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Must You Take Acid Blockers For the Rest of Your Life?

Some people need acid-suppressing drugs forever. That would include those with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. But not everyone needs acid blockers for life.
Must You Take Acid Blockers For the Rest of Your Life?
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Many people discover that it can be challenging to stop proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). That’s because powerful acid-suppressing drugs can trigger rebound hyperacidity when they are stopped suddenly. Are there any other ways to treat heartburn besides acid blockers?

Diet vs. Indigestion:

This reader discovered that changing diet and fasting made a difference.

Q. About four years ago, one of my doctors told me that I would be on acid blockers for the rest of my life. I had had trouble with acid reflux for about ten years by that time.

This expert couldn’t tell me what causes acid reflux, just that acid-suppressing drugs would control it. At that point, I started checking into the causes of my problem.

After doing my own research, I figured out how to change my eating habits and get control of the reflux. I was able to quit taking the drug after I had been on it for three months.

I have had good success over the last few years with my revised diet. Now that I am fasting regularly, acid reflux is seldom an annoyance.

A. Thank you for sharing your success story. Taiwanese scientists conducted a small crossover study in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease and found that high-carbohydrate diets make the reflux worse (Journal of the Formosan Medical Association, Nov. 2018). 

Cutting Back on Carbs to Control Heartburn:

A connection between diet and indigestion was first reported in 2006 (Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Aug. 2006), but not all gastroenterologists are aware of the link.  Cutting back on sugar might be especially helpful (European Surgery, Oct. 24, 2017). 

We appreciate your observation on intermittent fasting. Researchers don’t appear to have studied this very much, but perhaps others will want to try it for their reflux symptoms.

Stories from Readers about Acid Blockers:

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. Here is what Paula shared about this eating pattern:

“I have used a PPI, esomeprazole (Nexium), 40mg daily for 20 years. Two months ago I started the keto diet and read that some people were able to stop taking their PPI medication.

“I had tried to get off of the PPI medication before. I was armed with Tums and other antacids but could not stand the acid rebound. While on the keto diet I quit using the PPI medication cold turkey. There were no side effects. I have used one Tums during the last two months after eating a lot of crushed peppers on top of spaghetti. 

“I lost 15 pounds in two months on the Keto Diet but the very best part is, I eliminated one daily medication from my life. I am so thrilled to be off of these acid blockers. The feeling is incredible. I appreciate reading your newsletters and your readers’ comments and hope that others will also be able to stop their PPI medications successfully.”

A family physician offered this suggestion:

“I have worked as a family doc and herbalist since 1982. One of my favorite challenging efforts is to help patients wean off PPIs with a natural protocol that works if followed.

“I trained with herbalists and naturopaths to learn about the power of vagus nerve stimulation. This can be accomplished with bitters on the tongue to empty the stomach and herbs to help gastric healing. I use DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), marshmallow root and aloe. I also encourage my patients to remove foods like grains, animal products and salty processed foods. 

“The PPIs were originally approved for two weeks to help heal gastric ulcers. Plant based unprocessed diet without aspirin, NSAIDs and drugs that shut down digestion work best for preventing gastritis. Most people over 50 have reduced stomach acid so have a delay in digestion.”

Linda had a similar story to Paula:

“I weaned myself off of my Aciphex that I had taken for 18 yrs. Weaning is the way to go and I totally agree with the low carb diet. I totally stopped eating carbs, sugars and processed food for six weeks. During that time I weaned myself down from acid blockers and had absolutely no problems.

“I had previously tried to stop acid-suppressing drugs cold turkey with no diet change. It was a week of a constantly severe heartburn. I also take a sip of raw apple cider vinegar and water before I eat. It appears to make me heartburn free. Also, I don’t overeat or bend over after eating; that can lead to reflux.”

What is your strategy for dealing with reflux? Share your story in the comment section. You may also find our eGuide to Digestive Disorders of interest.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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