My Health Journey


Winter Maladies: Natural Approaches



Free Radicals
and Antioxidants

Chemicals and Pesticides


Evaluating Health & Medical Information

Miscellaneous Health Topics




June Russell's Health Facts


[Symptom Masking]   [Rebound Effects]   [Calcium Absorption]   [Osteoporosis]   [Disadvantages]   [Risks/Side Effects]   [Additives]   [Vitamins/Minerals]   [Physiological Effects]   [Pathogens]   [Other Reports]   [Alternatives]  

Symptom Masking

An estimated six million Americans routinely take antacids to prevent stomach discomfort while using arthritis drugs. However, the antacids may just mask the symptoms and therefore increase the risk of serious internal bleeding, according to two new studies. There is a perception that antacids protect the stomach, but there is no evidence of that among the arthritis drug users, said Lee Simon of Harvard Medical School. They treat the symptoms, not the underlying problem. Gurkipal Singh of Stanford University reported that people taking antacids and H2-blockers suffered more than twice as many serious gastrointestinal complications than those given placebos. They do so by masking symptoms and patients delay seeking treatment until the condition worsens.
{“Arthritis Drug Users Who Take Antacids May Risk Bleeding,” Associated Press, Washington Post Health, Oct. 1995}

A study at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine found that a majority of those who took antacids had one or more serious conditions.
{Internal Medicine News, July 1996}.

Those in the study had had frequent heartburn for longer than three months. Remember, antacids merely mask symptoms instead of handling the real problem, which could be serious. There are ‘alarm symptoms’ gastroenterologists warn, that could mean you have a serious disease; hoarseness, wheezing and pain when swallowing or difficulty swallowing. You may need to check with your doctor, even if you think he/she may tell you to cut out smoking, drinking, eating rich foods or some other activity.
{People’s Medical Society newsletter, Dec. 1996}

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Rebound Effects

Antacids were clinically proven ineffective by a Swedish study in 1986. In fact, sometimes antacids will cause your stomach to produce more acid, a condition called acid rebound, which worsens your gastrointestinal problem. Antacids also change the pH environment of the gut, potentially causing an imbalance of friendly flora and putting you at risk for infection by the unfriendly types. Some believe that antacids even help set the stage for infection with Helicobacter pylori the bacterium that causes ulcers. Alcohol impairs digestion by reducing stomach acid and digestive enzymes.
{“Antacids - Not the Anti You Think They Are,” Ronald Hoffman, MD, founder of the Hoffman Center in New York City, 2000}

Hydrochloric acid (HCL) normally produced in the stomach to aid digestion, is destroyed by the regular use of antacids. “Initially, use of antacids causes the body to produce more hydrochloric acid,” says Elizabeth Lipski, MS, CNN. “Parietal cells respond by making more acid, causing a rebound effect.” You're likely to take more antacids, further suppressing the acid your stomach needs. Continued use of antacids can exhaust parietal cells, so that the stomach produces less HCL.

One of the most surprising ways to help prevent indigestion happens to be avoiding antacid use. In fact, over-the-stomach antacids can trigger a rebound rise in acid, making sore stomachs feel worse.
{"What Guys Are Saying About Their Health," - Aug. 2002}

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Calcium Absorption

To our knowledge, not a single medical test has ever been conducted anywhere, that shows that the form of calcium used in the antacids can be utilized by the human body to build bone or prevent the dread disease of osteoporosis. Calcium absorption and metabolism for the purpose of building bone is virtually impossible without the correct form of calcium; plus proper balances of several other nutrients that work hand-in-hand with calcium to aid the osteoblasts in building bone.
{Bio/Tech News, Fall 1999}

People with normal levels of stomach acid may absorb only about 22% of the calcium in calcium-carbonate supplements. For older Americans who tend to have less stomach acid, the percentage is even lower, about 4%. Calcium citrate is easier for the body to break down and absorb and even people with low stomach acid can absorb up to 45% of the calcium in calcium-citrate supplements. The drawback is that calcium citrate contains only about 10% elemental calcium, meaning that the number and size of capsules that need to be swallowed can be unmanageably large for many people.
{Health Sciences Institute Members Alert, July 2000}

