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What Can I Do about Excess Stomach Acidity?

Updated on August 26, 2017
"Escape the Fire" by Henry Garciga (photo used by his permission)
"Escape the Fire" by Henry Garciga (photo used by his permission)

Taking PPIs is definitely a cheap option for dealing with acid reflux disease


When I got into my forties, I began having trouble with excess stomach acidity, heartburn, acid indigestion or whatever you want to call it. This condition could strike at any time, not just after eating; and it didn’t seem to matter what I ate – spicy foods or whatever, because I would get it no matter what, at some unexpected time or another. So I started carrying antacids with me, just in case it would hit me while I was in the movie theater or wherever.

Then about the time I reached 50, the condition got worse. Antacids didn’t always cure the condition anymore, and the pain was worse – and not in the stomach, just to the right of the belly button, actually. Also, at times, this glop of acid and undigested food would rise from my stomach, geyser through the esophagus and erupt in my mouth. Yuk! This condition is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and Tums or other antacids such as Pepcid or Zantac are no match for it. If you’ve dealt with this condition, you know what I mean!

Eventually I went to Kaiser for this problem, and they threw some pills at me, as they seem to do in such situations. (Have you been there?) But, hey, the pills worked very well! Just one pill per day would eliminate the problem for a day or more. These pills were called Protonix.

Protonix are known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These drugs are designed to work, not in the stomach, but in the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine. That’s why each pill is what’s called enteric-coated. In the duodenum, these pills work to block the production of acid before it wreaks havoc.

PPIs do have side effects, though, so please be aware. The only problem I’ve had taking them is a little diarrhea from time to time. But that would probably happen anyway!

However, the glitch with taking Protonix is that you need a doctor’s prescription to buy them, and they can be expensive, though the cost seems to be going down nowadays. Another prescription PPI you can obtain is Nexium.

Ads for Nexium try to make you think that the drug heals sores in the esophagus caused by acid reflux. Save your money! All proton pump inhibitors do the same thing. Once the amount of acid is reduced, healing occurs naturally.

Moreover, an article on WebMD states that most doctors agree that all PPIs have the same effectiveness more or less. So don’t spend big bucks on some pretty pills that don’t work any better than the cheaper stuff.

Fortunately, over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors are now available. One such drug is Prilosec OTC, which works just fine but is a little expensive, nearly a dollar per pill. Ouch! A somewhat cheaper generic equivalent is omeprazole, available in stores such as Safeway, Target or Wal-Mart. Better yet, buy either one on the Internet and spend even less, though you will have to pay shipping and handling. Paying around 25 to 50 cents per pill would be a good deal, so go for it!

In contrast, Zegerid combines antacids with omeprazole, so it supposedly works faster than Prilosec, Nexium or omeprazole.

Lansoprazole is another OTC PPI, which contains the generic equivalent of Prevacid, and it is somewhat cheaper than Prevacid.

Please keep in mind that if you need to take these pills on a regular basis, you could have a more serious condition such as an ulcer. By the way, a doctor told me that most ulcers occur in the duodenum and not the stomach. At any rate, if your condition worsens, better see a doctor.

However, if you have no health insurance, you may want to keep taking PPIs, because doctor visits are very expensive these days!

Can PPIs be taken indefinitely?

There’s much debate on this issue. Since PPIs decrease the amount of stomach acid produced, one’s immune system could be compromised because the required amount of stomach acid may not be present to destroy invading bacteria or viruses. PPIs can also reduce calcium intake, thereby threatening the stability of one’s bones.

But people treated for Zollinger-Ellison syndrome have taken omeprazole for over five years with no ill effects. Therefore, take my advice and use your own judgment.

Can PPIs Cause Dementia?

In an online article for Medscape Medical News entitled “Proton Pump Inhibitors Linked to Dementia” dated February 15, 2016, a recent study seems to show that elderly people who have taken PPIs have an increased risk of dementia. The people in the study were 75 or older and observed from 2004 to 2011, and 50 per cent developed some form of dementia over that time.

I’d like to point out that many people in that age group are going to develop dementia no matter what drugs they’ve taken, and many of these people take numerous medications every day, some of which have many potential side effects, including dementia. The study also reports that researchers have no idea how PPIs could degrade brain function, though causing a vitamin or mineral deficiency is one possibility. For instance, a lack of vitamin B-12 can cause dementia.

The article also states that up 70 per cent of all PPI prescriptions could be unnecessary.

Afterword

As for me, as long as my condition exists as it does, I will probably continue taking these pills for the rest of my life. If take one pill first thing in the morning, I don’t have to worry about heartburn or acid reflux the entire day. For convenience and effectiveness, this is definitely the way to take care of the problem of excess stomach acidity.

But you shouldn’t take these pills if you don’t need them; or, if you do take them, you may try taking a smaller dosage. It seems many people take way too much. More than 20 to 40 milligrams per day may be excessive and thereby cause damage of some sort.

Please note that I’m not an advocate of people popping pills, much less taking drugs. But these PPIs seem safe, have minimal side effects and are very cheap compared to most medication. Or, if you’d rather try some “natural” remedy, by all means give it a try.

Please leave a comment.

Three Rules for Taking PPI’s


1. Only take PPIs if you absolutely need to do so. Such drugs are often overprescribed by doctors and other health professionals, even though potential side effects can be dangerous to one’s health.

2. If you decide to take PPIs, consume as few of them as possible; and if you opt to take them for months or years, take a small dosage, if you can, 10 to 15 milligrams per day may be enough.

3. Because of possible malabsorption issues, you may want to take supplements such as calcium and vitamin B-12, if you take PPI’s for longer than a period of weeks.

Good luck!

© 2009 Kelley Marks

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