By WIN Contributor: Dr. Laura Imola, Naturopathic Doctor

Yesterday it was reported that gastric reflux medication, also known as proton pump inhibitors, may lead to health risks and chronic disease for the millions of Canadians who take it. Reported risks include kidney disease, reduced nutrient absorption, bone fractures, stomach infection and dementia.

Medications like esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), pantoprazole (Pantoloc), omeprazole (Losec) and ranitidine (Zantac) are proton pump inhibitors used to alleviate symptoms of gastritis, otherwise known as gastric reflux or heartburn, and it’s the second most prescribed medication in Canada.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I’ve long known the risk factors and the advisories against using these medications past the two month mark. I’ve offered health education to patients over the years and options to help balance stomach health, and resolve gastric reflux, because I know that it’s possible to correct this concern without medication.

Prescription and over the counter medication for common ailments may cause side effect(s) or health risk(s) if taken for a prolonged period of time. Pharmaceuticals for common health concerns offer the hope of feeling well again, but often treat symptoms and may not resolve the underlying causes.

Perhaps the prolonged use of medication for common health concerns is a reflection of where we’re at socially. We don’t have time to spare on self care and we value a quick fix. However, the body is intelligent and it will not tolerate being ignored when it’s trying to tell us something. When a treatment doesn’t address the root cause and has the likely potential to make us more sick the longer we use it, we owe it to ourselves to think bigger and dig deeper to address a nagging health concern.

The article I read yesterday stated food choices, eating smaller meals, losing weight and quitting smoking among the ways to help address gastric reflux. I’d also add to that optimizing digestive enzyme secretion, managing stress, considering food allergens, getting adequate exercise and preventing constipation.

The path to optimal health is a long and winding one. Is it easier to take a pill for an ill than change our diet, face our stressors and try a new approach to health with a Naturopathic Doctor like me? It sure is!

But with North Americans being the most chronically ill than they ever have been in history, it is absolutely worth it to take on this challenge and demand more for your health and your life.

It doesn’t have to be all or none. Remember I said the path is long and winding. It can take time, trying things out, investigative work, introspection and patience. However, if you just start…start somewhere…anywhere…with what you feel you can tackle… and you take it day by day and stay the course, you’d be amazed by how you’ll feel in 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years.

If you’ve tried to come off your stomach medications and haven’t been successful or if you’d like to start taking a proactive approach to your health and are unsure where to start, contact me or visit with me anytime and I’d be happy to help.