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Eliminating Chronic Acid Reflux And Indigestion

© Dr Jacob Teitelbaum MD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled From Fatigued to Fantastic by Dr Jacob Teitelbaum MD. View all columns in series
Do you think your problem is too much stomach acid?

If you still think your problem is too much acid, keep this in mind. The older people get the more likely they are to use antacids. This is interesting as stomach acid production decreases dramatically as people get older!

We seem to forget that having stomach acid is both necessary and normal. In fact, the body has gone to great lengths to be able to produce stomach acid without digesting the stomach itself! Your body needs to have proper nutrition, however, to make the mucous lining that protects the stomach. Instead of giving your body what it needs to heal, we sometimes make the mistake of turning off our stomach acid to solve the problem.

Most of your indigestion symptoms occur when any stomach acid refluxes (squirts) back up into the food pipe (the esophagus). Your food pipe is not made to resist stomach acid and even a little bit will cause it to burn. Because of this we give medications that turn off all the stomach acid. Because there is no stomach acid, the burning stops and we get deluded into thinking the problem was too much stomach acid.

What happens when you turn off stomach acid?

Unfortunately, using anti-acid medications for an extended period causes 2 problems. Firstly, with no stomach acid, your body is not able to optimally digest food and you become nutritionally deficient. This makes it even harder for your stomach to make the mucous lining it needs to protect itself and can set you up for even more reflux. Secondly, in your body's attempt to make stomach acid (when you take anti-acid meds), it makes huge amounts of a hormone called Gastrin that stimulates stomach acid. Because of this, as soon as you stop your antacids, the stomach makes massive amounts of acid-- which it cannot protect against. In essence, you become addicted to the antacids. It is no surprise that Prilosec, Nexium, Zantac and other antacids are some of the biggest money making pharmaceuticals!

So what can I do?

A wonderfully effective way to resolve your reflux and indigestion is the following (in mild or occasional cases, the DGL licorice for a few days may be all you need. For more severe cases, use the entire program below to restore healthy digestion).

  1. Improve your digestion by taking the proper enzymes (see below and the "Enzymes and digestive health" info sheet) and drink sips of warm liquids instead of cold while eating (cold temperatures inhibit digestive enzyme function). Long-term use of digestive enzymes can also dramatically improve your over-all health and well being!
  2. Avoid coffee, aspirin products, colas, and alcohol until your stomach heals and then use them in limited amounts.
  3. Take measures to heal up your stomach lining. Using DGL licorice (must be the DGL form as others can cause blood pressure problems-see below) can be powerfully effective in resolving your symptoms. Research shows that it is as effective as tagamet, but is healthy for you! Mastic gum 500 mg capsules two capsules twice a day for two months is also highly effective. Both of these can be used separately or together. As they help to heal the stomach instead of just masking symptoms, they may take 3-4 weeks to work in severe cases .You can use your antacids during that time if you want.
  4. In many patients, stomach infections (H. Pylori) can be a major cause of long-term indigestion. Most doctors treat this with Prilosec combined with 2-3 antibiotics used simultaneously! A better approach is to add Limonene (Heartburn Free by PhytoPharmica) 1 every other day for 20 days once your indigestion has settled down a bit with the licorice/mastic gum. It may initially aggravate reflux symptoms, but, by killing the infection, may give long-term relief after only one 10 capsule course!

How can I come off my prescription antacids?

After you have been on this treatment regimen for 1-2 months and are feeling much better, ask your doctor if you can stop your prescription antacids and switch to Tagamet (or stay on the DGL licorice/ mastic gum). This will decrease your stomach acid instead of totally turning it off. By doing this, you're body can slowly ease back to normal production of acid. Decrease the dose of Tagamet or DGL licorice until you are able to come off of it. After two months, most people can stop the licorice/mastic gum. They can be used as long as you want, however. If symptoms recur down the line, simply use the DGL licorice for a few days. If needed, you can repeat the course of DGL licorice/mastic gum (and even the heartburn Free if the stomach infection recurs) whenever you like. Meanwhile, you'll have broken your addiction to antacids and allowed your body to have the stomach acid it needs for proper digestion!

To Summarize:

  1. Similase(by Tyler) or Complete GEST Enzymes (Enzymatic Therapy) – 2 capsules with each meal to help digest your food properly and drink warm liquids with meals. If the enzymes are irritating to the stomach, switch to Similase GS and wait till your stomach feels better on # 2&3 below before resuming the other enzymes.
  2. DGL Licorice – 380mg (not the sugar free one) from Enzymatic Therapy or Rhizinate from PhytoPharmica. Chew 2 tablets 20 minutes before meals.
  3. Mastic Gum (any brand) – 1000mg twice a day for 2 months – then as needed.
  4. Heartburn Free – (Enzymatic Therapy). 1 every other day for 20 days (may initially aggravate reflux, but can give long term relief.
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About The Author
Jacob Teitelbaum MD is author of the popular free iPhone application "Cures A-Z" and author of the best-selling book From Fatigued to Fantastic! (3rd revised edition, Avery/Penguin Group) and Pain Free 1-2-3-A Proven Program for Eliminating Chronic Pain Now (McGraw- Hill). His newest book is Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! (Fairwinds Press; March 2010). Dr. Teitelbaum does frequent......more
 
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.