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Don't overmedicate GERD

Apr. 12, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

When Arnold (as the Terminator) said, "I'll be back," many of us were hoping he'd know when enough is enough, but his recent movie, "The Last Stand," proves he doesn't. Seems he's like some folks who take prescription proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole, esomeprazole and lansoprazole for gastroesophageal reflux disease for two or more years, when four to eight weeks should be the max!

Taking PPIs indefinitely can interfere with absorption of calcium and vitamin B-12, and it may increase your risk of osteoporosis and infection with Clostridium difficile -- a bacteria that causes chronic diarrhea.

To avoid PPI overuse, treat GERD with doctor-supervised medication (that's important, because GERD is associated with pneumonia and esophageal cancer) and these lifestyle changes:

Upgrade your diet: No fatty or processed foods or alcohol. Eat only 100 percent whole grains, vegetables and non-acidic fruits.

Aim for a healthy weight. Belly fat makes it hard for the flap between your esophagus and stomach -- the lower sphincter muscle -- to keep stomach acid from backing up.

Start a walking routine: Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Stay with this protocol for eight weeks, and you'll give your lower sphincter a chance to repair so you can reduce or stop taking medications.

If you can't conquer GERD with lifestyle changes (always best!) and have been diagnosed with medically resistant GERD, a noninvasive repair called the TIF procedure can fix you up. Doctors use a device called the EsophyX to create a solid anti-reflux flap, and GERD goes away, along with your overuse of medication.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com.

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