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Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine November 2013
Report  

Block Acid Reflux to Prevent Esophageal Problems!

By Kirk Stokel

Ellagic Acid Further Slashes Acid and Inflammation Levels

In addition to protecting the esophagus from the physical effects of acid and food reflux, it’s important to protect the stomach itself from excessive acid production and the inflammation that produces ulcers and potentially increases cancer risk.

Ellagic acid is a polyphenol found in many types of plants, such as berries and pomegranates.22,23 It is a powerful antioxidant with additional and complex properties that make it ideal for protecting stomach and esophageal health.

Like antacid drugs, ellagic acid slows the secretion of hydrochloric acid into the stomach by interfering with the molecular pump that drives hydrogen atoms into the stomach.24 Despite the name, ellagic acid is only a very mild, organic acid, with little in common with potent gastric hydrochloric acid. It directly protects the stomach’s mucous lining from damage that can lead to ulcers.24,25

Ellagic acid has been found to protect the stomach and promote ulcer healing through its favorable impact on inflammatory cytokines.22 One study clearly showed that ellagic acid shifted stomach biochemical parameters away from pro-inflammatory and towards healing profiles.23

Intriguingly, ellagic acid’s beneficial effects on the stomach lining vary depending upon the source of the inflammation. In alcohol-induced ulcers, the protective effect comes from an increase in endogenous nitric oxide, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.22 But in ulcers produced by the harsh arthritis drug indomethacin, ellagic acid reduces levels of the inflammatory leukotriene B4.22 And in ulcers produced by sour acetic acid (the acid in vinegar), ulcer healing was promoted by reductions in inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha and related compounds.

Thus, in ulcer prevention, ellagic acid works both by reducing the offending factors and by strengthening the body’s natural defensive factors.22

Animal studies demonstrate that ellagic acid reduced the standard ulcer index by 59%, while accelerating ulcer healing through induction of important growth factors.23

In addition, ellagic acid appears to inhibit Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that inevitably causes gastritis—a main cause of gastric ulcers—and which has been associated with both esophageal and stomach cancer.26,27 And indeed, one study showed that ellagic acid reduced by 21 to 55% the number of chemically-induced esophageal tumors in experimental animals.28

While we’re awaiting further proof that ellagic acid itself prevents cancer, there is strong evidence that strawberries—which are rich in ellagic acid—are powerful anti-cancer agents, as we’ll see next.

Table of Side Effects of Common Classes of Acid-Blocking Drugs

Class

Common Names

Effects

Aluminum-containing Antacids

Maalox, Mylanta

  • Bone-Softening33,34

H2 Blockers

Cimetidine, Ranitidine, Famotidine

  • Vitamin b12 deficiency35,36

Proton-pump Inhibitors

Omeprazole, Esomeprazole

  • Vitamin b12 deficiency36,37
  • Reduced medication bioavailability38
  • Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea38,39
  • Pneumonia37,38
  • Osteoporosis as well as vertebral and hip fracture37-39
  • Rebound acid over-secretion39

Over-the-counter antacids can be very effective against acid damage, but they come with many potentially serious side effects, especially with prolonged use. Raft-forming alginate preparations, however, are associated with none of these.

Strawberries Lower Risk of Esophageal Cancer

Strawberries Lower Risk of Esophageal Cancer  

Strawberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants, chiefly in the form of polyphenols, which block free radical formation.29 Moreover, strawberry extracts promote increases in levels of natural antioxidant systems lying dormant in the cells, triggering potent self-protection in the vulnerable stomach lining.30 Administration of strawberry extract in rats with alcohol-induced ulcers significantly reduced the animals’ ulcer index, in large part by inhibiting peroxidation of cell membrane lipids.30

Animals supplemented with strawberries show up to 56% fewer cancers after exposure to known esophageal carcinogens.31 And in those that do develop cancers, the tumors are less frequent and smaller than in control animals.

A 2012 study in humans demonstrated remarkable protection from esophageal cancer in a high-risk population, following consumption of a high-dose freeze-dried strawberry powder. These patients had known esophageal dysplasia, a pre-cancerous state. After six months of supplementation, there was a reduction in severity of the dysplasia without side effects. This visible benefit was accompanied by reductions in markers of inflammation.32

Strawberry polyphenols protect against stomach damage caused by alcohol and other damaging agents.30 Again, this effect is generally attributed to their content of antioxidants and free radical scavengers. (The strawberry intake of these human and animal subjects was vastly higher than an alginate combination could ever provide in a pill form; but including strawberry content in a formulation serves to enhance its protective activities.)

The Facts About Esophageal Cancer

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 17,990 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in 2013, during which time the disease is predicted to cause 15,210 deaths.2

Rates of esophageal cancer are rapidly increasing, and gastroesophageal reflux is a major contributor.3,40

Esophageal cancers are most common in white men over 50, in smokers, in those who are obese, and especially in people with frequent symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux.41,42

Studies show that people with recurrent symptoms of reflux have a 7.7-fold risk of esophageal cancer, while those with long-standing, severe symptoms are at an incredible 43.5-fold risk of the disease.3

Summary

Gastrointestinal reflux is increasingly a major source of pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life—but it is also a key cause of esophageal cancer.

For years, traditional medicine operated on the simple notion that by using antacids and reducing acid levels alone, they could control the symptoms and potentially fatal consequences of acid reflux.

Raft-forming alginate creates a physical barrier “raft” to block reflux from occurring, protecting esophageal tissue from corrosive stomach contents. Alginate is clinically proven to reduce the frequency and intensity of reflux attacks, with effects equivalent to antacid medications that have substantial side effects.

The addition of ellagic acid to an alginate formulation can reduce stomach acidity and inflammation—which further protects the esophagus from the chronic inflammation that could one day trigger cancerous cells.

And strawberry extract contributes additional oxidant protection by upgrading the body’s own powerful antioxidant enzymes, with proven effects on reducing ulcer-related stomach cancer.

The simple combination of raft-forming alginates, carbonates, ellagic acid from pomegranates, and strawberry extract holds enormous potential to safely reduce painful acid reflux—and provide potential protection against cancer.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.