The Dark Side of Antacids


Popping Tums here and there to counteract digestive upset from that giant meatball sub is fine, but did you know that chronically suppressing stomach acid can create bacterial overgrowth, and lead to infection? Many people rely on prescription antacids known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) to treat ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but lowering acid can cause healthy gut bacteria to become imbalanced.

Let’s get scientific for a moment. When we eat, our stomach produces the enzyme Pepsin which helps to digest protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Breaking down these foods in the GI tract aids in proper digestion thus allowing the absorption of nutrients. Stomach acid works as a barrier of sorts, and changing the natural balance can introduce harmful bacteria into the intestine causing serious infections such as Pneumonia, and Streptococcus. Interestingly, regular antacid use can actually exacerbate heartburn, and reflux symptoms.

Of course, those people who take antacids under the direction of their physician should continue to do so, but for those of us who take them while ingesting foods we know will make matters worse, should perhaps think twice. Foods notorious for causing issues include alcohol, chocolate, fatty meats, dairy, and citrus fruits. Making lifestyle changes such as losing weight, and not going to bed straight after eating, may help alleviate symptoms.

When all else fails, and the acid monster rears its ugly head, try natural remedies such as a 1/2 tsp of baking soda mixed with 6 oz of water. Also, regular use of digestive enzymes and probiotics can be helpful to promote healthy gut flora. If you’re coming off of long-term antacid use, have your levels of iron, B12, and folate checked as these vital nutrients cannot be absorbed without proper digestive function. Nobody wants to experience stomach distress, so identifying any obvious triggers may help you ditch the Rolaids for good!

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