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Acid Reflux and Hair Loss – Bariatric Edition

Most of you know me and you’ve been reading my articles for some time now. If you are new to my writing, you will understand pretty quickly that I am an RHN, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and I believe in a diet of whole, live, fresh, natural, good quality food. I believe that food comes BEFORE supplements and that our bodies know exactly what to do with the “real food source” as opposed to the “lab manufactured version”.
If you continue to browse my blogs, you will also know that I am NOT a huge fan of PPIs. PPI stands for proton pump inhibitors. They come in lots of different names. It’s the most popular over-the-counter remedy for acid reflux.
Now, what the heck does acid reflux and PPIs have to do with hair loss?? Here is what I think about the topic and I suggest that if you are experiencing hair loss and you take a PPI, do your research into the topic. It is quite eye-opening.
Let’s backtrack and start with acid reflux. 
Question for you now; Is acid reflux the disease or the symptom? I believe it to be the symptom of a deeper, underlying issue. Acid reflux doesn’t happen for no reason at all. We need to dig a bit deeper. Why do we get acid reflux? I don’t want to talk for everybody out there so I will share my personal experience.
I am almost 50. I know that as we age, the hydrochloric acid in our stomach becomes weaker. It doesn’t just happen to me. It happens to ALL of us. When I was 30, I could eat an entire pizza and fall asleep without any issues whatsoever. Today if I eat one slice of pizza in the afternoon, I will get acid reflux less than an hour afterward. By the time I am in the car, on my way home from the pizzeria, I will start having acid reflux.
I know my acid reflux triggers today. Cheese and tomato sauce combined are a wicked combination for me. Some of my other acid reflux triggers are caffeine, fried foods, and sometimes pork can give me reflux. 
Now, will I stop eating pizza or drinking coffee for the rest of my life – of course not? So what can I do to improve my digestion to prevent acid reflux and what does this have to do with hair loss?
Let’s dig into the cascade of events now.
If acid reflux rears its ugly head after I eat the pizza, I can take a proton pump inhibitor. They come under the names such as Prilosec, Nexium, Zantac, and a million other names. The idea is that the active ingredient will put out the acid in my stomach and give me some relief from “Mr. Pizza”.
Okay, so if PPI puts out my stomach acid, I feel better in the interim BUT the next time I try and eat, I have no stomach acid (HCI Hydrochloric Acid) and the food in my stomach will regurgitate back into my throat – ACID REFLUX AGAIN UGGGGGGG
So what’s a girl to do? Well, I can pop another PPI and feel better again (for a while). Then I go to eat and once again the food cannot be properly digested and once again ACID REFLUX REARS ITS UGLY HEAD.
Around and Around and Around We Go …. 
This is exactly why people are addicted to PPIs. It’s because they cannot get off of them. Please take a moment to research PPIs and long term health consequences. What I worry about is Nutritional Deficiencies. 
So if I am unable to digest my food properly due to the LOW HCI in my stomach, this also means that I am unable to absorb and assimilate my nutrients. BINGO!!!
 …. I’ve had weight loss surgery. My hair is starting to fall out. I am eating over 60 grams of protein a day (not only using shake supplements). I am taking my supplements such as biotin and hair vitamin. I have started using hair products that don’t contain harmful chemicals that are drying and damaging to my hair. My hair is still falling out AND I am taking a PPI.
Taking a PPI can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Don’t believe me? Research it a bit and you will see for yourself. This is why I am not a huge fan of PPI’s. I want you to be able to DIGEST, ABSORB, and ASSIMILATE all those beautiful foods you are eating to prevent nutrient deficiencies. 
If you are taking a PPI and you want to get off of it, there are a few things you can do starting with IMPROVING DIGESTION. 
This means that your digestive system, with the right coaxing, can begin to strengthen. It can begin to properly digest your foods with the correct amount of HCI to help it out. I suggest taking a good quality probiotic, eating probiotic foods, taking a swig of apple cider vinegar in the morning (or an apple cider vinegar supplement). Take small bites. Eat slowly and focus on your food. Don’t overfill the pouch. Don’t eat when you are stressed. Put your fork down between bites. Don’t drink water with your food. Do what it takes to help your digestion.
PPIs have their place. I am not saying that everybody with acid reflux needs to stop immediately taking their PPIs. What I am saying is that I want you to get more involved and start to research your PPI. Start to learn things that you can do to try to get off of it. 
How can you improve digestion? This is a good starting point. Get interested in your health and start to move away from the mentality of “I have a symptom, I take a pill”. WHY do you have that symptom? This is the starting point. We need to draw conclusions and make the decision to dig a bit deeper.
For example; I have a headache. I take a Tylenol and I feel better. The headache comes back. I take another Tylenol. A week goes by, I still have a headache. Do I just keep taking Tylenol? Or, do I try to figure out WHY I have a headache? 
Oh, I know. I am not drinking any water throughout the day. Maybe my headache is coming from dehydration. Could that be the source? I will add more water to my diet tomorrow and see what happens. Maybe my headache will disappear and I can stop taking Tylenol.
It is the cascade of events that I am interested in and it is this cascade of events that I want you to get interested in too.
I take a PPI. I have continuous acid reflux if I do not take a PPI. Dig Dig Dig … My hair is falling out. Dig Dig Dig …I am doing all the right things. Maybe my PPI is preventing good digestion and my poor digestion is causing nutrient deficiencies and I am not digesting my protein sources correctly.
AH HA – I may be eating 60 grams of protein a day but how much of that protein am I absorbing and assimilating? BAMMMM – I think I need to improve my digestion to prevent acid reflux and to better digest my foods!!
This is the kind of cascade of events I am talking about.
  • I have a headache. I drink some more water each day. My headache goes away. BAMMMM -I figured it out.

  • I drink coffee. I get acid reflux. I stop drinking coffee and my acid reflux improves and I didn’t even need to take any medications. 

  • I eat tomato sauce, I get acid reflux. I stop eating the tomato sauce and my acid reflux improves. Wow, that was easy. 

  • I believe that we all need to continuously look for ways to improve our digestion. I also believe that we need to explore a bit more before we give into a daily habit of taking a PPI – days turn into months and months turn into years and before we know it, we have a big PPI habit. We feel stuck and we don’t know what to do.
Improving digestion can help with so many issues, not only acid reflux. It’s a great starting point.
Do I want you to throw away your PPI forever?  No.  I just want you to know that ALL medications come with some sort of side-effects.  This is just one of the side-effects of taking a PPI.  Sometimes the side-effects are worth it and other times they are not worth it.  Only you can decide with is right or wrong for YOUR body.  You are a biochemical, beautiful individual.
So, that’s how I combine PPIs and hair loss. It’s a possible cascade of events. Do some digging.
Here’s to you and your healthy digestive system.

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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