Zinc Therapy for Acid Reflux Disease??
Zinc Therapy for Acid Reflux Disease
Sep 2, 2010
Pauline BrockDiagram of Esophagus and Stomach – Wikimedia CommonsZinc salts may be a better choice for treating acid reflux disease and heartburn than proton pump inhibitor drugs currently widely prescribed.
A study entitled “Zinc Salts Provide a Novel, Prolonged and Rapid Inhibition of Gastric Acid Secretion” reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology on August 24, 2010 shows that a zinc salt preparation is fast and effective at relieving symptoms of acid reflux in both humans and laboratory rats.
Scientists from the Yale School of Medicine and the University of Basel in Switzerland measured stomach acid production in human and rat organs and human volunteers. Those treated with zinc experienced a reduction in acid within minutes, as compared to a day or longer for those given the commonly prescribed medications, proton pump inhibitors. Recurrence of symptoms and side effects were also reduced in the zinc-treated group.
Zinc, an Ancient Therapy
Zinc is a mineral that is basic to healthy body functions. It is found in a wide variety of foods, particularly proteins. Its medicinal potential has been used for thousands of years to treat many conditions including diaper rash, high cholesterol, and the common cold. In proper doses it has few side effects.
The Heartburn Epidemic
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux or heartburn, occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. As well as discomfort, acid in the esophagus can cause damage to the lining which may eventually contribute to esophageal cancer formation. According to the authors of the study, between 25 and 35 per cent of Americans experience acid reflux symptoms at some point in their lives.
Treatment options range from diet and lifestyle changes to over the counter antacids to prescription medication and in extreme cases, surgery. One of the most commonly prescribed types of drugs is proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), including the medications known as Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium. Over 113 million prescriptions for PPIs are filled each year in the United States. Unfortunately, these medications do not offer immediate relief and have a tendency to cause side effects and to stop working after a period of time.
PPI Side Effects and Complications
Recent research has revealed a number of serious concerns with the use of PPI drugs: increased risk of certain types of bone fractures, increased risk of contracting pneumonia when hospitalized, and increased risk of infection with superbug C. difficile. PPI drugs are also thought to block the function of a common cardiac drug, clopidogrel (Plavix); in fact, patients taking both Plavix and PPIs were found to be at significantly increased risk of a repeat heart attack compared to those not taking PPIs.
Another concern is that PPI use may lead to dependency. Studies suggest that when the medication is stopped, acid levels rebound to levels higher than before treatment. In one study, volunteers with no heartburn symptoms took PPIs for eight weeks but developed symptoms when taken off the drug.
Obviously, prolonged use of PPIs due to dependency will increase the risk of side effects.
Safer, Less Expensive Treatments for the Future
Further research is under way to determine how zinc therapy can be used together with PPIs in patients whose symptoms are not adequately controlled, and on its own as a safe, inexpensive effective treatment for heartburn pain.
A prototype zinc treatment is now in development by New Haven Pharmaceuticals, with trial studies expected to begin in 2011.
Kirchhoff, Philipp et al. “Zinc Salts Provide a Novel, Prolonged and Rapid Inhibition of Gastric Acid Secretion.” American Journal of Gastroenterology, August 24, 2010 (accessed September 3, 2010).
MedicineNet.com. “Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease” (accessed September 3, 2010).
Science Daily. “Proton Pump Inhibitors Increase Risk of Heart Attacks for Patients on Common Cardiac Drug, Study Shows” (accessed September 3, 2010).Copyright Pauline Brock. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.