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!


Think Again Before You Reach For This Pain Killer!

Think Again Before You Reach For This Pain Killer!

Between splitting headaches, periods, and muscle soreness, millions of Americans turn to a trusted companion for momentary relief: pain killers. These seemingly harmless pills are everywhere, and their existence is as plentiful as the number of symptoms they promise to treat. They populate the purses of women, the desk drawers of office workers, and they can be exchanged between strangers with a passing question: “Hey, got any pain killers on you?”

…and pop! goes the bottle.

Among the top selling painkillers is a particular category called “NSAIDs,” which stands for “non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.” NSAIDs are readily available and can be purchased as casually as you would a box of bandaids: over the counter, with or without prescription. Most people don’t even think twice before reaching out for these pills. When battling sniffles or body aches, they quickly summon the magical powers of an Ibuprofen (Advil) or Naproxen (Aleve) pill for quick relief. But what eludes us in the fine print is the side effects brought upon us by these pills. They can trigger serious health problems, including health complications that lead to death. In fact, NSAIDs cause over 16,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

Let’s Dissect the Issue

The ease at which we purchase these pills, their accessibility, their discounted prices—all of these convince us of their safety. We can pick them up with drive-thru-like convenience. But here’s the catch: everyone who takes NSAID painkillers is left with some degree of health damage. And the longer you take them, the worse it gets. Studies show that people who take NSAIDs for arthritis pain over the period of a year suffer more joint damage than those who take nothing at all. NSAIDs, ironically, inhibit your body’s ability to build cartilage (a necessary function for joint health). On the contrary, they promote cartilage destruction.

NSAIDs are also notorious for eating up healthy gut lining, thereby causing ulcers, internal bleeding, and gastrointestinal perforation. These gut complications, as common as they can be, are like silent saboteurs; they crawl up on painkiller-dependants with no warning, especially when their victims have no prior history of stomach issues. The outcome is even worse when NSAIDs are taken with alcohol. In fact, an Ibuprofen accompanied by your evening glass of wine can increase your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding by fourfold.

So it is no secret that NSAIDs damage the tissues in our digestive system. And since an unhealthy gut is the gateway to most human diseases, these pills often trigger several diseases and health conditions that are far worse than the mild symptoms NSAIDs attempt to treat.

Wait, There’s More…

Another less recognized adverse effect of NSAIDs is increased intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut.” Imagine this: for every pain, for every rash, for every soreness, you reach for a painkiller, and with time, these pills begin to thin your intestinal lining, thereby widening the spaces between cells, allowing larger, undigested food particles and toxins to leak from the gut and into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation, which ultimately leads to allergies, autoimmune diseases, depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and in some cases, cancer.

Still not convinced? Here’s another list of health risks from prolonged NSAID use:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney/liver failure
  • Hearing loss
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Skin rashes
  • Increased sun sensitivity
  • Anemia
  • Vision problems
  • Pancreatic problems

Aspirin is also classified as an NSAID. In our medical database is a collection of studies linking regular use of Aspirin to an increased risk of  macular degeneration, an eye condition where eye vessels leak blood into the retina causing damage, distorted vision, and even blindness. So if you take aspirin regularly for its cardiovascular health benefits, be sure to have your vision checked regularly.

Sleepless in the PM

Remember the last time you tossed and turned in bed, worried that insomnia was upon you? In those moments, most Americans fumble for an Advil PM or an Aleve PM to get their much needed z’s. But did you know that these pills actually play with your sleep hormone, Melatonin, which alone causes insomnia? They are a major culprit, studies show, in reducing Melatonin production and causing sleep disturbance. It is as though these pills are counteragents to the very problems they are supposed to solve.

For Your Information…

They say ignorance is bliss, but undue ignorance about the chemicals and pills you consume is a danger to your wellbeing. So do yourself a favor and be aware of these common over-the-counter NSAIDs; also keep in mind the damage they bring from long-term use.

  • Ibuprofen (Advil®)
  • Naproxen (Aleve®)
  • Aspirin (Bayer®)

Prescription brands of these painkiller medications include:

  • Celecoxib (Celebrex®)
  • Diclofenac (Voltaren®)
  • Etodolac (Lodine®)
  • Fenoprefen (Nalfon®)
  • Indomethacin (Indocin®)
  • Ketoprofen (Orudis®, Oruvail®)
  • Ketoralac (Toradol®)
  • Oxaprozin (Daypro®)
  • Nabumetone (Relafen®)
  • Sulindac (Clinoril®)
  • Tolmetin (Tolectin®)

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

Welcome to the Enaya Community! To receive promotions, free resources, weekly newsletters, and a calendar of our upcoming events, please fill out your information below. Thank you!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest