older man with heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion

Q. Do you have a diet for helping me survive omeprazole detox? Your book Best Choices alerted me to the dangers of the drug and I want to end my addiction. When I forgot to take the drug two days in a row, I experienced heartburn hell.

Earlier I tried to take myself off the drug, but I could only stand it for a week. Now I can’t skip one day without wanting to die.

A. Stopping powerful acid-suppressing drugs like omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium) or lansoprazole (Prevacid) can be tough. (We have written about this problem before.)

In one study, even people who had never had heartburn before developed it when they abruptly stopped taking omeprazole  (Reimer C, et al. Gastroenterology, July, 2009). The fact that rebound heartburn symptoms can be even worse than the initial problem being treated explains your difficulty stopping the medicine.

In another study, some healthy volunteers took placebo pills while others took pantoprazole (Protonix) for a month. When they stopped their medicine, those who had been on placebo had very little change in their digestive symptoms, while those who had taken pantoprazole had significant digestive distress (American Journal of Gastroenterology, July, 2010).

Company in Your Misery

You have plenty of company. Many visitors have reported trouble getting off omeprazole or other PPI drugs. KH reported:

“A few months ago I went to my doctor complaining of occasional nausea and stomach pain a few hours after going to bed. After having a blood test done to ensure nothing serious was going on, she suggested that I take Prilosec OTC for a 28 day cycle to repair my stomach lining. It seemed to work great! Last week was my first week Prilosec free and even though I only took it for 28 days my body was a mess.

“I had nausea and stomach pain frequently, had bad headaches, felt weak and generally had no energy. I went back to the doctor at the end of the week and she suggested I go back on the Prilosec. I have been really hesitant to do so because she gave me no end date, only told me I should keep taking it as long as I needed. I found this site just in time! I will definitely be looking up natural remedies to cure my issues.”

Joe discussed this phenomenon with NPR reporter Richard Knox several years ago. Gradual reduction of the dose, if possible, is a good tactic.

Tips for Getting Off Omeprazole

Diet

The effort to stop the medication is worthwhile. Such proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPIs) have multiple frightening side effects, especially when used for a long time. The most recent bad news on this front is that such medications can increase the risk of a heart attack by about 20% (PLoS One, June 10, 2015).

In addition to avoiding the foods that generally cause you heartburn, you might want to experiment with a low-carb diet. One small study found that when obese individuals followed a very low-carb diet, similar to Dr. Atkins’ recommendations, their reflux symptoms improved and they had less acid splashing up into the lower part of the esophagus (Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Aug. 2006).

Almonds

A number of people have reported that eating a small quantity of almonds after a meal can ward off symptoms of heartburn. Dr. Crystal wrote:

“I have a new patient with severe heartburn. (I find taking a person off their allergens usually clears it up permanently.)

“I saw her yesterday and she had a strong aggravation during our visit. I watched her stop it almost immediately with 2 almonds. She says it works every time.”

We should caution that some individuals report almonds make their symptoms worse, although many report that it helps as much as medication, if not more. Stella suggests sipping almond milk for reflux relief.

Vegetables

Some readers are enthusiastic about broccoli as a heartburn remedy. One fellow who calls himself Luke Skywalker reported that cutting out meat, flour and sugar and drinking a cup of freshly made vegetable juice twice a day was his ticket to alleviating heartburn symptoms. Another visitor wrote:

“During the first two weeks I ate 1/2 cup of broccoli a day (sometimes raw, sometimes cooked). I was able to stop taking Prilosec.

“Now I make sure to eat broccoli at least twice a week. I haven’t had any problems with reflux in more than a year.”

Probiotics

Other possible dietary remedies include fermented foods. One person wrote that drinking homemade sauerkraut juice eased symptoms quickly, perhaps due to the beneficial probiotic microorganisms in sauerkraut. Such bacteria have been shown to relieve digestive symptoms (Gut Microbes, Nov.-Dec., 2010).

