Antacids & PPIs: Effects of Traditional Heartburn Medications & Healthy Alternatives

By: Dr. Daniel Turo, DC

Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and Antacids

An estimated 60 million Americans have heartburn at least once a month. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and causes a burning sensation behind the breast bone, sometimes traveling up to the throat. It is a symptom of acid reflux which is often related to:

  • Insufficient amounts of stomach acid
  • Bacterial imbalance
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Food allergies

Antacids are used to treat heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion. They function by neutralizing the acid your stomach makes. Popular Brands include Tums, Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, and Mylanta.

Why are Antacids Problematic?

For starters, they don’t fix the cause of the problem. If you look at the immediate problem (acid build up in the stomach), it might make sense to say “let’s just get rid of the extra acid!” But in reality, we should be asking the question “Why does the body think it NEEDS the extra acid?” If we don’t address that question, and just remove the extra acid, the body will actually work harder to produce MORE acid (because sometime is telling the body it needs more acid; removing acid makes the body produce even more acid and creates a larger, chronic problem).

In the end, antacids are short term relief that cover and create a large problem. On top of that, antacids often contain a lot of sodium and can cause a build-up of aluminum. If too many are taken or for too long of a time, an overdose of calcium can occur which can cause nausea, vomiting, mental status changes & kidney stones. Excess calcium intake can lead to alkalosis which means the body doesn’t make enough acid to function properly.

Chronic Heartburn and PPIs

Protein-Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are medications used to treat chronic heartburn. Popular brands include Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid. Your cells use a proton pump to produce acid. PPIs slow the proton pump and reduce the amount of acid produced. However, stomach acid is not usually the cause of chronic heartburn – just the byproduct of the body not functioning properly.

PPIs don’t specifically target stomach cells but inhibit any cell with a proton pump producing acid. Cells use acid to clean out end products and garbage from metabolism and cell function. If the acid isn’t present, toxins build up in the cells.

PPIs were originally approved by the FDA to be taken for no longer than 6 weeks. Today, some people take PPIs for years which can cause a variety of health challenges:

  • Bacterial Overgrowth in the digestive tract leading to malabsorption of nutrients & inflammation in the stomach wall.
  • Increased risk of salmonella, c. difficile, giardia and listeria infections due to lower stomach acid levels.
  • Reduced amount of calcium absorption which could lead to osteoporosis.

What can you do to Alleviate Heartburn without Medication?

  • Add acid! Mix a tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar or lemon in 6 to 8 oz. of water before each meal.
  • Eat fermented foods or take probiotics to increase beneficial bacteria in your stomach and eliminate H. pylori bacteria (a common cause of heartburn).
  • Drink Aloe Vera juice to reduce inflammation.
  • Drink ginger tea before a meal to act as an acid buffer.

Improved Function with Chiropractic Adjustments

Heartburn is sometimes caused by a hiatal hernia when part of the stomach pushes upward through your diaphragm where the esophagus meets the stomach. Chiropractic adjustments can reduce heartburn symptoms caused by the hiatal hernia.

Spinal subluxations can create imbalances in the autonomic nervous system which lead to digestive distress and disorders, such as acid reflux. This is why many cases of acid reflux respond favorably to chiropractic care.

If you have more questions about antacids or how you can address your health challenges naturally, please reach out to our office for more information or join us for an upcoming event.


Content Reviewed by
Doctor of Chiropractic