With chili season upon us, one can expect to enjoy a little spicy food. But no matter the season, more than 20 percent of Americans will experience heartburn this week. Many choose to use over-the-counter medications to treat their problems, however you may want think twice before popping that pill. Proton pump inhibitors, such as Nexium, Prilosec or Prevacid are common medications used to block the production of stomach acid. No acid = no reflux = no heartburn. Seems pretty simple. And it perfectly illustrates the way to manage a symptom. However, for every symptom there is a cause. For every symptom, there is medication meant to suppress the discomfort without looking to the underlying cause.

And at what cost? When you suppress a symptom, you ignore the message that symptom sends. And, when you use a medication daily, you take on risks. Over the last couple years, the FDA has started to issue warnings concerning side effects associated with long-term use of proton pump inhibitors. One of the most serious is an increased risk of osteoporosis and fracture. It makes perfect sense — stomach acid is needed to digest calcium. If you chronically block the production of stomach acid, you won’t be able to absorb the calcium you need. Other concerns are magnesium deficiency and increased rates of infection.

Believe in the wisdom of the body. Stomach acid has a purpose — namely to digest proteins, nutrients, and keep infections from entering the body. Uncomfortable symptoms, such as heartburn, don’t appear without reason. They represent a signal that the body is out of balance. The human body is miraculous because it is constantly maintaining and repairing itself. There is always a reason behind the body’s actions. Examining why the body is responding in a certain manner and addressing the primary cause is what separates fixing a problem versus managing a symptom. Though each case requires individual management, many heartburn cases can be resolved with minor dietary modifications such as the elimination of processed foods and other inflammatory meal choices.

So take a moment to consider your symptoms and ask yourself what messages they might be sending. Before you interrupt the natural functions of your body, consider the long-term implications. And before starting any medication, consider the many safe and non-toxic natural therapies available.

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