Dangers of Antacids

Rahul has been a yoga student of mine for many years. In case you are confused, before I go any further, I want to clarify to you that I am a Yoga Acharya for almost 20 years and also a Functional Nutritionist. I’ve been seeing more and more people having the same set of symptoms and the same approach they use, putting themselves in the exact same mess, pardon my rudeness. Anyway, I must tell you a little more about Rahul.  He is in his mid fourties. Each time I go to teach him yoga, he has a long set of physiological problems. One day he has muscular pain everywhere. The next day he has unbrearable fatigue. Some days, he has pain radiating towards his head. What was most alarming was that he spoke of taking antacids regularly, almost every day! Before I go into what actual damage this was causing him, I want to say something now, which I will say again at the end of the article, in order to make it loud and clear. Antacids are meant for very short term use, not for consistent and continued self prescribed long term use. I hope this is very clear. 

Just in case you are also a regular user of antacids, and in case you think that I have not felt the pain of acidity and heartburn, I’m going to stop you right here. It is because I have suffered, and quite terribly, and it is because I did take antacids of every kind, and it is also because I messed up so many things in myself, and it is because I finally realised and freed myself of this terrible cycle, that I want to share this information with you. Close to a decade ago, when I was pregnant, I developed acid reflux and hyperacidity, which was so bad that at times my nostrils felt burnt. Pregnancy does trigger this as higher levels of hormones can relax the esophageal sphincter, allowing the stomach acid to come up to the throat. I felt nauseous all the time and it was terrible. If you suffer from acid reflux, then you know that it can also make you have blinding headaches, vomiting and anger. I had all of this and more. The problem was that beyond the birth of my beautiful son, this stayed with me. 

Allopathic doctors gave me antacids, and I’ll confess that I felt wonderful when I took them. I even tried Ayurveda, and I was given the equivalent of an antacid through Ayurveda as well. Each time I showed up at either the clinic of the Gasteroenterologist or the Ayurveda Doctor, I was ushered in and handed medication. I took it almost every few weeks and I became dependant. What was wrong? I felt relief, so was there any danger in taking them? 

I cannot even go into how many dangers there are of antacids, but I’m going to narrow it down into three critical aspects. Read deeply and note it in your mind. I developed all three of these along the way and had no idea they were even connected.

Repurcussions of taking antacids frequently:

  1. Lack of protection from pathogens– Your stomach is the first line of defence. If you find yourself having recurring infections or bacterial overgrowth, there is a major chance that it is connected to your antacid usage. Your stomach is meant to secrete HCL, when it receives food. When in doubt, I always go back to ancient traditions or look at why the body is created in a certain way. Your body has been created to produce HCL when it receives food. In this way, it is the first line of defence for pathogens. Just suppose the food you have eaten contains some pathogens, your stomach acid is meant to destroy it before it enters your body. If you or even your child develops things like gastritis or gastrointestinal infections, it might be connected to previous antacid use. The HCL in your stomach has to kill pathogens. By taking antacids every day, you are in fact destroying your body’s built in mechanism to prevent these infections.
  2. Lack of absorption of proteins– Your stomach is the first area in your body where the protein you eat starts to get broken down into peptides, which can then be broken down into amino acids. A stomach where the HCL is reduced by taking frequent antacids, does not break down proteins enough. In Rahul’s case, this was happening all the time. He was eating enough protein, but his body was unable to do anything with it. It could not use protein that was not broken down to microscopic molecules. His body needed amino acids, and proteins that were still peptides which could be absorbed. In fact, the unbroken down protein was also increasing his inflammation.
  3. Iron and B12 Deficiency– Your stomach is so critical to Iron and B12. I’ll in fact bet that if you take antacids, you have low Iron, B12 or both. Chances are that you rely on B12 injections! HCL in your stomach breaks down your protein for B12. B12 combines with Intrinsic factor in order to move into your small intestine. In your small intestine, intrinsic factor is destroyed and your body absorbs B12. Without stomach acid, your body cannot use B12, even if you eat enough foods with B12. This is why Rahul, who was eating plenty of meat, was taking B12 injections. 

Fatigue

This is just the beginning of how destructive antacid use can be. Ask yourself these questions. Do you take antacids? Do you suffer from frequent infections? Do you have chronic fatigue? Do you have low B12? Do you have low Iron? Let’s not even go into all that these two deficiencies then lead to. In Rahul’s lab tests, his doctors were wondering why he showed poor protein absorption. He was prescribed more protein! I also want to stress that antacids are something that every doctor prescribes routinely with any medication, especially antibiotics. This is perhaps the only time you could take them. Apart from those few days, antacids cannot be used, especially not continuously and consistently. Rahul also had a bout of severe fungal infections, where he required IV anti fungals. This too was connected to his daily antacid use. 

There is still so much destructive impact of antacids I have not gone into here, but I will leave you with this today. It might already be too much for you to process, given that I too was in denial when I discovered how dangerous antacids were. I recently met a man at a party, who told me that his reflux was so bad that his gasteroenterologist was now moving him from antacids to Proton Pump Inhibitors, something doubly dangerous. I’m not going into that here. 

Sadly, I cannot give you takeaways for this, as much as I would like to. Weaning yourself off antacids is a long process, which requires a gentle journey with therapeutic steps. I am not in a position to do this as each person is unique, and when it comes to antacids, weaning yourself off is a tricky process. Please do consider this as education, and as some crucial information that has come your way for future benefit. After all, making connections in your mind and understanding interconnections is the first step towards any resolution!

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2 Comments

  1. Deepa,
    I have been prescribed PanD which I believe is an antacid. One of the medications I am on, methotrexate is supposed to cause acidity and hence I need to take this. So far PanD seems to be doing its job.
    I am on methotrexate at least till July 2019. So also PanD.
    Wanted to know if you have any alternate suggestions to PanD.
    Thank you.

    • Ashmani, Yes PanD is an antacid. Many times these are prescribed when someone is on medication. It is sometimes prescribed for kids as well. This is one article where I consciously could not give takeaways, simply because each individual is very unique and it requires taking an indepth history and finding ways to wean off, heal, and replace through a systematic and therapeutic approach. It is not a question of taking it out and replacing it. It requires slow work. I would love to help but this is one area I am going to err on the side of caution and tell you that I can’t make that recommendation without a lengthy history and intake process

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