Life Extension Magazine November 2013
Block Acid Reflux to Prevent Esophageal Problems!
By Kirk Stokel
Gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD affects 60 million Americans.
Most GERD suffers seek ways to relieve pain and burning, such as taking proton-pump inhibiting drugs like Prilosec® or Prevacid®.1
These drugs suppress stomach acid formation, but do not block the backwash of harsh stomach contents (such as digestive enzymes, bile, and acidic foods) into the delicate esophageal lining. A consequence of chronic esophageal exposure to stomach contents is deadly esophageal cancer!2,3
The link between esophageal reflux and esophageal cancer is striking. People who have long-standing and severe GERD symptoms have 43 times the risk of getting esophageal cancer, which is likely to kill over 15,000 Americans this year.2,3
Prevalence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus has been skyrocketing in comparison with which used to be more common squamous cell carcinoma.4,5 Researchers speculate the obesity epidemic is causing more cases of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, whereas squamous cell carcinoma is largely attributed to cigarette smoking and excess ethanol ingestion.5-7
A new approach has been discovered to impede backwash of all stomach contents (including acid) into the esophagus. By chewing on tablets composed of marine alginate and bicarbonate—known as a raft-forming alginate, one can physically block the backwash of burning acid and other stomach contents into the delicate tissue of the esophagus.8 This provides a relatively pH-neutral barrier to relieve painful heartburn—and potentially reduce the risk of esophageal cancer!8
In this article, you’ll learn how this unique mechanism has been shown to work, often within a few seconds of dosing, to form a barrier that can be retained in the stomach for hours, providing longer-lasting relief than the mechanism of traditional antacids.8
Raft-Forming Alginate Physically Blocks Reflux!
Raft-forming alginates protect the delicate esophagus via a unique mechanism.8
They produce a temporary physical barrier that blocks stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus.8
As the alginate mixture expands in the stomach, it mops up excess acid and forms a pH-neutral barrier that reduces reflux episodes.
Here’s how an alginate-based raft-forming formulation works…
One component of the mixture—alginic acid—is a dry powder containing natural long-chain carbohydrate molecules derived from brown seaweed. On contact with liquid and acid in the stomach, it forms a thick gel.8
When another component of the mixture—potassium bicarbonate—comes in contact with gastric acids, it produces carbon dioxide bubbles that get trapped in the gel.8 The expanding bubbles cause the thick gel to form a floating foam that literally sits atop the stomach contents like a raft.8
Two additional ingredients, calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, react with the soft foam, adding loft and tightening it up into a firmer (but temporary) “raft.”8
Studies show that in people with acid reflux the raft slides up into the lower esophagus and creates a barrier, which prevents acid in the stomach from pushing up into the esophagus.8,9
Of course, carbonate and bicarbonate in the mixture react with stomach acid as they form carbon dioxide, helping to neutralize stomach acidity and providing a second important mechanism for relieving heartburn.8
The combined effect of all this action has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms and the frequency of reflux episodes.8 Reflux sufferers will recognize that as a huge improvement over standard antacids.
The entire raft-forming process takes less than a minute, though the raft can survive in the stomach for as long as four hours until it is broken up and passed out of the body.8 This explains the remarkably rapid and long-duration relief you can get from using a raft-forming alginate immediately following a meal.8
Raft-Forming Alginates Reduce Both Acids—and Reflux!
For suffers of reflux and heartburn, doctors are interested in strategies that both cut the acid content of the stomach and block acid and food reflux.10
Traditional antacids can only reduce acids—but raft-forming alginates can do both!
Compelling studies show that alginate preparations are highly effective at reducing both the intensity and the frequency of reflux attacks.8,11
In one study, using sophisticated pressure and acid-monitoring equipment, 20 mL of alginate kept the esophagus in the non-acidic range nearly 3 times longer than placebo and cut the incidence of food reflux by half.10
Another study, of a single dose of a liquid form of an alginate-based formula showed a soothing effect in an average of just 65-66 seconds! Over 82% of subjects described the effects as “instant” relief.12 In this study, a full 100% of patients experienced heartburn relief within just 3.3 minutes after the dose.
Unlike prescription antacid medications such as Prilosec® (omeprazole), alginate formulations can have beneficial impact on reflux damage to the larynx, or voice box. Significant differences in objective scores based on the appearance and condition of the larynx were seen between subjects taking 10 mL of alginate suspension four times daily (after meals and at bedtime), compared to placebo subjects.13
Even more impressive than these placebo-controlled studies is research that compared alginates with other antacids.
One such study found significantly greater improvement in heartburn symptoms in patients treated four times daily with 200 mg of cimetidine (Tagamet®) plus 500 mg of alginate than in patients treated four times daily with 400 mg of cimetidine alone, and the rates of healing and improved appearance of damaged esophagus were similar between the two groups.14
A related study found that a single 20 mL dose of an alginate formulation alone was better than an alginate-cimetidine combination at reducing both food and acid reflux.15
Other studies have shown marked reduction in symptom severity scores with alginates compared to Propulsid® (cisapride), a reflux medication,16 and with Prilosec® (omeprazole), a commonly used oral acid blocker.17
Propulsid® was shown to cause cardiac arrhythmias, with over 70 fatalities reported from 1993-1999, and has been removed from the US market.18
One 2012 study showed that alginate treatment was equivalent to Prilosec® (omeprazole). This is an encouraging finding, given the potential ill effects of prolonged Prilosec (omeprazole) use.19,20 (See Table of Side Effects of Common Classes of Acid-Blocking Drugs for more details.)
Most impressively, studies regularly find that alginate treatment provides relief significantly faster than drugs.17,21