Gastritis “Solution” Was Worse than the Problem… the Natural Way Is Better

The number of prescription drugs sold jumped 71% from 1994 to 2005… and so too the side effects and problems that often result. Such was the case for a patient of Andrew L. Rubman, ND, naturopathic physician and Daily Health News contributing medical editor. Acknowledging that some of the pill-popping is truly necessary, Dr. Rubman pointed out that not infrequently it does more harm than good. Nowadays too many Americans are improperly or over-treated with prescription medications, since many doctors do not understand the synergistic effects of taking multiple drugs. He told me the story of 46-year-old Tess, whose health was severely compromised by simultaneously taking a multitude of prescription drugs including assorted acid suppressants, Lipitor and antihistamines. Within just four months, he not only helped her wean off them, but also cured the cause of the problem.


It’s all too easy to climb aboard the roller coaster of prescription medications. Tess’s original complaint was persistent gastritis and a history of ulcers that had bothered her since she was a teen. Her painful symptoms included bleeding, stomach pain, nausea, bloating and burning in her upper abdomen between meals and at night. She described the pain as feeling like someone with long fingernails was ripping the inside of her stomach to shreds. Such gastrointestinal discomfort can be caused by chronic stress, drinking too much alcohol, prolonged use of aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and infection with micro-organisms such as viruses, fungus or bacteria. Heredity can also be a component, as it was for Tess, whose father had suffered with the same symptoms.

But instead of figuring out what was at the root of her gastrointestinal problems, Tess’s primary care physician prescribed a series of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) over the course of several years — replacing one with another as they lost efficacy. This backfired. PPIs kept aggravating the gastritis even further and leading her doctor to prescribe different and greater quantities of the drugs. Additionally, Tess had been told that her cholesterol was high and her bone density was low — which he considered separate and unrelated problems. According to Dr. Rubman this is wrong. The truth is that proton pump inhibitors interfere with the absorption of the bone-strengthening minerals calcium and magnesium, and proteins required for the manufacture of healthy cholesterol.


It was at this point that a friend referred Tess to Dr. Rubman, an expert in digestive issues. He told her that although PPIs are frequently prescribed for digestive symptoms, they are rarely appropriate and should only be taken on a short-term basis for acute ulcers. Otherwise, they suppress the acid that the body requires to digest food properly. PPIs also open the door to infection, since germ-fighting stomach acid is the body’s natural weapon against bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing microbes — this is what he believed was at the root of Tess’s complaints.

In Dr. Rubman’s opinion, the real reason Tess was in so much pain was likely due to micro-organisms that had colonized her stomach. Her problem was not too much acid, but rather too little — her body now produced insufficient stomach acid to control invasive germs. To help restore the natural balance, he prescribed probiotics, specifically human-compatible strains and prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS) in a product by HLC, manufactured by Pharmax, LLC, to enhance the growth of beneficial flora and clean out the harmful ones. At the same time, he helped Tess to slowly withdraw from the PPI drugs, prescribing a soothing analgesic of botanical extracts in a bismuth citrate carrier — Formula SF-734, manufactured by Thorne Research. He also prescribed Butyrex, a calcium supplement, to be taken with each meal, since this particular preparation works especially well in people with severely compromised digestion. Once off PPIs altogether, and after a period on her new regimen, Tess not only felt better, but also her cholesterol and bone density issues improved as well — a development that surprised the doctor when he saw that her bone density had, in fact, increased. At her age, this was unusual. Most importantly to Tess, for the first time in years she was not in pain.


Dr. Rubman is concerned about the widespread overuse of prescription drugs in general, and PPIs in particular. True, prescription medications can on occasion be life-saving, but today’s exponential growth has been driven by the desire (on the part of both patients and physicians) for a quick fix and, on the part of Big Pharma, big profits. Healthy lifestyle change is neither fast nor a great money-maker. Doctors can more easily write a prescription that suppresses symptoms than get patients to exercise, eat less and reduce stress. For Tess, the doctor gave her PPIs to ease her gastric pain, Lipitor to lower her cholesterol and was considering drugs for bone density. But none of this fixed the underlying problem and, in fact, made Tess’s problems worse. Not only is the medical system flawed, but so is our focus on fast solutions to life’s challenges.

Instead of swallowing the prescriptive advice to take drugs, Dr. Rubman urges people to first consider lifestyle change as treatment for health problems. Instead of requesting or automatically accepting a medication, whether by prescription or OTC, ask your doctor whether dietary modifications, exercise or other lifestyle measures might improve your digestion or lower your blood pressure or cholesterol. While these methods may sometimes take a little longer to work, Dr. Rubman says they are far safer in the long run. He notes, however, that few MDs are trained in the use of these natural interventions and suggests a naturopathic physician can be a valuable member of your health care team. “Our approach to health incorporates unique therapies that your conventional physician may not be familiar with,” he said. “Our focus is on the individual as a whole integrated system rather than just on making your symptoms go away.”