a woman with heartburn pain

Q. I have been on Prilosec for the last ten years. I was recently diagnosed with C diff and decided after doing some research that I should stop the Prilosec.

I’ve been off it for about a week now and I am suffering from terrible heartburn. Should I go back on Prilosec? I’m scared that the C diff might come back.

A. C diff is short for Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection that can indeed be difficult to treat. It frequently causes serious diarrhea.

You are right to be concerned about continuing on omeprazole (Prilosec) for a long time.

A recent study showed that 29 percent of patients hospitalized with a C diff infection had a recurrence if they were taking a drug related to Prilosec (JAMA Internal Medicine, online March 2, 2015).  In this study, 20 percent of patients not taking an acid-suppressing drug such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) or pantoprazole (Protonix) got a repeat C diff infection. The difference is significant, so if you can find another way to ease your digestive distress, you should use it.

Do not stop Prilosec suddenly, though. Rebound heartburn is common. A gradual reduction in dose under medical supervision is advisable.

Other readers have experience withdrawing from omeprazole. Here is what CM had to say:

“Six days ago I stopped taking omeprazole. I was only on it for a month. The first five days were fine but now on the 6th day the rebound, burning and upset stomach are a problem. I didn’t have this before I started taking the medicine. I am deciding if I should take one tomorrow and go every other day, weaning off more slowly.”

Moira has tried many tactics:

“I was on omeprazole for 4 years and went cold turkey with no problems. I had nocturnal reflux with acid rattling and wheezing in my chest usually relieved by getting up and vomiting. I used a slanted pillow which helped a lot but eventually it caused my legs to ache so I stopped that about 2 years ago.

“I’ve been existing on careful eating at dinner time, eg nothing too heavy, and keeping Gaviscon by the bed. I was finding I was taking Gaviscon more frequently so came back here to check out some other treatment …..and I think I’ve found it!

“I take one DGL licorice capsule at most meal times (no drama if I miss one or two) and one before bed. I religiously go to sleep on my LEFT side…….AND I can eat what I want, although nothing after my main evening meal. I’ve shoved the Gaviscon into the drawer.Thanks to this I’m in heaven with undisturbed sleep at long last. “

The DGL that Moira is referring to is deglycyrrhizinated licorice. This botanical product is licorice that has had the glycyrrhizin removed to prevent side effects such as elevated blood pressure and fluid retention (Hospital Practice, Aug. 15, 2001). It has been used to treat gastric and duodenal ulcers, although double-blind trials have been less than impressive (Gut, Sept., 1973). It appears that it may be helpful in calming the heartburn that may arise as a person discontinues the use of a proton pump inhibitor such as omeprazole or esomeprazole (Nexium).

You’ll find more details on how to get off omeprazole and similar acid-suppressing drugs in our Guide to Digestive Disorders.

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  1. Andy R

    Start by spliting your Priloec into two 10mg pieces; it works just as well as 20mg for me, so reduce your doseage for a few weeks. Then get on a real live high potency liquid probiotic food like Ether Elixer (most commercial probiotics are freeze dried and will not form CFU – colony forming units – in your gut).

    It WILL survive your stomach environment, & you can tell that. While drinking this (not Kombucha which is super acidic & even ate the enamel off the lining of my teeth), continue to reduce the priposec dosage Very Slowly. Try the apple cider vinegar recipe and or Betaine HCL and just see what works best for you. Skip the acidic foods like tomato & coffee (substitute turmeric golden milk made with oat milk and some matcha green tea powder added for the caffein addiction – really healthy combo) and do not eat within about 4 hours of bedtime or more. Good Luck! Go Natural!

    • Janet

      Well I am so excited…I tried getting off Prilosec about 2 months ago and the acid reflux was so bad after a few days I just gave in and started to taking it again…someone had bought me some brags apple cider vinegar to start taking for other reasons and I started taking a teaspoon with water in the mornings and during the day I drink about a 1/4 cup of dill pickle juice a couple times during the day…I did that about 2 weeks..I went to a doctors visit and had some blood work done and found out that my liver enzymes was high so after googling I seen that prilosec could cause that..I decided then that I must get off this medicine so I did not take the Prilosec the next day and continued my pickle juice and vinegar like I had been taking it…as I read different peoples journey I went to Walmart and bought some aloe Vera juice and almonds…I am on day 4 of not taking this Prilosec and I am doing great…the aloe Vera juice soothe your throat and the almonds seems to help with the little burning I was feeling…I have been so amazed at this that I wanted to share with everyone…so now I will be taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in water in the morning and at night if needed and I will drink about a 1/4 cup of aloe Vera and eat 2 almonds..i will also sip dill pickle juice along..I am amazed….

