Spring Clean Your Diet and Medicine Cabinet

There’s nothing quite like spring cleaning, is there? No matter whether you consider yourself tidy or cluttered, there’s a certain joy that can be attained from dusting airflow returns, wiping down window sills, vacuuming behind couches, and polishing windows. In the midst of organizing your linen closet, take some time to spring clean your pantry and medicine cabinet. Having a clean house can promote good health, but it comes secondary to having optimum digestive health.

New Year's resolutions may seem like ages ago, but spring cleaning can be a good time to renew those commitments of healthy eating and exercise. The fiber-rich oatmeal and nutrition-packed salads of January somehow give way to Egg McMuffins and frozen pizzas, which often leads to weight gain and heartburn. If you are like millions of other Americans, you probably keep a bottle of acid-reducing proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in your medicine cabinet for those frequent bouts of heartburn and reflux. However, PPIs may be posing a significant danger to your overall health.

Recent studies suggest that PPIs may be associated with risks from vitamin deficiencies to kidney disease, and even dementia. The Food and Drug Administration has approved PPIs for short-term use, but few people read warning labels and continue taking the drugs far past the 14-day recommended time period. Now that Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid can be obtained over-the-counter, PPIs are one of the best-selling drug classes in the world. Further research connects PPIs to increased risk of pneumonia, osteoporosis, hypertension, heart attack, and a digestive system infection called clostridium difficile.

While PPIs offer temporary relief for heartburn and reflux, it is important to discover the source instead of simply treating the symptoms. The first step is always to make an appointment with your doctor. Often, heartburn can be treated by lifestyle modifications. Changing your daily habits may be enough to bring you relief from that familiar burn. Before reaching for that bottle of PPIs in your medicine cabinet, evaluate whether you need to eliminate one or more of these bad habits from your daily routine:

  • Late night eating
  • Smoking
  • Eating large meals
  • Reclining after you eat
  • Eating trigger foods such as chocolate, mint, tomato, citrus, fried foods, or spicy foods

Weight loss can also help reduce acid reflux, so instead of lying down after eating (which causes heartburn), go out for a brisk walk or a bike ride. Regular exercise will help you lose excess pounds and prevent indigestion and heartburn.

Spring clean your habits this season by re-evaluating your diet and exercise regimen. By eating right and exercising regularly, you probably won’t even need PPIs because heartburn won’t be a problem. The best way to keep those New Year's resolutions is to revisit them quarterly to recommit and follow through. Making regular appointments with your doctor will keep you accountable and on track with your resolutions and, most importantly, your digestive health.