The Dark Side of Antacids—What You Need to Know (PART II)

The Dark Side of Antacids—What You Need to Know (PART II)

In last week’s blog, we whisked you, Dear Reader, into a deep discussion about the dark side of antacids (PPIs). You know, those medications touted for suppressing symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux, returning calm to your dinner experience? Yeah, those. We wrote all about it here and want to continue the conversation in the space below.

Long-term dependence on PPI1 antacids, as you know, often triggers a host of dysfunctions in the body. This isn’t revelatory; PPIs work temporarily by suppressing the stomach’s healthy and necessary acid production to control the symptoms of heartburn. They are patchwork over a deeper issue, and unless we address the root cause of heartburn, we cannot expect to restore harmony to the body’s inner ecology. More problems will prop onto your diagnostics chart as the root problem is left untreated.

So what can you do? Should you quit taking PPIs cold turkey?

As with many things in life, quitting PPIs cold turkey isn’t recommended. The withdrawal agonies from quitting antacids are somewhat comparable to those of caffeine and sugar withdrawal (the former, or course, being many degrees worse). While quitting caffeine makes you irritable and lethargic and prone to a bad case of madness—snapping at your succulents from your bed at 1:35 p.m., wondering if you will ever have the energy to adult again—quitting antacids actually worsens your reflux problem. Having suppressed your stomach acid for so long, quitting PPIs cold turkey causes your body to produce high levels of gastrin, the hormone that stimulates the secretion of gastric acid by the parietal cells of the stomach. Your body overcompensates by producing larger-than-normal amounts of stomach acid which then translates into a worse case of acid reflux. It’s common that people who take PPIs for long periods of time grow addicted to them; when they decide to quit, their reflux is worse and more unbearable than it was when it started.

How to get off these medications?

It goes without saying: consult your healthcare provider! This is especially crucial if you are taking PPIs for conditions other than acid reflux and heartburn. Some patients take antacids for more serious conditions and need thorough consultation and evaluation of their condition before they can safely terminate their prescription. Most functional medicine doctors, pharmacists, and naturopaths might be able to wean you off safely and effectively. In any case, below are general pro-tips for weaning off of antacid pills:

FIRST, employ the principles of gradualism: decrease your dosage slowly and gauge your body’s response. If you are taking Omeprazole 40 mg, for example, reduce the dose to 20 mg. If you are taking a double dose daily, slash it to once-a-day. Keep at this for at least two weeks, and if you find that you’re managing, reduce the dose to every other day… and then to every third day… and if you are experiencing side effects (i.e. acid reflux, heartburn) on the medication-free days, try H2 blockers2 to relieve those symptoms. Switch over to a daily dose of H2 blocker if needed and then gradually decrease that in a similar style until you have no symptoms.

SECOND, with Jedi-like intentions, uncover the culprits undermining your gut health and develop drug-free strategies for restoring balance to the force. Or, more accurately, restoring health to your gut. Begin by eliminating processed foods, bad oils (vegetable, soy, corn, canola), processed sugars, and refined carbohydrates from your diet. Stomp them out like you would an infiltrating army of Stormtroopers: immediately and without question. In their place, load up on fresh and organic produce and their nutritious sidekicks. But avoid anything that may irritate your recovering stomach, such as citrus foods (tomatoes, oranges, lemons, etc.), deep fried foods, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, chocolates, and soda pops. Keep in mind, too, that our generation of Americans is becoming increasingly sensitive to gluten and dairy products. So maybe pass on that latte and scone during your lunch break?

THIRD, begin a food diary documenting the foods you eat alongside any symptoms you experience—both their frequency and severity. You can even undergo a food sensitivity lab test for good measure. During this time, follow these basic food rules for preventing acid reflux:

  • Do not lie down right after you eat.
  • Always eat an early dinner, approximately four hours before you go to bed. Eating or snacking too close to bedtime is detrimental, not only to your stomach health, but to your overall health and wellbeing.
  • Eat smaller meals and chew your food thoroughly.
  • Find innovative ways to elevate your head above your chest while you sleep. Larger, fluffier pillows? An adjustable mattress?

