Myths and misconceptions

False Profits

The unwary may find compelling looking "evidence" presented by charlatans who claim to have discovered a cure for acid reflux related conditions and try to sell their secret for, typically, $40 to download a pdf file.

One of the main reasons for creating this book was to provide a free factual reference to combat the snake-oil salesmen.

1. Cures for Acid Reflux/heartburn/GORD. Frequently these contain the advice to eat a particular brand of apple. There is no secret. We all respond differently to foods and finding foods that work for you is the key. Apples may well work for many, particularly if they replace fatty junk foods or something else that triggered your heartburn.

2. Claims that "I cured my Barrett's". The cellular changes that see the squamous lining of the oesophagus replaced with columnar Barrett's cells are not reversible. In some cases it may be possible for dysplasia to regress to non-dysplastic state, though those findings could be the results of different patholgogists' anaylses.

When Barrett's appears to have disappeared, it is probably hidden within the corrugations of the oesophagus or a secondary mucosal layer has grown over it, burying it from view.

Acid and alkaline foods

The stomach is a reservoir of highly concentrated hydrochloric acid that can dissolve metal. The acidity or alkalinity of food mixing with it will make as much difference as pouring a kettle full of hot water into the ocean.

If you have oesophagitis, you may feel discomfort as certain foods pass over it, in the same way as lemon juice would hurt a scratch on the skin but it wouldn't cause scaring.

Alkaline water helps lower acid. - Wrong.

The only benefits of alkaline water are to the companies selling it on the misconception it will help neutralise stomach acid. It won't. For those who feel it helps, it's only the placebo effect. It may even have a negative effect on physical health and wellbeing. [m-i]

Milk is good for reflux. - Wrong.

Although milk may feel more soothing as it passes through the throat and over any oesophagitis, it contains animal fats and reacts with the acid to make casein plastic. It can result in excess acid being produced and even summon some bile into the stomach.

Spicy foods should be avoided. - Wrong.

If this were so, you'd expect the highest incidence of Barrett's Oesophagus and oesophageal cancer on the Indian sub-continent and the far east. Spicy foods may give a burning sensation and irritate areas of inflammation but they usually provide no problem unless they are a particular trigger food for you. Some of the spices, particularly Turmeric (Curcumin) may actually be beneficial.

Barrett's causes pain

Barrett's cells are less sensitive than the squamous cells they have replaced. Barrett's itself is asymptomatic. The pain is due to acid reflux attacking squamous cells away from the Barrett's metaplasia. The Barrett's actually means GORD sufferers are less likely to feel pain.

PPIs cause osteoporosis, anaemia, hypomagnesaemia and C-diffficile

PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) lower production of stomach acid. Low stomach acid (Hypochlorhydria) may result in malabsorption of essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium etc. for people using any acid suppressants in high dose over a long period. This can exacerbate osteoporosis, anaemia, hypomagnesaemia etc.

PPIs should be used at the minimum effective dose. If you are on a high dose for a long period, your doctor can send you for a bone density scan and blood tests. He can prescribe calcium citrate to boost your calcium intake (N.B. Not Calcium carbonate which would just neutralise the acid.) and other supplemental minerals as required.

Low stomach acid can leave you more susceptible to bacterial infection. Probiotics (eg from live yoghurt cultures) may help supplement your body's immune system.

PPIs cause stomach cancer

"Use of PPIs is associated with an increased incidence of gastric cancer. The most prevalent view is that this arises by confounding rather than because PPIs cause cancer. Most cancers found in patients taking PPIs occur within 1 year of their commencement." [m-ii]

Someone who takes antacids every day is more likely to get cancer of the esophagus.

"People who take antacids frequently are more likely to be diagnosed with esophageal and stomach cancer. However, people who take more antacids usually do so because they have reflux. Reflux predisposes one to Barrett's esophagus, which predisposes one to cancer; this is a more reasonable explanation than that taking antacids causes cancer." [Dr Keith Roach, Herald Review]

There is a cure for cancer, but big pharma is suppressing it - and other myths about cancer

These myths are all debunked on the Cancer Research UK website [m-iii]

Myth 1: Cancer is a man-made, modern disease

Myth 2: Superfoods prevent cancer

Myth 3: ‘Acidic’ diets cause cancer

Myth 4: Cancer has a sweet tooth

Myth 5: Cancer is a fungus – and sodium bicarbonate is the cure

Myth 6: There’s a miracle cancer cure…

Myth 7: …And Big Pharma are suppressing it

Myth 8: Cancer treatment kills more than it cures

Myth 9: We’ve made no progress in fighting cancer

Myth 10: Sharks don’t get cancer