Heartburn? Avoid Antacids & Proton Pump Inhibitors


Rarely, there are reported cases of:

  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Flu-like illnesses
  • Vomiting
  • Low platelets
  • Hepatitis
  • Autoimmune disorders

The adverse drug reactions are variable from person to person but can be quite devastating when used for extended periods of time.

Hip Fractures

Both proton pump inhibitors and the histamine H-2 blocking drugs can raise the risk of hip fractures by 44% if taken for longer than a year. This is because when you block acid production, you make it more difficult for the body to absorb calcium.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

When you decrease or eliminate acid production with these drugs or liquid antacids (e.g., Maalox, Gaviscon, Mylanta, etc.), you make it harder for the gastrointestinal tract to digest food. This can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. Sometimes this set of symptoms is labeled as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), for which further medication is often prescribed.

Colonic Irrigation, Anyone?

When either proton pump inhibitors or the histamine H-2 receptor blockers like Tagamet, Zantac, or Pepcid are used, stomach acidity can become so reduced that the body fails to absorb vital nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, and numerous others.

You also reduce your primary defense against bugs in food (bacteria, parasites, and fungi like Candida). This then can lead to both acute and chronic gastrointestinal infections and often sets one up for a lifetime of IBS, Candidiasis, and food sensitivity syndromes. Essentially, you are increasing your risk of food poisoning every time you use these “remedies.”

Clostridium difficile bacteria can cause life-threatening colitis. A 2005 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that people taking proton pump inhibitors were almost three times more likely to have a C. difficile infection than non-users. Those taking H2 receptor antagonists were twice as likely to have the infection.

Interested in Getting Pneumonia?

A 2004 study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the risk of pneumonia was 89% higher for those using proton pump inhibitors and 63% higher for those using H2-receptor antagonists.

Acid-suppressive drug users were four times more likely to have pneumonia than nonusers.

Stomach Acid is GOOD?

This pneumonia study underlines the importance of stomach acid as a systemic immune-boosting substance. Suppressing acid will have its infectious disease consequences, especially if this is done on a long-term basis.

In 2000, the histamine H-2 receptor blocker Propulsid was taken off the market due to associated cardiac deaths.

While it seems to me that only cardiac deaths are the sole reason the HPB and the FDA takes drugs off the market, perhaps increasing rates of life-threatening pneumonias and C. difficile infections ought to be considered for drug removal as well.

AVOID These Drugs!

Proton pump inhibitors and the histamine H-2 receptor blockers should be used sparingly—if used at all. Certainly, the natural alternatives are a better option here.

In my next blog, I will share the best natural remedies for dealing with heartburn.

Additional References:

Vanderhoff, Bruce T., and Rundsarah M. Tahboub. "Proton Pump Inhibitors: An Update." American Family Physician 66 (2002): 273-80.

Physicians' Desk Reference 2005. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare, 2004.


By Dr. Zoltan Rona| June 16, 2009
Categories:  Blog

About the Author

Dr. Zoltan Rona

Dr. Zoltan Rona

Dr. Zoltan P. Rona is a graduate of McGill University Medical School (1977) and has a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry and Clinical Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut (1984). He is past president of The Canadian Holistic Medical Association (1987-88) and is the author of three Canadian bestsellers: The Joy of Health (1991), Return to the Joy of Health (1995) and Childhood Illness and The Allergy Connection (1997). He is co-author with Jeanne Marie Martin of The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook (1996) and is the medical editor of the Benjamin Franklin Award winning Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (1998). He has had a private medical practice in Toronto for the past 35 years, has appeared on radio and TV as well as lectured extensively in Canada and the U.S. Dr. Rona currently writes regular articles for Reader’s Digest, Alive, Vitality magazine and for several web sites. His latest book “Vitamin D, the Sunshine Vitamin” was published in 2010. In 2011, Dr. Rona was named Chief Medical Advisor for NAKA Herbs and Vitamins and has developed a line of nutritional supplements (TriStar Naturals) which are sold in health food stores across Canada. He can be found at www.highlevelwellness.ca

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