FOURTH, sprinkle fermented food onto your meals like you would confetti at your friend’s wedding party! These healthy-gut-bacteria-restoring foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, organic raw honey, among many others. Also, don’t succumb to commercially-sold yogurts; not only are they bereft of healthy probiotics, but they are also loaded with sugar—sometimes even more than your favorite tub of ice cream. While these yogurts masquerade as “healthy,” they often go through a pasteurization process which inevitably strips them of their good bacteria. Probiotic supplements and digestive enzymes can help improve your gut health too.

Another friend to your healthy-gut-bacteria-restoring ventures is Aloe Vera juice, which eases acid reflux symptoms by reducing inflammation in your gut. Drinking about one-half cup before meals helps prevent unwanted symptoms.

Ginger root is also extremely beneficial and far superior to lansoprazole, according to a 2007 study. It works amazingly well in blocking acid and suppressing bad stomach bacteria, including H Pylori. Drinking ginger tea, or just plain ginger water, half an hour before meals helps prevent symptoms.

Here’s one that will take you by surprise: melatonin. A humble supplement3 of this sleep hormone (3-5 mg) is enough to help you wean off your PPI medication, as it restores gut health and curbs gastrointestinal symptoms. Believe it or not, our stomachs produce 400 times as much melatonin as the pineal gland, making this hormone a key player in this discussion.

And that, Dear Reader, is your ultimate list of go-to strategies for tackling heartburn and acid reflux, medication-free. The time of chest-wrenching meal experiences is over. The era of smooth food indulgences (nutritious, of course) is about to begin. And in your pursuit of healthy gut bacteria and stomach acid balance, remember that PPI medications can have a role in your health narrative, but they shouldn’t budge as an all-star cast.

Foot Notes

1 Common Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) include: Omeprazole (Prilosec), Esomeprazole (Nexium), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), Pantoprozole (Protonix), Rabeprozole (Aciphex), Omeprazole/Sodium Bicarbonate (Zegerid).

2 H2 blockers include: nizatidine (Axid), famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet), or ranitidine (Zantac)

3 Other effective supplements for GERD are L-Tryptophan, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Methionine, Betaine HCL Pepsin, Vitamin D, Glutamine, Slippary elm, and Astaxanthin.

The Dark Side of Antacids—What You Need to Know (PART I)

The Dark Side of Antacids—What You Need to Know (PART I)

Beside bloating and unbearable fullness, here’s another post-meal sensation none of us want to experience: heartburn. You slurped the last spaghetti noodle and savored every drop of saucy goodness, and you’re now preparing to break with the latest episode of The Crown. And then it begins—something like a flame furled in the pits of your stomach begins blazing up your throat. “It’s like throwing up burning coal that you can’t digest,” some describe it. Heartburn is a common experience, and one that usually ends up with handfuls of antacids added to your weekly pillbox organizer.

But there are many things about antacids that you should know:

  1. There is a popular class of antacids called “Proton Pump Inhibitors” (PPI), and they’re widely prescribed to treat Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and other acid-related disorders.
  2. In 2016, they were among the top selling drugs in the U.S., prescription and over-the-counter, and made billions of dollars in sales.
  3. Patients often consume these antacids for a longer duration of time than recommended by manufacturers. And because these pills are available over the counter, they’ve become the quick pick-me-up for any acid related conditions, with little warning of their side effects (and there are many).

Now let’s explore the effects this drug has on the human body: when you pop that PPI pill, it absorbs into your system and quickly blocks your stomach from producing acid, thereby decreasing your gut’s acid levels. Sounds great, right? Not quite; medication effectiveness is hardly that linear. While PPIs provide the immediate relief of an acid-reflux-free meal and a cheerful chest, that relief comes with a heavy cost…

FIRST: ineffective food digestion, which decreases nutrient absorption, thereby increasing nutritional deficiencies. Like other elements of your physiology, your stomach’s acid serves a crucial purpose—that is, to activate digestive enzymes and break down food for digestion. PPIs disrupt this process by inhibiting your body’s acid production. And what follows can be dangerous. For example, you’re eating your favorite wings and a side of nacho bean dip on Super Bowl Night and decide to take an antacid for good measure. As you watch the Eagles completely obliterate the Patriots, you bask in the beauty of a heartburn-less food experience with your friends. This is the good life. Meanwhile, something else is happening in your body: the proteins from your saucy wings cannot break down into individual amino acids for absorption because your gut’s acid levels are too low. These undigested proteins then cross the intestinal barrier and trigger an array of problems, including food allergies and sensitivities.