Other remedies that people have tried and liked include eating half a banana, drinking bitters in club soda, swallowing a spoonful of yellow mustard and chewing sugarless gum. There are even studies demonstrating the value of chewing sugar-free gum to fight reflux symptoms (Journal of Dental Research, Nov., 2005; Journal of Dietary Supplements, June, 2015).

Herbal Remedies

One very helpful botanical medicine is deglycyrrhizinated licorice, DGL. Glycyrrhizin is one of the active compounds in licorice and gives licorice root its sweetness, but it can cause side effects such as high blood pressure. Removing the glycyrrhizin allows other ingredients in licorice to go to work calming heartburn symptoms. The usual recommendation is to take DGL twenty minutes before each meal.

Cayenne pepper extract is less common as a heartburn remedy, but a number of readers have testified that taking cayenne pills or adding Tabasco or other hot pepper concentrate to a beverage can prevent or reverse the discomfort of heartburn.

Another botanical medicine that is often very helpful is ginger. Ginger has been used for centuries to ease digestive distress, especially nausea but also reflux symptoms. We suspect that ginger is responsible for the benefit so many people have noted from using “Persimmon Punch.”

The Amazing Persimmon Punch Story:

Q. I have been taking acid-suppressing drugs like omeprazole for more than 20 years.

After reading about the side effects of such drugs, I am ready to quit. I understand that this can be painful.

I read about persimmon punch on your website and would like to try it to avoid heartburn. How often should I take it?

A. People who take proton pump inhibitors (PPI) such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec) may experience rebound hyperacidity if they stop their drug abruptly (Gastroenterology, July, 2009).  Symptoms of reflux can last for weeks.

One reader phased off omeprazole over seven months by reducing the dose gradually. According to people who have used persimmon punch in this effort, it helps to drink two ounces before each meal.

The first time we heard about persimmon punch, it was from a woman who had eaten in a Korean restaurant:

“Someone ordered Persimmon Punch, a concentrated cinnamon-ginger drink, for dessert. A few sips later, I felt fantastic. After a month of adding 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon-ginger drink to my tea morning and night, my heartburn was in control.”

You can find the more details on the Persimmon Punch recipe along with Tips from Dr. Tieraona Low Dog for getting off PPIs in our Guide to Digestive Disorders.

DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice)

Q. Stopping omeprazole (Prilosec) is really hard. When I tried, my heartburn came back worse than ever. I heard a report on public radio last year that when people stop this kind of medicine they experience rebound acidity that leads to bad heartburn.

An Internet search revealed a number of folks using deglycyrrhizinated licorice extract (DGL) to manage their reflux. When I asked at my local health food store, I learned that many people claim DGL has helped them get off omeprazole.

I went cold turkey off the omeprazole and chewed two 400 mg DGL tablets before each meal. If it was a particularly spicy meal (garlic is a culprit for me), I used an additional tablet after the meal. I followed this regimen for several months and then stopped altogether.

Today I seldom need the DGL, but when I do, I chew a single tablet for immediate relief. I continue to be amazed how effective this is.

A. Licorice that has not had glycyrrhizin removed could be dangerous. People who overdose on natural licorice may experience hypertension, headaches, hormonal imbalance and reduced libido.

DGL, on the other hand, appears much safer. It has been prescribed in Europe and South America to treat ulcers (Gut, June, 1985). Others tell us that DGL can help in gradual withdrawal from acid-suppressing drugs such as omeprazole.

Apple Cider Vinegar…Really!

Surprisingly, many people find that taking apple cider vinegar in a glass of water alleviates symptoms quickly.

And of course, dissolving a half teaspoon of baking soda in four ounces of water and drinking it is an old-fashioned but effective heartburn remedy. Don’t overdose, though and don’t combine the baking soda and vinegar; that would create a dramatically foaming concoction reminiscent of a grade-school volcano project.

Our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, has details on many of these remedies.