  2. Andy
    Ft Worth TX

    I started splitting my OTC 20 mg Prilosec into 10 mg pieces with a cheap pill splitter and can tell no difference in effectiveness. No one should take more of a (formerly prescription) drug than they need. So now I am trying to wean off the half dose and get a weird uncomfortable feeling in my stomach by about 2pm.

    I recently made friends with a professional probiotic kafir juice manufacturer and learned that most all, even “pearl” probiotics are useless; and that real high quality high dosage CFU (colony forming units) live kafir DOES pass through the stomach intact enough to make a real difference (you will be able to tell through your digestive processes). I believe that using Ether Elixer kafir along with some of the suggestions found on this site will have me off the Prilosec within a few weeks, even after decades of use. Thanks for all the tips!

  3. Tam

    I was on omeprazole (20 mg per day) for 5 years, and I started to retain weight, had achy joints, and my muscles kept cramping up. My doctor and I thought that omeprazole might be contributing. The times where I stopped, I had the usual fire in the throat and would wake choking at the backlash of acid. I finally decided to go slow by stopping for 1 day per week for a few weeks, then 2 (1 Wed and Sat), then 3…. spacing them out.

    Eventually when I got to one, I skipped thinking I was there. My dr gave me a huge thumbs up with this plan. I still have to watch my diet, but I notice a large difference of how my body reacts to things including my preferences which highly surprised me. The days when I overindulge, I notice the small signs and I quickly stop eating or add alkaline foods. My supervisor has been on it for over a decade and has suffered multiple fractures in her feet, arms, and legs because her bones are now brittle. She is tall and thin. I never intend to go back to Prilosec.

    • Tam

      I wanted to add that my muscle and joint aches have greatly reduced, and it has been a month.

  4. Bob

    I had been on Prilosec since 1999 after bypass surgery. I started taking AcidRelief360® Formula with GutGard® about 3 weeks ago. I had to take 1 Prilosec four days in, none since. I have taken 4 or 5 Tums in the three weeks. So for so good.

  5. Marie

    I have been taking generic Prilosec for a long time because of acid reflux due to taking too much ibuprofen for worn out knees. I stopped taking large doses of ibuprofen a long time ago but of course the damage is done. I too recently read about problems from taking Prilosec for a long time and decided to try to wean myself off of the drug. I recently spoke to my gastro doctor (who originally prescribed the drug) and he said to cut back on the dose to every other day. I am on 40mg per dose. I wonder about getting the dosage cut down also. I hope this plan works as I really don’t want to be on this drug.

  6. P'd Off!

    Was taking omeprazole for about 3 months and randomly just read the pamphlet that comes w/ it from the pharmacy…needless to say I just stopped cold. It’s only been a couple / few days and I feel pretty bad. Heartburn (which I didn’t have before) and even feeling panicky. Not sure if this is related or not but I have also been getting canker sores. Im going to call the Dr. that prescribed this stuff for me tomorrow and ask them if they have any clue of how I can wean off this BS w/out doing any additional damage. Im starting to HATE general practitioners…

  7. Kathy

    I have taken Prilosec since 1999 and have decided to get off of them with the urging of my gastroenterologist. It isn’t easy but I have found on the web how to get off of Prilosec fairly easy. Google: using cider vinegar to get off prilosec. I mix up a cup of what I call my “Elixer”, it is one tsp apple cider vinegar and water and sip on it all day . Watch your diet: limit decaf coffee, no chocolate, no alcohol,, nothing carbonated, no citrus,, no tomatoes, no spucey foods, some people are unable to eat salads. I have tried to eat some of these foods but it is not worth it, maybe after a while add some foods back in. Getting off Prilosec is not easy but will be well worth it in the end!

    • Micki

      I have been taking omeprazole for well over 15 years now.
      I am on 20mg daily. I was taking 40mg daily but decided to discontinue that dosage. No noticeable problems since that change.