Even more, when your body doesn’t recognize these unbroken proteins, it unleashes its stable of antibodies against them, which, in the long run, can lead to autoimmune diseases.

SECOND: nutrient deficiencies that ultimately evolve into other serious conditions. Long-term use of PPIs hinders our body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium—two critical minerals for bone health that, when depleted, wither our body’s bones into fragility and weakness. In other words, osteoporosis is another common side effect of long-term PPI use.

The dark nature of antacids doesn’t end there. With newfound magnesium deficiencies triggered by PPIs, the body could prematurely offset Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, depression, seizures, and more—all of which are linked with long-term magnesium deficiency.

THIRD: a jeopardized immune system. When you devour that first round of Super Bowl wings, your stomach acid acts as your first line of defense against harmful bacteria, virus, and parasites. It battles menacing microbes with more intensity than Nick Foles’ winning throws. And when you have an inadequate amount of gut acid, these microbes survive and thrive, sprawling into full-blown gut dysfunctions. It’s a nasty cycle, all because of an acid suppression that lasted far too long.

Another unspoken side of PPI use is its ability to trigger gastrointestinal infections, such as H pylori and candida. PPIs have also been shown to be potentially involved in cognitive decline and dementia risk, especially in elderly people. Testing in lab animals has shown that the use of PPIs increased β-amyloid levels in the brains of mice.  β-amyloid are the amino acids involved in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, as the main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer patients. Epidemiological studies in human show that patients who used PPI medications had a significantly increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared with non-users.

The bouts of heartburn interrupting your family meals, the persistent pain penetrating your throat, the chronic cough—you shouldn’t have to endure any of these. And a heavy reliance on antacids isn’t your only way out. In next week’s blog post, we will delve into the many ways you can wean yourself off of PPIs and swap growing medical bills with many drug-free treatment options. Stay tuned… the conversation continues!


Elderberry Cough and Cold Syrup for Kids

Elderberry Cough and Cold Syrup for Kids

This recipe is an amazing natural remedy for cold and flu relief that your kids will ABSOLUTELY LOVE! It doesn’t only treat cold, cough, and flu symptoms, but PREVENT them if given regularly as an immune booster.


  • 1 cup dry organic elderberries
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger root
  • 5-6 Cloves
  • 5-6 Whole peppercorn
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 5 cups water


  1. Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorn (do not add honey yet, because the heat will destroy many of its medicinal benefits)
  2. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half.
  3. Take it off the heat, let it cool.
  4. Pour it through the strainer into a glass bowl (Make sure to really squeeze all the liquid form the pulp). Discard the pulp
  5. Add raw honey into the liquid, and stir really well.
  6. Store the Elderberry Syrup in the fridge in an air-tight glass mason jar, it will last several months!

Enjoy! Let us know if you have any questions or feedback in the comments and be sure to share this recipe with your friends and family! Photos courtesy of Makeen Osman Photography

What You Need to Know about Organic vs. Conventional Produce

What You Need to Know about Organic vs. Conventional Produce

Walking down the produce aisle at your local grocery store, you have a thought: maybe I should shop organic today. It is healthier, after all.

As you bag a stalk of organic broccoli, you catch a number blaring at you from the shelf below. Whoa. You lower your hand and recoil in hesitation. The price is much higher than you anticipated. On second thought… and just like that, you’re back in the congested yet familiar aisles of conventional produce and smaller prices, because you decided that you have many hungry bellies to fill and a finite supply of money and health is just too darn expensive.

Does that scenario sound familiar?