Revised February 19, 2016

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  1. whisperingsage
    Northeastern California
    Reply

    The thing most doctors seem to have slept through in their anatomy/Physiology class is that normal stomach acid is about a 1 pH. Vinegar is about a 4 pH. Or….maybe they have a different agenda. More on that later.

    As a nurse, on night shift, I have had the honor of waking people up at 4 am to give them their prilosec. (before I was on it myself, but I still knew what a bad drug it was to be on. ) Some of these rehab patients asked me what it was and what it was for, their doctors evidently didn’t believe in full disclosure even though it is a pt’s right. When I told them, they told me they didn’t have any problems with their stomach and refused to take it. I was good with that (pt right to refuse). Since then, night shift stressed me to the point of enlarging my duodenal ulcer (no not GERD), to the point of hospitalization and 5 pints of whole blood given which just brought my Hemoglobin up to 10. Telling me I could stop the prilosec after 2 weeks. Nope, vomiting returned. I have reduced the dose to 10 mg, but every time I try to reduce further, vomiting returns. I have tried all the natural suggestions mentioned here, and some, am continuing to take DGL licorice, carnosine, (rat studies show it is effective)krill oil, vitamin E, vitamin K2, all the 90 essential nutrients, cayenne, (before bed as it puts me to sleep but is supposed to be a mucous builder), GLA oil, now even though I am always negative for H pylori , and gluten intolerance, am trying the gluten free / low carb ( having stuck with whole grains and real butter-[butyric acid is healing]), glycine, cabbage, fermented cabbage, and more to rebuild my villi. If I do have an allergy to grains, it should heal in a week. Good luck to me. I handled my ulcer since 2009 with pepcid, not happy with that but certainly not as bad as PPI’s. Ppi’s DESTROY THE PROTON PUMPS OF ALL YOUR CELLS. This is not good. Also, it is a KNOWN destroyer of MITOCHONDRIA. Those are your powerhouses folks. Your energy molecule makers. I have been on Prilosec since getting out of the hospital in 2015. And I know it is killing me. Some estimates people on it for 5 years increase their death rates. I KNOW it has raised my blood sugar in spite of good dietary control, it has caused unreasonable weight gain, it has caused fatigue, i feel like I am going to have a heart attack in spite of being on all the heart support nutrients for over 30 years. No endurance, can’t go back to work to pay for life. Burden on hubby to pay for my nutrients. (I make him take nutrients too).

    Back to the docs. If they are ignorant enough to not know PPI’s cause mitochondrial destruction, then that’s a problem. But maybe they do know, and maybe there is a reason they prescribe it to patients that have no stomach problems, could it be that they are deliberately causing more medical problems so they will have faithful patients? I have begun to think that.
    Note this, we go no training on this in nursing school. I had to go looking for this info just like everybody here.

  2. Carol
    Maryland
    Reply

    After being on omeprazole for years, I learned about the worrisome side effects and decided to taper off my dose and try a non-pharmeceutical approach to controlling my GERD. In addition to completely avoiding trigger foods, I began taking a daily capsule of 1000 mg of d-Limonene, an orange peel extract. It has been a miracle for me. Usually one capsule in the morning controls my GERD all day. But if I happen to have reflux during the day, another capsule does the trick. The only side effect I’ve noticed is a very occasional reflux/burp that might taste of orange. It happens rarely and lasts for a second or two, and is not unpleasant. This may not work for everyone, but it’s sure worth a try. I make sure I always have a couple of backup bottles of d-Limonene, because I never want to be without it.

  3. Donna
    New Jersey
    Reply

    Been on Prilosec since 2005 which is 13 years. For the last two years I have had low red blood cell levels, and now anemia. I should have gone for endoscopy sooner but kept putting it off and now I have been feeling very tired and irritable, worried I might end up needing a blood transfusion if I don’t get off Prilosec. Have an appointment with the GI doctor but have tried to wean myself off Prilosec and 3rd day I can’t stand it so cold turkey isn’t working. Took a prilosec today against my better judgement but couldn’t stand the side effects. Will try Zantax tomorrow since I am concerned about the anemia getting worse.

