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Dementia, Nerve Damage and Anemia—Oh My!

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None of those sound like much fun do they? All of the medical conditions listed above are associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency, which is not only becoming more prevalent these days, but may also be stemming from a culprit hiding right in your medicine cabinet.

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In a case controlled two year study conducted by Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, whose results were published in today’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (aka JAMA) researchers discovered a link between common ingredients in antacids—the term for medications used to treat acid reflux and GERD, and a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vitamin B12 is necessary for the healthy function of your nervous system; consisting of your brain function, nerves, and spinal cord health. Lack of B12 is not all that uncommon in older patients, however if undiagnosed and left untreated, not having enough can lead to serious and possibly irreversible health complications including (but not limited to) dementia, nerve damage, and anemia. The effects of long-term antacid use can lead to a B12 deficiency as found by researchers at Kaiser Permanente. Their research reveals that because antacids suppress the creation of gastric acids, this action can also prevent our bodies from absorbing this vital nutrient. Antacids are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S., bringing in more than $10 billion dollars annually to pharmaceutical companies. Antacids contain proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) as well as histamine 2 receptor antagonists (H2RA’s); including some of those sold over the counter like Pepcid®.

Usually B12 is obtained through meat products, but can also be found in certain processed foods such as fortified cereals, but with recent light shed on the use of GMO’s in some brands as well as the use of antibiotics in meats—I can completely understand someone’s hesitation on where to obtain natural sources of vitamin B12, especially if they are among those who take antacids and would like to combat the possible effects this could have on their nervous systems. Vitamins are an option, however I do not recommend multi-vitamins, and if you do choose to take a vitamin B12 supplement, look for ones that are food and water soluble so they’re actually broken down and absorbed into your system. Also bear in mind you will also require B6 to help absorption, so your best option really is to look for a B vitamin complex which encompasses all necessary B vitamins for your body to function at it’s best.

The answer is not only in counteracting the effects of long-term use of antacids, but also in avoiding them altogether. If you do want to avoid GERD and acid reflux there are a few lifestyle changes you can make as well as some natural remedies to help reduce gastric acids:

  • Check your diet! Eating foods high in acidity like tomatoes and citrus fruits can cause acid reflux and GERD to occur. Fatty, foods high in starches, caffeine, and fried foods are also common triggers.
  • Find out about other medications you are on. Some medications can carry this as a side-effect, so discuss your other medications with your doctor. It could be something as simple as adjusting the dosage.
  • Don’t eat and then lay down—worst thing you can do besides bending on a full stomach! Make your last meal at least 2 hours before bedtime to ensure your body has fully digested it’s intake for the night.
  • Speaking of sleeping—try sleeping on your left-side at night. Many people suffer from what’s known as Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (aka silent-reflux) which occurs while you’re asleep. Many studies have revealed sleeping on the left-side helps prevent silent reflux.
  • Put out the butts! The cigarette butts that is! Smoking is shown to increase acid build up, and damage the esophageal tract. If you do continue to smoke, try not to smoke right before bed and do your best to at least cut down.
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