In the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, calcium citrate, Citracal or Oscal, was taken by women already using calcium carbonate, and the women’s levels went 2.5 times higher with the calcium citrate. This suggests that calcium citrate is more bioavailable. TUMS, calcium carbonate, may be a good source in terms of quantity because it has a lot of calcium, but it may be poorly absorbed. Calcium carbonate is an antacid, and therefore it alters the acidity of the stomach which is so essential for calcium absorption. Two of the seven daily digestive sins are alcohol and antacids.
{“Health Talk,” Ronald Hoffman, MD, WINA, June 2000 and Winter 1999/2000}

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An osteoporosis risk factor: Frequently taking antacids or anti-ulcer medications, even those with calcium, increases the risk of osteoporosis because the dietary calcium absorption is impaired and the normal acidity is altered.
{HRT Advisory, by Christiane Northrup, MD, 1996}

TUMS are mostly calcium carbonate, the least well-absorbed form of calcium. Calcium carbonate is poorly absorbed by individuals with weak stomach acid production, an extremely common condition in those who have osteoporosis. As far as we are aware, no one has produced a study showing that carbon carbonate as found in TUMS actually does help prevent osteoporosis. If the same standards applied to dietary supplement claims were applied to TUMS claims, SmithKline Beecham couldn't make them.
{Nutrition and Healing newsletter, Jonathan Wright, MD, March 1998}

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Disadvantages of Antacids

Antacids have several disadvantages. First, they suppress the activity of pepsin, a stomach acid required to digest protein. Second, many of the products contain aluminum, a toxic heavy metal, which has been proven to be absorbable by the body, Third, as some antacids primarily contain calcium carbonate, routine use can lead to excess calcium absorption, which in turn can contribute to kidney stones and other problems. Calcium antacids can also produce acid rebound several hours later, causing the stomach to secrete even more acid to compensate for the earlier neutralization of its acidity.
{“Heartburn Relief with Enzymes and Herbs.” Alternative Medicine Digest, Aug/Sep, 1997}

The problem with taking an antacid or other medication that offers symptomatic relief is that you never get to the source of the problem: antacids can make your digestion worse. You just find a band-aid approach and cover up the discomfort. All medications, even antacids, have side effects. Antacids neutralize the acids in your stomach, making it difficult to break down foods into small enough particles to be absorbed. Once you let partially digested foods leave your stomach. Your body treats this partially digested food as foreign. The resulting immune response can result in food insensitivities and fatigue. You begin missing out on some of the nutrients and fats that your body needs. In addition, partially-digested foods often ferment in the intestines causing more gas. Added to this is the upset of the balance of friendly bacteria needed for a healthy immune system and antacids can contribute to colon problems.
{"Digestion Problems," Women's Health Letter, Nan Fuchs, PhD, Feb. 2002}

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Risks/Side Effects

Don't use antacids if you have kidney disease.
{Reader’s Digest, Nov. 1994}

Sodium-containing antacids such as Alka-Seltzer, Bromo-Seltzer or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) could be bad for you if you are on a salt-restricted diet. Calcium containing antacids (TUMS, Alka-2, Titralac) taken frequently can cause constipation, bloating, cramps and kidney stones. Magnesium-based antacids (Gelucil, Maalox, Mylanta, Camalox, Riopan) may cause diarrhea, and if used too frequently can lower blood pressure sufficiently to cause heartbeat irregularities, fainting, etc. Aluminum-containing antacids (Rolaids, Amphogel, etc.) can cause osteoporosis, and should be avoided by women after menopause. Pepto-Bismol has aspirin-like side effects and may cause ringing in the ears, Reye’s syndrome, or interfere with blood clotting and should not be used by diabetics or arthritics unless their doctors agree. Gastric ulcer medications that reduce acid production (such as the prescription drugs Tagamet, Zantac, etc.) also interfere with the stomach’s ability to destroy alcohol, thereby rendering even moderate drinks more intoxicating than usual. Aspirin has this effect too.
{Modern Medicine 1995 and FDA Consumer 1995, in 'Health Gazette,' Nov./Dec. 1995}

Antacids seriously interfere with digestion. By neutralizing the acid in the stomach, they block the extraction of minerals from food and inhibit the stimulation of pancreatic enzyme secretion by the pancreas. There are some antacids that have salts of aluminum which are toxic to the brain, and high levels have been associated with poorer mental functioning and even Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminum is also in our food, water supply and in deodorants. It is estimated that the diet of Americans is deficient in magnesium in over 50% of the population. Magnesium is an intracellular element so serum levels (the way most doctors measure magnesium levels) does not reflect a person’s actual magnesium status. In fact, serum levels don't drop until a person is already experiencing symptoms from a deficiency in this mineral. Antacids block the absorption of magnesium.
{ “Total Wellness,” Joseph Pizzorno, ND, 1996}

