This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Update as of 1/21/2023
Although Zinc Carnosine helped for around a year, reflux symptoms returned, and subsequent use of Zinc Carnosine was no longer effective. So I am back on PPI's for now. One new product in this space to keep an eye on is Vonoprazan, which is currently undergoing clinical trials in the US (but has been in use in Asia for years). Phase 3 results, the final phase in the safety and efficacy process, are expected in 2023 from Phathom Pharmaceuticals.
First published 8/26/2020
Although this personal story is outside of our normal blog content, my experience in successfully treating GERD has been such a positive life improvement, it made me want to share with others who are suffering from chronic acid reflux or heartburn.
For 15 years, from age 27 to 42, I struggled with chronic acid reflux. It started with a dry throat, and a cough, caused by acid aspirating into the lungs. From there it got worse. For many of those years, I managed with Proton Pump Inhibitors / PPI’s, (omeprazole, pantoprazole). After suffering B12 deficiency effects just a couple of years into taking PPI’s, and learning more about the negative effects of long-term PPI use, I wanted to find a resolution. Plus, the thought of having to take any medication for the remainder of my life was not appealing!
Roughly 20% of the US population suffers from GERD.(1)
What's Wrong With PPI's?
Long term use of PPI's has been linked to a risk of fractures, pneumonia, C. diff diarrhea, hypomagnesemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, chronic kidney disease, and dementia.(2) More recently, PPI use has been found to significantly alter the richness of the gut microbiota, which could lead to additional risk factors.(7) I personally had problems with B12 absorption just a couple years into taking PPI's, and had to get injections to recover, followed by supplements to maintain levels.
My Health Profile and Reflux Triggers
Throughout my years of suffering from GERD, I’ve been a normal weight (180 - 195) for my height (6’) and active, typically exercising or playing sports a couple of times a week.
A couple of years into being symptomatic, I had an esophageal PH test. This is a test where you have a probe in your body, and you click a button on a device whenever you’re experiencing heartburn. The probe measures the PH level in your esophagus. My test results demonstrated acid levels high enough to be a candidate for surgery. After reading about the surgical options available (fundoplication or Stretta), I was reluctant. Partly because of the side effects, and partly because I didn’t want to have surgery for what seemed like a problem that should have a non-surgical resolution.
Foods and Drinks That Seem to Exacerbate My GERD
- Liquor and beer
- Fatty foods
- Some baked goods
- Excess carbohydrates
- Citrus drinks
Foods and Drinks That Don’t Seem To Be a Problem for Me
- Tomato sauce
- Wine, especially red
- Onion and garlic
- Spicy food
Treatments I Tried That Didn’t Work
- H2 blockers (some of which have now been pulled from shelves due to cancer risks)
- Slippery Elm
- Avoiding coffee/caffeine
Treatments That Worked a Little Bit
- Pickle juice
- Sleeping with my head and torso elevated
Treatments That Worked Moderately Well
- Chewable deglycyrrhizinated licorice root is an herbal anti-inflammatory which may reduce reflux/heartburn. It provides a protective coating to the esophagus. I prefer the Natures Way brand for these, and despite some of the reviews, I think the German chocolate flavor is actually pretty good. I used this as a compliment to traditional antacids so that I didn't take one specific treatment too often.
- 18:6 Time Restricted Feeding
- Along with sleep, meditation/stress management, and exercise, diet/fasting is one of the four pillars of achieving a good healthspan. A feeding time restriction that goes beyond 16 hours appears to confer additional benefit in gut microbiome re-balancing. To learn more about fasting check out the resources from Zero, our favorite fasting app.
The Treatment That Cured My Chronic Acid Reflux
- Zinc Carnosine - A chelate compound of zinc and L-carnosine, with a history of over 20 years of clinical use in Japan(3), and more recently, in Italy, where it's in the final year of a clinical trial(4). Zinc Carnosine has been used as an effective treatment of any condition that requires a mucosal protection and mucosal repair(5) within the gastrointestinal tract, which includes GERD.
- I used the "Doctors Best" brand linked above, taking a pill in the morning and another before dinner. Within a few days my normal symptoms had decreased, and two weeks into it they'd all but gone. I continued the twice daily routine until finishing the entire bottle in mid March.
- Since then, I've been less cautions about what I eat and have probably only had four times where I've needed to take an antacid because I overate, or ate poorly. It's such a joy to no longer deal with managing acid reflux on a daily basis!
- Is it safe? At the dosage I took, side effects have not been reported (6), and I had no side effects either. Higher dosage beyond 150/mg per day could cause adverse side effects.
After living with near daily acid reflux / GERD for 15 years, and having to manage it with various drugs and remedies, I'm now almost entirely symptom free. In fact, I don't even think about it on a regular basis anymore. I do continue to do an 18:6 fast nearly every day, and generally don't eat within three hours of bedtime, both of which may help manage things. If you are otherwise healthy and still suffer from chronic GERD, I'd be interested if Zinc Carnosine could change your life like it did mine!