the physiology of stomach cells.
The basic problem with PPIs is that they treat the symptoms of a condition (the production of acid that flows back up the oesophagus) rather than the underlying cause (a weakness in the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES)).
There are two main approaches you can take to dealing with chronic heartburn that focus on the underlying causes:
- Heartburn avoidance techniques
- Natural remedies for heartburn
How to avoid heartburn
Here are some simple ways you can prevent heartburn:
- Eat smaller meals … this makes digestion easier and reduces the pressure in your stomach that causes reflux.
- Eat slowly … digestion starts in the mouth and chewing your food thoroughly reduces the likelihood of reflux.
- Avoid tight clothes … tight clothes can put pressure on your stomach, pushing food back up into your oesophagus.
- Don’t smoke … smoking irritates the membranes of the throat and oesophagus. Nicotine also weakens the oesophageal valve, allowing stomach acid to come up to your throat.
- Avoid certain foods … chocolate, tomatoes, fatty or fried foods, fatty meats (choose lean cuts), synthetic dressings (use olive oil), spicy sauces (choose mild or avoid), alcohol, cola and other sodas as well as caffeine are all contributors to LES malfunction.
- Avoid certain spices … hot spices as used in curries and other hot Eastern foods, as well as cinnamon, can irritate your stomach and oesophagus causing pressure that forces acid back up through the LES.
- Avoid peppermint tea … as it tends to relax the LES and allow acid to flow back up the oesophagus.
- Raise the back of your bed … use short planks of wood between the legs of the bed and the floor to raise the pillow-end 4 to 6 inches higher than the foot-end; by sleeping with your head lightly higher than your feet you will be using gravity to reduces the chances of stomach acid flowing back up to your throat … this really does work in my experience.
Persons who take these simple steps to prevent acid reflux experience fewer and milder bouts of acid reflux.
Natural remedies for heartburn
There are several natural remedies for heartburn that actually work:
- Baking soda
Some of these ‘cure’ acid reflux for a time at least if not permanently. Others provide temporary but effective relief.
D-limonene is an extract from orange peel which is safe to use as a food additive or supplement.
Research at WRC Laboratories in the USA indicates that a daily intake of one 1,000mg capsule of d-limonene every second day for 20 days reduces or eliminates acid reflux in most people for at least six months. This is supported by anecdotal evidence among researchers and further research that has yet to be published.
D-limonene is a cell rejuvenator yet scientists don’t know why it is so effective. Researchers have speculated, however, that as d-limonene is lighter than water, it floats to the surface of the gastric juices in your stomach.
The minor burping you experience with d-limonene causes it to be carried directly into the oesophagus. By coating the oesophagus, d-limonene may protect it against the caustic contents that are regurgitated during acid reflux. This would help heal and strengthen the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) and heal erosion in the oesophagus.
It is also thought that d-limonene may promote quicker movement of food and gastric juices out of the stomach so that these oesophageal irritants promote less reflux.
Scientists also suggest that d-limonene may provide a barrier in the oesophagus and stomach against bacterial infection, such as helicobacter pylori, which are ingested in food or water. H pylori attack the lining of the stomach eventually causing ulcers and even stomach cancers.
The generally accepted opinion (or shrewd marketing) suggests that the best d-limonene, which is available in health food stores, is the Jarrow Formulas D-Limonene.
I recently took a 1000mg capsule of the Jarrow Formulas D-Limonene (sourced online through Amazon) each day for 30 days. There were no side-effects and it appears to have cured my acid reflux.
Magnesium is a calming and relaxing mineral. It is an ingredient in several antacids.
This mineral helps your LES to relax so that it can close properly, thus preventing the backflow of stomach acid that causes heartburn.
Magnesium chloride is absorbed better than other compounds of magnesium and is thus more likely to be effective in relieving your heartburn.
Take 450 to 500mg once or twice a day to see if it helps. Each dose should contain about 150mg of magnesium and about 350mg of chloride.
Ginger is prized for its health-giving qualities in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Most of the health benefits of ginger are in the woody root of the plant, the rhizome.
Ginger is absolutely loaded with antioxidants. It has antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and anti-parasitic properties. It can relieve the discomfort of heartburn without side-effects.
Fresh ginger is best, though you can use dried ginger. When buying ginger root, make sure it feels firm and fresh. Fresh ginger, provided it is unpeeled, can be stored in a refrigerator for up to three weeks or in a freezer for up to six months.
You can peel ginger with a paring knife and add it to cooked dishes, mix it into a stir-fry or drop it into homemade chicken soup. But taking it as a supplement is not recommended as the ginger in capsules is not easily absorbed or used by your body.
In Uganda, doctors and herbalists use ginger tea to treat heartburn. The root’s anti-inflammatory properties speed up the digestive process, preventing the build-up of gas, and helping to regulate bile and gastric juices.
Adding a simple ginger tea to your daily diet will tighten your LES and help prevent the back-flow of acid from your stomach according to a report by the Thai Medical Association in 2010.
Here’s an easy recipe:
- Remove the skin from a piece of fresh ginger root and chop it into small pieces or slices
- Fill a small pot with two cups of water and boil
- Add the ginger and cover.
- Let it simmer for about 10 minutes
- Strain the tea
You can drink it hot or cold. You could try adding a pinch of cinnamon to boost the flavour.
I make a batch twice a week, store it in the refrigerator and drink a chilled glass first thing in the morning. It seems to help immensely.
Bicarbonate of soda
Sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda, offers a very quick remedy when you are having an attack of acid reflux.
Just mix a flat teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water, stir and wait a minute for it to dissolve and then drink it down. Relief will be fairly immediate.
Baking soda works because it contains bicarbonate which neutralises the acid in your stomach.
This is not a permanent solution for chronic heartburn. But it works a dream for a quick fix and there are no side effects.