Tagamet, a drug to treat indigestion and ulcers, appears to alter the body’s metabolism of estrogen, decreasing the levels of ‘good’ estrogen and increasing the levels of ‘bad’ estrogen.
{“The Breast Cancer Prevention Program,” Samuel Epstein, MD, 1998}

Long-term use of antacids can cause diarrhea and other problems. Consult a doctor if taking antacids for more than three weeks. Possible side effects from H2-Blockers (Tagamet, Pepcid, Axid and Zantac), headache, diarrhea, constipation, and both the antacids and the H2-Blockers can interact with certain drugs.
{UVa Health Talk/Spring 2000}

About 40% of the population complains of gas, belching and bloating. In 1992, the sale of drugs to relieve this topped $8 billion. However, these remedies, which block acid production as much as 50 to 70% within an hour or two of meals, may only exacerbate digestive difficulties in the long run. Remedies that block the production of acid (as much as 50 to 70%) within an hour or two of meals, may only make digestive problems worse in the long run. According to many practitioners, it is actually the underproduction of stomach acid that causes the problem.
{‘Natural Pharmacy,’ GreatLife magazine, Feb. 2000}

Don't take thyroid with an antacid that contains aluminum, because the aluminum interferes with thyroxin, also don't take with calcium carbonate like TUMS or Oscal. Iron can also interfere with synthyroid absorption. Take thyroid at least two hours before taking calcium. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may be caused by the acid-suppressing drugs that people are taking with such regularity (Previcet and Prilosec), because you can't absorb B-12 unless your stomach is somewhat acidic.
{People’s Pharmacy, Public Radio, May 9, 1998 and May 13 and 30, 2000}

If, in spite of self-treatment with antacids (such as TUMS or sodium bicarbonate) or drugs that decrease gastric acid production, heartburn recurs again and again. Do not continue to rely on antacids. Reflux can now almost always be treated with specific medicines for this, or by surgery. The risk of esophageal cancer increases 15-fold in those who have reflux symptoms about three times a week on and off for more than 20 years.
{Mayo Clinic Proceedings - 2000}

If any antacid is to be used it should be used sparingly. TUMS carries two directions, one for antacid needs and one for calcium needs. Their calcium advice: chew two tablets twice daily. That provides 2,000 mg of calcium carbonate. But you are then putting a steady stream of antacid medication into your stomach, neutralizing the acid needed to digest food, and antacids like TUMS may have adverse interactions with prescription drugs.
{Sources: “TUMS: The Calcium Information Page -; Health Sciences Institute email, March 2003}

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Many brands of antacids contain aluminum salts as their active ingredient. Aluminum has no place in human nutrition and may be harmful.
{“Natural Health,” Andrew Weil, MD, 1990}

Pepsin, the stomach’s major protein-digesting enzyme is only activated by high concentrations of hydrochloric acid, and many minerals in foods must be changed by strong acid before the body can use them. You wouldn't want to shut this off! Nine out of ten patients who think they have ‘acid indigestion’ actually are under producing acid and need supplementation of pepsin and hydrochloric acid to relieve the symptoms. You might try taking DGL, an inexpensive licorice extract that studies have shown does as well as acid-blocking drugs for healing peptic ulcers.
{Nutrition and Healing newsletter, Jonathan Wright, MD, July 1995}

Aluminum-containing antacids are associated with accelerated bone loss.
{John Hopkins Medical Letter - Health after 50, Dec. 1999}

If you are taking any prescription drug, beware of taking an antacid that contains aluminum, because it blocks the absorption of Zantac (ulcer medication) and other prescription drugs for up to two hours.
{“Physicians Guide to the Right Medicines,” Bruce Yaffe, MD, an internist and gastroenterologist in New York City, 2000}

Many medications, such as antacids that contain aluminum, cause constipation.
{"Constipation is a serious health concern," RenewLife, the Digestive Care Company, - 2002}

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Vitamins and Minerals

All antacids promote constipation and can impair B-12 absorption, says Sidney Wolfe, MD, author of “Best Pills, Worst Pills.”
{Donahue Show - TV - Fall 1993}