  4. Judy
    Reply

    I have a history of ulcers diagnosed 3 different times. So many years ago I was put on Omeprazole 20mg for a couple of years, and then, after the second time I had an ulcer they increased it to 20mg 2X day. Until recently I did not have problems but now am having several different problems, all of which could trace back to side effects of Omeprazole. My mouth is so sore I can’t wear my dentures. I occasionally get very short of breath, have trouble maintaining my weight (lose very easily if I don’t increase calories). I would love to come off the drug, as I have been on it continuously for probably 15yrs. These comments have helped me.

  5. Holly
    Montana
    Reply

    I have been taking omeprazole since 2010. It was prescribed at 20 mg 2x per day to counteract side effects of chemotherapy. My last chemo was 9/2015 and I wanted off all drugs so l reduced my dose to 20 mg 1x per day. Reflux and heartburn came back worse than before. Have been at 40mg 1x per day since then. Recently realized something important. My diet has been contributing to the bulk of my problem. I noticed digestion trouble after eating nightshade and lectin foods. And large amounts made it worse. My naturopath said l have too little acid in my stomach. I think this is common in people with Type A+ blood. Since changing my diet, I have no nighttime reflux. And not eating at least 3 hours before bedtime has really helped. On 4/8 I started weaning off the drug. I began by adding 3 hours the first day, then 5 days, and so on. For example, my dose was taken at 9am the first day. I added 3 hours then the second day took the dose at 12pm. The third day, 5 hours was added. So instead of 12pm, I took the dose at 5pm. And so on. It is now 4/14 and my last dose was 4/11 at 10:30pm. Taking it on an empty stomach with no meal to follow was a lesson learned the hard way (heartburn in the night). I honestly can say this has been easier than expected. I have been drinking a lot of ginger tea, occasional antacids, adding benefiber 3x per day, and liquid vitamins. Even though there are still mild reactions, I am feeling much better and it’s only been 3-1/2 days. I am hopeful that l can continue to improve by watching what l eat and staying hydrated. I appreciate all the stories shared here as I realize l am not alone. I am very grateful for the suggestions given to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Blessings to you all on your journey to take control of your body. Peace

    • whisperingsage
      Northeastern California
      Reply

      Tell us what your diet changed to, from what to what?

  6. Michele
    MD
    Reply

    I’m coming off omeprazole after about 10 years. Luckily my heartburn is almost completely gone, but remaining side effect is that I’m nauseous a lot of the time and don’t know what to do about that? Anyone else have this symptom? Thanks for any help!

  7. Laura
    Ky
    Reply

    2 stalks of Celery or sip of pickle juice or eating a pickle this Works for me! If I feel it coming on I will snack and before I am done it is gone!! I have weaned myself off Omeprazole slowly after 5 or 6 years. Did not know you are only suppose to take it for up to 14 days they never told me that part and then only twice a year and not back to back. After having trouble digesting certain foods,… and now Osteoarthritis and few other issues I have made a change. For me it is not because of to much acid in the stomach it is Not Enough Acid in the stomach. Don’t get me wrong the pill worked,..but I realized was causing other issues over time. It blocks what little acid you already have causing less to break down foods properly so certain foods try an come back up. SOme times feels like you swallowed a sponge. This works for me is all I am saying.

  8. Bev
    Seattle,Wa
    Reply

    I had taken Prilosec and then the Generic Omneprosole for over 15 years. Every time I tried to stop I got increased heartburn. Then last year I got extremely tired and out of breath if I climbed up a short stairway in the house. Went to my Dr. and told him symptoms -so he had me take several blood tests including one for iron level. He called me that evening at 9pm and told me to get a cab and get to local ER. Turns out that I had almost no iron in my body – they had to do a blood transfusion. The thinking is that taking PPIs longterm dries up your acids (good) in your intestine and makes it hard to absorb minerals/iron (bad).

