People have been taking antacids for indigestion, acid reflux, and heartburn since 1930, when Tums was first introduced as an over-the-counter medication. In the short-term, Tums do the job. But long-term use is where trouble enters the picture. Antacids are used to treat gastro esophageal reflux disease – often called GERD. GERD is defined as chronic heartburn that occurs two or more times a week.
The fact is that 100 million Americans actually turn off their stomach acid secretions almost completely, by the long-term use of antacids. And that means they cannot digest their food. So the body becomes chronically malnourished. They constantly feel hungry, but never feel satisfied.
“Tums for the Tummy!” the well-known advertising slogan seems as innocent as Dr. Mom. What could be wrong with Tums? These calcium-based antacids come in capsules, syrup, and chewable tablets flavored with peppermint, and berries, as well as four appealing colors. Many people pop them like candy. Some even use them as a source of calcium to keep their bones strong.
Rolaids is another well-known calcium-based antacid. Calcium-based antacids are sold as alternatives to aluminum-based, sodium-based, and magnesium-based antacids. They all, however, address the same problem, acid indigestion or heartburn. And they all carry health risks that many people are unaware of.
Why Are Antacids So Popular?
Antacids are used to treat gastro esophageal reflux disease – often called GERD. GERD is defined as chronic heartburn that occurs two or more times a week.
Heartburn is Caused by a Lack of Stomach Acid
According to the Merck Manual 1966, it’s a little known fact that heartburn is not necessarily due, as formerly believed, to excessive gastric acidity, since the same symptoms often occur with the absence of stomach acid. Heartburn and GERD are more often caused by a deficiency or lack of acid, than by too much of it. How is that? Because both too much acidity and too little acidity cause bloating, gas and stomach pain – the same symptoms.
The Truth About Antacids for Seniors
As we age less stomach acid is produced. Between 30 and 60% of those over age 60, do not produce enough stomach acid. So older people who are told that they have too much acidity and are prescribed antacids, may actually be making their condition worse.
Our digestive system needs acid to digest the foods we eat. If you turn off your acid secretions, you will not get the full benefit of the foods you eat, because they don’t get properly digested. Stomach acid is needed to digest protein. If your body has trouble digesting proteins, this will set you up for food sensitivities, food intolerances and allergies.
How to Determine If You Have Too Much or Too Little Stomach Acid
A simple PH test will give the true picture. The Heidelberg pH Diagnostic System can measure the amount of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. Your doctor also has access to other tests, if you request an evaluation to see if you really have too much acid or not enough. However, you may have to insist on a test.
Naturopaths will do a comprehensive stool analysis. When they see undigested vegetable and meat fibers in stool, they will know which approach to take in the treatment of your heartburn.
Are Antacids a Beneficial Source of Calcium for the Bones?
Because some calcium-based antacids are advertised as a good source of supplemental calcium, some consumers, especially older women, may overuse them in an effort to stave off osteoporosis. It’s ironic that the type of calcium used in antacids – calcium carbonate – is an inorganic form of the mineral, which is poorly absorbed in an environment that neutralizes, the very acid it needs, to incorporate calcium into the bones.
Calcium requires an acid environment to be properly absorbed by the body. So you can see that the calcium carbonates in antacids are actually a very poor source of calcium.
What Happens if You Take Acid-blocking Medications Over the Long-Term?
Stomach acid is our first line of defense against pathogenic bacteria. Stomach acid controls the pH (acidity and alkalinity) in the gut. We need proper pH so the friendly bacteria can thrive, and the unfriendly bacteria can die off. Acid suppressors like antacids create conditions conducive to yeast and fungal overgrowth. They can also mask symptoms of an ulcer, or even cancer of the stomach or esophagus. Antacids increase your chances of developing health problems like pneumonia, osteoporosis, bone fractures, and H. pilori infections.
Is it Heartburn or Acid Reflux?