Let’s be honest, it is all too common for Americans to opt for conventional (read: inorganic) produce when their organic counterparts are a few bucks extra (especially with a tight wallet and an expanding family). This begs the question: are organic foods inherently healthier, so much so that they are worth the extra dollar? Before we explore the benefits of organic, let us virtually tour a conventional farm to how understand how inorganic produce is grown.

It begins just after the farmer buries the seeds in the soil. As the little plants grow, the farmer needs to ensure their survival from insects and animals nearby. So he slips into his protective gear—a white suit, gloves, and a face mask so thick, it resembles something like a hazmat suit from Stranger Things—and ventures out to spray several pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other powerful chemicals onto the plants. The farmer then harvests these crops and sends them off for your consumption. (This is when you enter the scene). After returning that organic stalk of broccoli to its shelf, you pick up its conventional counterpart and cook it that night for dinner, not realizing that broccoli isn’t the only thing your body will ingest. Those harmful chemicals, too, are part of your dinner menu.

Here are three facts to keep in mind during your next grocery trip:

  1. Studies have shown that organic farming and organic food production can boost key nutrients in foods. In fact, organic food has double the nutritional value of conventionally grown food.
  2. Another collection of studies examined the effects of organophosphate pesticides on children. Their results indicated that children with high levels of this pesticide are found with double the cases of ADHD than those with lower levels.
  3. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate (also the main ingredient in Round Up), as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans.

For the non-vegans reading this, know that the pitfalls of conventional farming also extend to animal agricultural. Those very animals that provide you your inorganic meat, dairy, and eggs are treated inhumanely in commercial farms, and the ills from their existence trickle into your own wellbeing. Picture this: commercially-farmed cows are injected with antibiotics, growth hormones, and disease-preventing medication while sentenced to immobility in confined barns. They do not graze in green pastures, as their biological nature demands; rather, green grass is traded for genetically-modified corn, which not only causes disease in cows, but also renders their meat and dairy to be disease-causing and nutrient-deficient. And to maximize human consumption of their milk, these commercial cows are separated from their newborn calves immediately after birth. Only a cow’s psychological distress can result from this early separation.

Unfortunately, commercial eggs aren’t any different. Most commercial eggs come from hens fed an unnatural diet of soy and corn, and when we consume these eggs, we are also consuming their pro-inflammatory and nutrient-deficient properties.

What if I can’t afford organic foods?

Big families and tight budgets are a legitimate reason to abandon the fantasy of an all-organic fridge, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Some produce items are worth the extra buck—namely the thin-skinned ones—because they absorb heavy amounts of toxic chemicals and pesticides. Avoiding them altogether would do better for your health than consuming them in their conventional form. Many websites coin these “The Dirty Dozen Foods,” and though the list changes annually, the top culprits usually include: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell pepper, and potatoes.

And if organic prices remain a hindrance, purchase more thick-skinned conventional produce, as well as produce with easy-to-peel skin, to limit your chemical consumption. Bananas, avocados, and pineapples are great go-to options! There is also a no-charge kitchen hack to buffer your contact with pesticides and herbicides: simply wash your produce using a ten percent salt solution. In a bowl, mix nine parts water and one part salt and let your produce party in there for a good ten minutes. Use that break to read more of our blog posts (for more free health hacks!), and when you return, rinse the produce with plain water before consumption.

Shaving bucks from your grocery bills can be tempting—we’ve all been there. But pause for a moment and recalibrate your perspective: preventative lifestyle changes are an investment toward long-term health. And that long-term health may translate to fewer medical bills in the future; to better moods and energy levels; to little need for over-the-counter pills and buckets of supplements lined up by your nightstand. A few bucks might seem like a lot now. Just know, an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure.

The Science of Cupping (Hijama)

The Science of Cupping (Hijama)

During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil, spectators stood in utter dismay when athletes Michael Phelps and Alex Naddour slipped out of their robes to reveal dark red bruises all over their bodies. The circles sat there like painful polka-dots, blemishing their backs and shoulders. News reports soon revealed to the public that these “bruises” weren’t dangerous at all; rather, they were a result of the athletes’ cupping therapy.