    They had me do all tests: colonoscopy, endoscopy, camera endoscopy, mammogram. No blood loss found. It was due to longterm use of PPIs not absorbing iron and other minerals for health. I almost died from Anemia. I got over-the-counter bottles of acid controller and /or acid reducer. These are not addictive, and I can take one 30 mins before breakfast and /or 30 minutes before dinner. When the heartburn is then under control I will sometimes take an acid controller at night if I lie down and feel a bit of heartburn.

    I’ve been doing this now for 18 months, and I’m way better and haven’t had to take supplemental iron pills. Also never quit PPIs cold turkey – ease off over 2 or 3 months – every other day, every 3 days, and so on. There are several UK articles that want a black box put on PPIs. So have your Doc check your Iron level ASAP. That’s what makes red blood cells, and that’s what I didn’t have – made me out of breath climbing up stairs (not a problem going down). Good luck!

  9. Rick
    Tennessee
    Reply

    Very confusing subject! I have read articles such as this for many years since GERD has been a problem for me for many years. I decided to quit PPIs about four years ago, and I came off of them at a very slow pace. After a year off of PPIs my GERD came back very strong and with a lot of complications including ulcers and an inflamed esophagus. Had an endoscopy, and it confirmed I had done considerable damage by getting off of the PPIs. Had to go back on a high dose of 40mg twice a day, as my condition was determined to be serious. Gave me instant relief. After a few months I decided to cut back to 20mg twice a day. All OK so I went to 20mg once a day. I am now on 10mg every other day and doing quite well.

    Last week I decided to see the gastro doctor and discuss the PPIs and see if I can cut back further. The doctor told me that my concerns about PPIs have not been proven to be true, as the studies were not conclusive. He said I was fortunate I could stay without symptoms of GERD with taking 10mg every other day. He stated some people can do this but suggested I stay at that level and do not go lower. He stated that my condition was extremely bad before when I quit the PPIs 100%. He felt that if I could control the GERD with 10mg every other day that I should stay at that level. Otherwise he felt that serious consequences would follow. After our long discussion I tend to agree with him. Do I wish I was off of the PPIs altogether? Absolutely. Did I have much choice following his advice? Not really, as I do not want the terrible effects of GERD to return and do damage that might lead to a major problem. Just wish “true facts” were more available so people could make informed choices. That is the frustrating part of these meds. What facts are actually true, and what facts are overhyped?

  10. Joe
    NY
    Reply

    I have been taking Prilosec for years. I did stop at one point by going on a banana only diet for 7 days and had no heart burn. Then went back to normal foods and after a few months the heartburn came back and am now gradually back on Prilosec. I take one every 3 days. I would like to get off of it totally. I am going to start cutting the pill in half and taking half a pill every 3 days.

    • MArshallt1
      United States
      Reply

      I need to caution you in splitting a pill in half. There is a coating on the pill that delays the release of the active ingredient. Cutting pill in half exposes ingredient immediately upon administering.

      • Judy
        Reply

        I thought they were a time release capsule??? Mine has always been a cap.

      • whisperingsage
        Northeastern California
        Reply

        But the prilosec doesn’t just work on your stomach, it gets into your blood and it goes to every cell in your body, and destroys the proton pumps all over every tissue in your body, ALL Cells have proton pumps in the membrane to allow molecules in and out of the cell. Especially affected are the proton pumps in our organelles inside the cells, the mitochodria. These are the powerhouses of the cell, they produce ATP, the energy molecule. The longer a person is on PPI’s the more Mitochondria have been destroyed and the more symptoms a person is going to have. Mortality is pretty high in PPI users for a reason.

  11. J
    Uk
    Reply

    Hi

    Took omeprazole 20 mg daily dor years and was told I had damaged gut lining by use of alendronic acid for osteoporosis.
    Over a period of about a year I very, very gradually reduced the dose to 10 mg daily. Not always easy but at the end of the year had no gut problems.

