What is Heartburn, really?
Whether you’re eating fatty foods or just finished a heavy meal, chances are you’ve experienced acid reflux before, and this can often lead to heartburn. Heartburn affects millions of Americans every day, and frequent heartburn every week could be signs of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD.
If you’re the type to eat meals before bed, it could be affecting your sleeping habits. GERD, and often heartburn, is a common cause of insomnia. It is also linked to those with a history of smoking or are overweight. Living with GERD is not fun, and you may find yourself looking for solutions to combat this disease. When consulting with a doctor, you may be prescribed a drug called Ranitidine, commonly known under its brand name, Zantac.
The way Zantac works is it blocks your histamine H2 receptors, in other words, it’s an antihistamine. But unlike other antihistamines, this one is designed to alleviate the acid in your stomach, not just your sinuses. While the side effects of Zantac can range anywhere from stomach pains to shortness of breath, a more serious side effect comes from an ingredient in the drug known as NDMA, which has been linked to causing cancer. This has caused the FDA to recall all Zantac, and subsequently all Ranitidine, products from the market.
Cancers associated with Zantac
If you have been diagnosed with cancer and were taking Zantac or generic over-the-counter Zantac, then it is highly probable that this drug played a role. NDMA is responsible for causing various types of cancer: breast cancer, liver cancer, leukemia, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer, to name a few.
According to the FDA, the levels of NDMA present in Ranitidine have been known to increase even in normal storage conditions and the older the bottle is the more likely it is to contain high levels of NDMA. If you have been prescribed or are in possession of Zantac, it’s recommended that you dispose of it properly as per the package’s instructions.
You might be asking yourself whether you have to live with the consequences of taking Zantac, fortunately, there is a class action lawsuit being filed against the manufacturers that you can join. So long as it can be proven that the cancer is linked to your consumption of Zantac, you will be represented. You’re probably wondering, “How can I prove that the cancer I was diagnosed with was caused by Zantac?”. One way to know would be to consider whether or not your family has a history of a particular type of cancer and the rate at which you acquired the cancer after starting Zantac.
If you absolutely need medication for heartburn, thankfully there are alternatives. Other heartburn medications have not been found to contain traces of NDMA, but it is advised that you consult with a doctor first.
Ways to prevent heartburn
The best way to alleviate heartburn is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Various methods that don’t require medication can be taken if you play your cards right. If you’re a smoker, you should quit, and avoid areas where you might be exposed to secondhand smoke. Overweight people are at a higher risk of developing GERD and should consider losing weight. Often this goes hand in hand with a shift in diet. Avoiding certain foods helps to reduce the build up of acid in the stomach as well.
Limit your alcohol intake, if you frequently drink. Fatty foods, fast foods, or other foods that make you bloat are going to increase the likelihood of you experiencing acid reflux, avoid these if you don’t want to experience heartburn.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits also increase the risk of you developing GERD. Avoid midnight snacking or eating large meals before bed. Try to have a consistent sleeping schedule, as sleeping really late and not getting enough hours can be taxing on the heart. Living a sedentary lifestyle, one that does not involve much physical activity or movement, increases the risk of heart complications, pairing this with GERD is a bad mix. So it is advised that you exercise daily, whether it’s a brisk walk outside every day or indoor exercises such as yoga, as long as your body is active, you are helping to prevent further complications from GERD.
Lastly, if you do need to take medication for GERD, always ask if the medication you are being prescribed has been tested for any signs of NDMA, and to see if there are alternatives you can take. Screen yourself for any signs of cancer if you’ve used Zantac in the past in order to catch it early before it can become a serious problem.