      I have been off chemo (Taxol) for seven months and don’t know if my muscle cramps, etc. are due to that or to the omeprazole.
      I’d love to stop the omeprazole….too many pills every day!
      My doctor’s nurse told me that long-term usage of omeprazole won’t hurt me. I just don’t believe that.
      Are you still using the vinegar? How long would I have to take the “elixir?”
      Thanks, in advance…

  8. Lynn

    I have been on Prilosec for years and recently hearing all the side effects, including increased risk for dementia AND studies show more likely to get cancer of esophagus, not less, I decided to take myself off. I switched to Pepcid which you can take with every meal and before bed if needed until things settle down. I am about a week into the switch and so far, only mild HB. Forgot to bring Pepcid with me to work and definitely could have used a dose with lunch.

  9. Paul
    Rhode Island (RI)

    It took me 2 months to get off prilosec. I weaned from 40 to 20, then took 20 at increasing longer intervals. When I stopped, the rebound acid was huge, and left me with gastritis. I started with ranitidine 150, three times a day, and made sure I never lied down with food in my stomach. Then I weaned the ranitidine. How many people will tough out that kind of process? When the withdrawal effect is the same as the original symptom, most people will think they just need it. I’ve seen this with my clients taking benzos, another drug that requires meticulous, dedicated weaning. For most people, gerd is a lifestyle problem. Too much food and too much food before bed.

  10. Julie
    Zanesville, Ohio

    I have been taking generic Omeprazole for many years. I had started getting problems with burning and reflux when I was in my 30’s, and had taken Pepsid AC often twice a day or more, and one day I tried one of my Mom’s prescription Omeprazole, and found the answer. I got samples from the doctor regularly, then when I got insurance, got them that way. I couldn’t go a day without it. Then I started hearing all these things that could happen, and even had a bad ankle fracture in 2010, which resulted in surgery, and me losing my job. So, in the last week, I said no more. When I heard about kidney failure, it really scared me. I also had a UTI for the first time in my adult life recently. Anyway, it is hard. I do have Walmart brand rantinidine, or Zantac, and have been taking one in the morning, and last night, after having pasta, I took one at bedtime because the antacid wasn’t helping. I am so hoping I can do this. I am tired of being a slave to these pills.

  11. Zabo
    Pgh, Pa.

    I’m just now on day five cold turkey from Prilosec. After reading a few of these comments it’s better that I try the slow approach to getting off this medication. Thanks a lot to all the commenters that posted. You have helped me in my decision. I. Just need to run it past my doctor. Taking this medicine for belly button hernia. It can be brutal at times. Just wondering if I should take the med every four days. Seems to me I made it four days without symptoms. Only time will tell. Thanks again for the help people.

  12. Kelly
    Mount Airy NC

    I was on Prilosec for over 10yrs, and after finding multiple gastric polyps in my stomach, I have finally gotten off Prilosec . I had a endoscopy this year, and it showed I had well over 40 polyps in my stomach and thank God they all are benign as the doctor checked them out. So now thanks to Prilosec I have these and most likely forever! I had tried to wean of Prilosec by using zantac and well that didn’t help at all! I was in a horrible flare, burning in my life! So right back on Prilosec I went! Well after finally being fed up, I decided to take Pepcid 20mgs twice a day that my doctor prescribed me, and I take one in the morning and one at night. I did this while taking the Prilosec at the same time, but each day I would cut the Prilosec in half for one week, then second week still taking the Pepcid I cut the Prilosec tablets in four ways down the middle and then in half. I took a one of those pieces every day for a week for two weeks, then I took a half of one of those little halves and for three days and then I stopped and kept right on using the Pepcid! The first couple days were little struggle from the slight burning, but still wasn’t nothing that a Rolaid couldn’t handle. So I took that for a few days when needed with the Pepcid. So now I am completely off Prilosec for a week and my acid levels have subsided and playing nice most the time, still might need a Rolaid here and there, but nothing bad that I can’t handle! Sure beats more polyps in my stomach from the Prilosec. So I will never go back to Prilosec unless its a extreme have to case! So glad to be off that PPO train! Praying I never need it again! Wishing everyone the best!