Though Phelps and Naddour flung cupping into news headlines all across the nation, the practice itself remains a mystery to many people in the West. In their eyes, cupping is as mythical and mystical as a potion concocted by Hogwarts wizards. So let us unpack this ancient Eastern medical practice and bring to light all the numerous health benefits it has to offer us. Here we go…


So, why don’t many health care practitioners recommend cupping?

The answer here is two-fold: mainstream doctors are either unfamiliar with this therapy or they doubt the scientific proof of its effectiveness. Medical therapy procedures are subject to randomized double-blinded placebo control studies. In layman terms, this is when scientists discern the inherent potency of a medication (usually pills) by giving one test group the actual pill and the second test group a sugar pill. The sugar pill is labeled as the actual medication, revealing to scientists whether or not the new medication is merely placebo—a substance absent of therapeutic effect. It’s a gold standard in medical research, and before healthcare providers promote a treatment, they must first ensure that it passes this particular test.

But here is the problem: cupping therapy cannot be tested in this way. We cannot contain it in a sugar pill; neither can we manufacture a placebo, cup-suctioning substitute for a blind audience. Either you undergo cupping therapy or you don’t. Because of this very testing limitation, we find that most health care practitioners overlook cupping therapy as a viable treatment plan.

Does this mean cupping is a no-go?!

Definitely not! There is no shortage of medical research suggesting the benefits of cupping therapy. Using the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (PubMed) databases alone, a quick search of the treatment will generate over 300 studies. And their findings are revelatory. Here’s a titillating tidbit: cupping, as these studies suggest, carries a multidimensional role in various diseases, including acne, herpes zoster, paralysis, pain management, digestive health, migraines, as well as several others.

Let’s take migraines, for example—you know, that thing your co-worker is experiencing every time he dims the office lights, lies on his desk, and demands absolute silence. Migraines are sometimes compared to “giving birth through your forehead.” Beside pounding head pain, other symptoms of a migraine include nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and complete debility to adult. Cupping, it seems, can actually reduce the severity and frequency of migraines by 66 percent! In a recent study, 95 percent of migraine-suffering patients showed a significant improvement in the severity of headaches after wet cupping. Amazing, isn’t it?

Another overlooked benefit of cupping is its laxative-like effect on children’s constipation. All too often, when soups and juicy fruits don’t do the trick and the bathroom battles persist, parents turn to standard laxatives. One of the most effective of these laxatives is Miralax-Polyethylene glycol. Now check this out: a recent study compared dry cupping to Miralax for treating children’s constipation, and it concluded that dry cupping of the abdominal wall is as effective as the laxative prescription, but without the side effects! Some patients reported neuropsychiatric issues and behavioral problems—paranoia, mood swings, aggression, and anxiety, just to name a few—in children after regular use of Miralax. So while cupping is unconventional, it’s a risk-free alternative to your child’s constipation issues… Just something to think about!

What other benefits can cupping offer?

Cupping is also evaluated in randomized clinical trial for the treatment of pain associated with herpes zoster (shingles). The study showed that the wet-cupping therapy was superior to western medication for shingles, and also reduced the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia.

Cupping boosts the circulatory and immune systems, cleanses and detoxifies the body, improves pain, and relaxes muscles. It increases blood circulation, which can relieve muscle tension, improve overall blood flow, and promote cell repair. Although more studies are needed to fully investigate its mechanism of action, there is plenty of evidence supporting its place in therapy. Cupping is an excellent way to improve overall health, especially when coupled with lifestyle changes. It is also safest and most effective when performed by properly trained and certified practitioners.

Final words…

While dark, circular bruises aren’t the best accessory to your work outfit or party dress, they symbolize your commitment to risk-free, holistic healing practices. They symbolize your pursuit of wellness and vitality. So let cupping therapy be your elixir from all kinds of physical ailments you experience this year. Give it a try! It is risk-free, after all.

Dr. Dawood is a Certified Cupping (Hijama) Therapist and performs various types of cupping at her clinic.

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