Heartburn is what you feel when stomach acid splashes up and out of the stomach. Acid reflux is when stomach acid splashes up from the stomach into the esophagus. The word ‘heartburn’ is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘acid reflux’.
Here is Dr. Mercola speaking about the Real Causes of Acid Reflux
Leaky Gut Syndrome
“Leaky Gut Syndrome” has become epidemic in the population. This occurs when undigested food particles escape into the bloodstream, through the gut wall, causing immune reaction problems. Leaky Gut sets the stage for inflammation to take over the body. Inflammation is the root cause of most disease.
It starts with mild symptoms of headaches, skin problems, joint aches and pains, diarrhea, nausea, and constipation, and progresses from there. How do you think we might inadvertently open the door to Leaky Gut Syndrome?
What Are the Alternatives to Taking Antacids?
There are healthier ways to treat heartburn. Here are some things you can do.
1. It might be a good idea to see your medical doctor or naturopath for a test to see how much stomach acidity you actually have.
2. Keep your bowels functioning well with lots of fibre in your diet. If you need more help try Dr. Natura’s Colonix Advanced Internal Cleansing Program One of the best!
3. Remove sensitive foods from your diet.
4. Normalize your cell functions with increased water intake, and Omega-3’s
(See Vectomega – a new way to get your Omega-3’s) I take one everyday.
5. Take a good probiotic. I like Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora Critical Care 50 Billion, 60-Count
6. Check for the presence of H. pilori or Candida.
7. Take a digestive enzyme see below. to make sure you are digesting your food. Some healthy digestive enzyme alternatives are listed below.
For Immediate Relief of Stomach Upset
Dr. Russell Blaylock (August 2011 Blaylock Wellness Report) recommends taking DGL Plus. DGL stands for deglycyrrhizinated licorice root. DGL Plus comes in a powder form in capsules, and is made of these natural ingredients: deglycyrrhizinated licorice root, slippery elm, aloe vera extract, and marshmallow root extract.
Recommended Ways to Take DGL Plus
Take 2 capsules at the first sign of a problem. It works as fast as the capsule dissolves, maybe 2 or 3 minutes.
If you need faster relief for more serious esophageal problems you can fully coat your stomach by doing this. Into a glass bottle, add half a cup of distilled or filtered water, and take 3 of the capsules apart and empty them into the water. Shake well and drink. Shaking the mixture will cause it to foam. This foam will help coat the stomach and provide you with rapid relief.
Note: If you have to take aspirin or NSAIDs regularly, taking this liquid mixture beforehand will protect your esophagus and stomach from damage.
Healthy Digestive Enzyme Alternatives to Taking Antacids
Heartburn Stop, 30 Chewable Tablets
A natural digestive enzyme supplement that also gently modulates gastric acid secretion. It contains a blend of fava bean, raspberry, aloe vera, pomegranate, apple pectin, papaya and papain. Also contains Calcium and Magnesium, and L-glutamine, which repairs the stomach lining and reduces inflammation.
IndigestionStop – 60 Veggie Caps
Digestive enzymes help break down protein, carbs, fats and vegetable fiber Natural indigestion-stop remedy. Contains: Betaine HCl, ginger, gentian, meadowsweet, peppermint and more natural ingredients. Helps soothe a sour stomach and nourish intestines.
Heartburn Prevention 60 capsules Hydrochloric acid levels can become deficient with age, stress, smoking and poor diet. When levels of hydrochloric acid are deficient, a person may be unable to thoroughly digest protein and may experience heartburn. Heartburn Prevention helps break down proteins, carbs and fats. Provides a missing component for proper digestion and stomach function in individuals who produce too little stomach acid. For occasional heartburn.
Taking a Proactive Stance
Rather than continuing on a path that will eventually lead to more health problems, isn’t it better to try healthy alternatives that you know will support your system, and keep you strong? Now you know the facts about antacids and heartburn, you can make some wise and informed choices.
Source: The Road to Perfect Health: Balance Your Gut, Heal Your Body – A Modern Guide to Curing Chronic Disease – Brenda Watson