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  (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. Palmer Reneau
    Reply

    I truly enjoy reading on this web site. It contains superb blog posts. “I have a new philosophy: I’m only going to dread one day at a time.” by Charles M. Schulz.

  2. Monica
    Reply

    I have been on Omeprazole 20mg (1 a day) for the past 3 weeks. I’ve had a massive headache for the past week and half that I went to the ER for a head scan but came back normal.
    I swear it’s the omeprazole that is probably making me vitamin B deficient.

    If I quit cold turkey, would I have the same symptoms as all of you?

    need help
    thanks

  3. nancy
    14626
    Reply

    I was never really concerned about taking Omeprazole, until my boyfriend spoke to our doctor about her prescribing this medication to him for his heartburn and stomach problems. She told him he can only use it for a short time to see if it helps and then slowly reduce to none.

    He asked her how come I am still on them and have been for many years and her reply was I am all ready addicted to them and that it would probably be too late to take me off of them. This statement is what made me more interested in my research now.

  4. Barbara
    UK
    Reply

    Really happy to tell everyone I have no reflux since drinking tea made with a tablespoon of freshly cut ginger, adding a little honey to sweeten. Make it in the mornings with enough water for 3 mugs in a saucepan. Needs simmering for 3 to 5 minutes. Simply have to warm the rest up which I drink about 5:00pm and finally before going to bed.

  5. ann mccabe
    glasgow
    Reply

    I do not suffer heartburn I hava small hernia and wen I forget to take omerazopole mmy food will not pass my throat v v uncomfortable choking feeling

  6. Sue
    Michigan
    Reply

    I have been on PPIs for 11 years. First on 20 mg Aciphex and then on 30mg Dexilant. Every time I tried to quit Aciphex, I would get such awful chest pain that I was concerned that it was a heart attack. I waited, not wanting to go the the hospital, and a calcium carbonate relieved it somewhat.

    I went back on Aciphex. Now, after 3 years on Dexilant, I have decided to cut back. Since 30mg Dexilant is similar to two 15mg Prevacid capsules, I decided to try taking just a 15mg Prevacid. This is day 9 of my attempt, and it has been difficult. I am using calcium carbonate, when needed. I have had to change my healthy diet to accommodate this change, but it is almost tolerable so far, and much better than cold turkey.

  7. Gary
    Rochester,N.Y.
    Reply

    I have been taking 40 mg of Omeprazole for approx 10 years for acid reflux. I recently received a flyer from Walmart Pharmacy about the dangers when I renewed my prescription; Last week after having severe Diarrhea every morning (5 days) within one to two hours after taking the pills, I stopped taking the pills cold turkey. I have had no reactions that I have noticed and generally feel about the same as before I stopped, (without the Diarrhea). My breakfast remains as before, dish of instant oatmeal with cranberry & flaxseed and I load it up with raisins and at least two teaspoons of ground cinnamon. The rest of my meals are a wide variety from Chile burgers to pasta, fish etc. Snacks are P-nut butter and crackers. – 80 yrs.old.

  8. Junie
    Washington
    Reply

    I have read many of your great suggestions and trials here. I have taken a little bit of advice from most of you and I wish to share my experience.

    I have been on 20 mg. Prilosec OTC for 6 months as ordered from my gastroenterologist. This was after the scope with no adverse biopsy. My problem began initially in taking Citalopram ordered by a neurologist. I didn’t need an anti-depressant. My neurological issues were caused by depletion of Vitamin D. I only realized this later after some serious stomach irritation (tachycardia and other symptoms) had developed from my body’s reaction to Citalopram.

    My hair was falling out in handfuls and my circulation was very bad. Had it not been for the need of correcting a hammertoe no one would have diagnosed me with Raynaud’s disease. I didn’t know what that was. I had never had it until I took the Prilosec. One of the causes sited in articles on Raynaud’s disease was listed as “medication”. I wondered what medication am I taking that might cause this?

    I decided to find out if this might be caused by Prilosec and then I read all of the side effects by this poison. I “googled” how to get off of this medication and I was shocked at the stories of people who wanted to get this drug out of their system. I can’t believe that the FDA allows this drug to be on pharmacy shelves without a prescription. And worse there are doctors who tell us that we need it.

    I began to cut my pills down from 20 mg. to 15 mg. with a pill cutter. I alternated for a week while taking marshmallow root capsules, slipper elm, and papaya enzymes (all from the health food store). The next week I took only 15 mg. Then I cut the pills again with a pill cutter and the next week alternated 15 mg. and 10 mg. The following week I took 10 mg. for 7 days. The week after I alternated 10 mg. and 5 mg. and so on. I always took the health food supplements and I never needed any antacid drugs of any kind. Sometimes I had mild burning but I was never in real pain and I always slept well.

    I did watch my diet. Initially I looked up alkaline foods and only ate those. As the weeks went by I added other foods that I had given up. I am nearly normal in my diet. I am almost at the end of quitting these poisonous pills. My hair hasn’t been falling out as much. And I plan to continue the health food supplements then gradually reduce them to let my stomach live naturally. I will always continue to take a probiotic and vitamin D3.

    I hope that I could have been of help to at least one person who wants to rid themselves of Prilosec forever. Best to all of you.

    • Barbara
      Tn
      Reply

      I have been on omeprazole for 8 years, I weaned myself off and am currently drinking 2oz of aloe Vera. My esophagus feels sore!!! Anyone have this issue. I’m going to try Junie’s supplements and see how that goes.

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