    • Deb

      Thank you for your input. Your symptoms and diagnosis sound just exactly like me! I have taken Prilosec for twenty years. I’m trying to ween off now and what a nightmare. I’m miserable without it. I’m gonna try your method of using Pepcid until I can kick the Prilosec. I’ve been taking 20mg Prilosec morning and evening so I’m in for a challenge. I tried omitting my evening dose one night and OMG 1:00 am I could hardly breathe. The chest pain was intense! Wish me luck and again thanks for sharing.

      • Betsy

        I was on a daily Prilosec for 5-7 years. I decided to quit cold turkey. I never knew or was blind to the fact that I would go through withdrawals. On day 2 I started getting immense chest pain. I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t bend over, the heaviness in my chest was unbearable. I phone the Dr. and she asked why in the world would I go cold turkey? I just did, didn’t think about it. By now it was Day 3 and I didn’t want to go backward. So I kept on. The chest pain continued and I had the chills so bad that I wore 2 pair of winter pajamas and was under 3 heavy blankets. I thought this must be what a druggie goes through during detox. I had a fever of 103. This went on for about a week and then I was back to normal. I haven’t gone back and I take occasional Tums when I need to. I mostly watch what I eat, nothing too spicy or acid like late night. It’s been about 6 months now and I’m starting to feel a heaviness in my chest, it’s hard to describe. It hurts sometimes to bend over. Like there is pain in the muscle around my sternum. Anyone experience that at all?

    • Micki

      Wonderful news! I’m going to try to get off omeprazole, too.
      I hope you continue doing well!

  13. Dianne

    I suffered from GERD so badly that it affected my singing voice (I am an el. Music teacher) finally after being on Prilosec for what seemed like forever, raising the head of my bed, not eating 3 hours before bed and so forth, I started taking a probiotic first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. My GERD was gone in less than a week. I highly recommend probiotics and yes, I am a senior citizen.

    • Lori

      What kind of probiotic? Just an average one bought in a drug store or a higher priced one at a nutrition store like gnc?

    • Betsy

      Omg I am on day two of no Prilosec and the chest pain is unbearable, I’m having a hard time breathing. Any ideas on how to get through this would be appreciated.

  14. Mrs. Dee

    I was on Prilosec for 2 years and I weaned myself off by using 150mg Zantac twice a day, then down to 75 mg/150 mg at bedtime, then 75 mg twice a day, after that I went to 75 at bedtime, then I did stop the Zantac and did gaviscon at bedtime. When I dropped down to 75 mg Zantac I started to use iberogast drops, and I still use them as needed. I feel good, and I am glad I stuck with it, took me about 3 month. Been off of it for about a year now.

  15. Rosie

    My husband was prescribed prilosec for acid reflux and was on it for four years, then his symptoms got worse. The doctor had him get a scope done and diagnosed him with inflammation of the duodenum. he was taking two pills a day and the doctor said, take another prilosec! My husband had diarrhea for three months, which was the reason for the scope.
    He went on a gluten free diet one day and no more diarrhea. No more heartburn! Then I read an article by a doctor that said the pills he had been taking was the cause of his gluten intolerance and the gluten now causes him to have diarrhea. He quit taking the pills and has been on this diet for two years. No acid reflux and the only time he has diarrhea is if he eats something with wheat in in.

  16. Liz

    I was on Prilosec or similar meds for several years. I was able to stop it by taking the supplement betaine HCL with meals. I took it for a few years, then stopped. Some people can discontinue use after several weeks. Heartburn occurs when the stomach can’t digest the food quickly enough. Lowering the acid level in the stomach will ease the pain. It also makes it harder to adequately digest protein. Supplementing inadequate stomach acid speeds up the digestive process.

    The production of stomach acid declines with age, yet older people are more likely to be prescribed an acid-suppressing (protein pump inhibitor) drug. This really doesn’t make sense.

  17. ACL

    I was on omeprazole (Prilosec) for 6 years and after reading the dangers of long time use of PPIs, tried to discontinue this drug by slowly dropping one pill a week etc. Then my cardiologist said he would help me. He gave me a 90 day prescription for Ranitidine 150 mg (Zantac) and said to take one at bedtime along with my slow withdrawal of the Prilosec since there were only 2 weeks left of those pills. When the 90 days were up I should have no more problem and he was right!! So I do have reflux in the evening occasionally and take a generic combo of acid reducer/antacid which removes that problem.