    About 2 months ago started making my own milk Kefir and am now PPI free but struggling some days.

    Will persevere but Kefir (home made) is definitely a very great help

  12. Trudy
    Minneapolis
    Reply

    I took Prilosec for over 15 years and have recently weaned myself off it. It was not fun and it takes perseverance, even when you do not feel good. The best product I can recommend is Metagenics Glutagenics…it contains glutamide, DGL and aloe to help soothe your intestinal tract. I use it 3-4 times a day. Good luck!

    • Judy
      Reply

      How do you make homemade kefir?

  13. Aleta
    West Virginia
    Reply

    I stopped taking Prilosec 5 weeks ago after 6 years. Substituting Pepcid is only partly successful. Every day I experience extreme pain, much stomach gas, and occasional vomiting under the new regime. Convinced that Prilosec itself creates a syndrome of pain only Prilosec can relieve. Angry that this drug is OTC to cause addiction. Should not be OTC, and anyone trying to withdraw from Prilosec addiction should have costs paid.

  14. Lilian
    Reply

    I read all the comments here while looking for a solution for my husband’s digestive disorders. It was diagnosed as mild gastritis and eosophagitis but it made him hate his life.
    I believe that the Omeprazole he was put on definitely made his symptoms worse. He got anemia and diabetic neuropathy as an addition but reading through all of your comments made me come up with a protocol that has kept him stable, eating and going about his normal life for the last 2 weeks
    DGL ultra, doctors best pepzin gi Zinc L carnosine, Digestive enzymes, Slippery elm and Marshmallow root capsules also B12 methycoblamin, active B complex with folate and this is the way he takes them
    B12 – monday, wednesday and friday
    B complex – tuesday, thursday and saturday
    Dgl ultra – every morning 45 mins before food
    Digestive enzyme – with afternoon meal
    Pepzin GI L Carnosine – 45 mins before evening meal
    1 capsule each of slippery elm and marshmallow when he wakes to go pee at night
    and he now sleeps well and has begun to add weight and his whole outlook on life is totally reversed and optimistic.
    And the plus is on this protocol he can eat most decent meals including a little milk

  15. Matt
    Reply

    I am hoping to quit this drug myself- I always correct people who call it “medicine”. It’s nothing that truly heals you so that doesn’t apply- it’s a drug. I’ve been on it for about 4 years. I was hospitalized in 2013 for 2 weeks with Pancreatitis which is God Awful. I recall having an episode of heartburn & the Doctor gave me something which worked, but I didn’t take Nexium that whole time. I really wish I would’ve stayed away once I left the hospital because I think I would have been Ok. Now I have a Vit D Deficiency (taking about 15K IU’s a day now) and I cannot eat like I did before. I really hope I can ween off & I’m cutting pills down from 20mg to about 10mg. I may try alternating a day if I can get down to 5mg, or maybe try @ this lower dose which I’ve done for about 3 weeks.

  16. Matt
    Peoria, IL
    Reply

    Hi Lisa, did this actually work for you? I have read many posts in forums about sickness actually helping/working. I want to quit as well & have been trying to ween already, cut the 20mg pills down to about 10. Maybe a good Flu is all I need!

  17. Davy
    NH
    Reply

    I had been on Prilosec for 10 years for heartburn when I decided to get off it for fear of side effects. The withdrawal heartburn was horrible but gradually subsided with Zantac which is an H2 blocker, not a PPi. However, since then off and on I have abdominal cramps and anal leakage especially worse after drinking red wine and caffeine. I’ve relied on greater frequency of Zantac and am now considering a Pro biotic.
    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks

    • C.A,
      chicago
      Reply

      Just wondering if you would react to an alkaline drink? I like lemon juice and water with honey. I take two Zantac morning and night and have been off Prilosec for 2 weeks now without pain. This is the longest I have ever gone without getting back on Prilosec because of the heartburn return. Probiotics help a lot.

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