  18. Mary L

    I had bad reactions from Prilosec , getting off of it was horrible with rebound reflux. I have found relief with DGL and Mastic Gum. They work great! I take either one prior to eating or drinking something that might cause indigestion and have no problems. DGL is nice when on the go as it is chewable, the mastic gum is capsules so needs water to take it. They both work well. I also notice that my general overall digestion has improved since using them, no gas, no heartburn, no constipation.

  19. Helen M
    Modesto, CA

    I was able to stop protonix several years ago, but the process took months. First I began dropping a day at a time until I was on an every other day dosage. Then I took an OTC medication, changing out a day at a time, figuring the OTC was not as strong as the protonix. I gave each change about a week. Next step was to slowly discontinue the OTC med. Plus, I stopped eating low carb ice cream. This helped with weight loss, which might have also had an effect on the heartburn. Some people may find an intolerance to dairy and/or gluten caused the heartburn in the first place.

  20. Dianne
    Houston, Texas

    A few months ago I began having acid reflux for the first time in my life. (I’m 71.) My doctor recommended Prilosec, but I thought I would try other remedies first. The best thing I have found so far is Kombucha and probiotics.

  21. Art

    Do yourselves a world of good and switch to natural remedies.

  22. fbl
    Las Vegas, NV

    Most of the folks I’ve talked to who had been on these stomach acid reducers and tried to stop had a very hard time. I suggested to them to take a digestive enzyme with a small amount of Betaine HCL. Now brand Super Enzymes work very well for this.

    I tell folks to take only one, to start, before meals with a large glass of water. A little stomach acid at the start of this technique is normal but will be gone within a few days. Then take two of the enzymes with each meal after they’ve adjusted to one. Give it a few days and then increase to 3, then 4. When you get an acid stomach again back off to the last good dose. For some it will mean only a couple of the Super Enzymes and for others it will mean a separate Betaine HCL plus one or two Super Enzymes.

    Why would you continue taking the Super Enzymes if you are taking a separate HCL? The NOW Super Enzymes has other digestives in them that are important. Balance is necessary.

  23. Barbara

    I was on Prilosec for a long time also and stopped using it because of what I had been reading about what it can do to a person. It’s not a fun thing to go through, it took me 6/8b months to get to the point that I could tolorate the discomfort. I used several things to help me through this and now I am to the point that I hardly get any heartburn. I found out that Pepsid helps, and Zantac is not a PPI so I take one before going to bed and one in the morning. I also make the Persimmon Tea and that helps a lot. Also try the AloeCure. I really think I am about to beat this thing. Life is worth living now.

  24. Bonny
    North Tonawanda,NY

    I would love to see my husband get off Prilosec, be has been on it for along time. His Dr. Says he can’t go off it because he has a hiatel hernia, any suggestions on this?

    • Mike

      I had a hital hernia and was on PPI’s for almost 10 years. I take 3 capsule probiotics in the morning on an empty stomach. Also I take gastro health by Natures Sunshine it has dgl in the proprietary blend. That’s not all I cut out caffeine/coffee, alcohol for the most part and eat a well balanced diet no processed foods. Don’t forget the exercise to.

  25. wendy

    Have any of the heartburn sufferers tried using digestive enzymes before their meals? That did the trick for me.

  26. Cheryl
    United States

    I was on Prilosec for the five years. I stopped cold turkey and had horrible pain and reflux and started taking it again. I did a little research and read that you really should not quit a medicine you have been taking for a long period of time cold turkey (I’m sure there are exclusions to this). When I tried again, I started by not taking it one day for a few weeks, then knocked off another day and so on until I was down to one a week and just quit. It was a much better way to stop!

  27. Jim Alford
    United States

    I got off Nexium by switching to apple cider vinegar. App. 1 Tbs. in water twice a day. Was off Nexium in 2 days. The rebound effect is what traps you into taking it for the rest of your life. Also helpful is making smarter eating choices. Not easy, but SO worth it.

    • Rita
      United States

      I have been on omeprazole (prilosec) for 4 years now for reflux esophagitis. My hair is thinning out and I want to get off of this medication. I was prescribed a 40 mg capsule. I think I will wean off of it like you did Cheryl. I’m so upset about my hair loss. What are my chances of getting esophageal ca?

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