Vitamins B-12 and folic acid, as well as calcium, require an acidic environment to be absorbed well. If the pH is elevated, then it can decrease the absorption of vitamins by half or more. So if you must take antacids, you need to increase these three vitamins by diet or supplement.
{Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, Tufts University, one of the world’s authorities on vitamins and antioxidants. People’s Pharmacy, Public Radio, Nov. 7, 1998}

H-2 receptor antagonists - such as Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, Tritec, and Zantac can deplete calcium, folic acid, iron, B-12, vitamin D and zinc. The potential depletion problem could result in the following health problems:

  • Depletion of calcium — heart/blood pressure irregularities, osteoporosis, tooth decay.
  • Depletion of folic acid — anemia, birth defects, cardiovascular disease, cervical dysplasia.
  • Depletion of iron — anemia, brittle nails, fatigue, hair loss, weakness.
  • Depletion of vitamin B-12 — anemia, increased cardiovascular disease risk, tiredness and weakness.
  • Depletion of vitamin D — hearing loss, muscle weakness, osteoporosis.
  • Depletion of zinc — loss of sense of smell and taste, lowered immunity, slow wound healing.
    {Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook, Nutrition Science News, Sept. 1999}

Antacids reduce the acidity of the gastrointestinal tract and, in doing so, diminish the absorption of many nutrients. In particular, aluminum- and magnesium-based antacids can bond with calcium and prevent its absorption. Low calcium levels increase the risk of weak bones and osteoporosis. Ironically, some antacids, such as TUMS and Rolaids, have been promoted as supplemental sources of calcium, but other forms of the mineral (calcium citrate or aspartate) are absorbed better. Common antacids are also known to lower blood levels of phosphorus. In addition, they deplete B-12, vitamin D, potassium and decrease absorption of folic acid, zinc and iron. Sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate can significantly reduce iron absorption as well as blood levels of the mineral. What can you do? Take a mineral supplement daily.
{‘Prescription for Disaster,’ Let’s Live magazine, Jan. 2000}

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Physiological Effects

Antacids taken to fight indigestion actually diminish the enzymes needed to digest foods and nutrients critical to proper brain function.
{Journal of Natural Healing Breakthroughs, “Health Alert,” Dr. Bruce West}

TUMS, which many women take as a source of calcium, is poorly absorbed. Antacids make the gastrointestinal tract less acidic, which impairs absorption.
{Health and Healing newsletter, by Julian Whitaker, MD, Aug. 2000}

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Antacids and Pathogens

Antacid products reduce the stomach acids that fight certain fish-borne pathogens found in raw shellfish that is eaten. Taking antacid tablets compound the problem.
{“Is Your Seafood Safe?” Reader’s Digest, July 1995}

Taking antacids can interfere with antibiotics, so the antacid needs to be taken about four hours before, or after, taking the antibiotic. Alcohol can decrease the effectiveness of medications.
{“Medications and You,” Director of Drug Information and Adverse Drug Reactions lecture at the Senior Center in Charlottesville, VA., Sarah Deboy and Anne Hendrick, Pharm. D., Aug. 1997}

A person who regularly takes antacids is less protected against the microbes that cause food poisoning. Since it is important for the acids in the stomach to be at germ-fighting strength while food is present, microbiologist Dean O. Cliver suggests that any antacids taken for calcium be chewed between meals.
{Editor of “Health,” in Letters. Oct. 1998}

Mineral-based antacids prevent the absorption of certain antibiotics.
{“Here’s what you need to know before you play doctor,” Health magazine, Jan./Feb. 1999}

Try to avoid antacids and acid-lowering drugs. The first line of defense against infection is stomach acid. People who are taking acid-lowering therapies are more susceptible to gastrointestinal infection.
{"The Health Traveler," Let’s Live magazine, Aug. 1999}

The skin, mucous secretions, and the acidity of the stomach are examples of innate immunity that act as barriers to keep unwanted germs away from more vulnerable tissues.
{“Immune Function,” - Feb. 2000}

If you have kidney stones that are composed of calcium oxalate you should avoid antacids.
{Health Sciences Institute, Sept. 2000}

One study of 155 healthy people who had used antacids for long periods of time found that 47% suffered some erosion of the esophagus. Regular antacid use also impairs the stomach’s ability to digest protein. Finally, without the right amount of stomach acidity, “friendly” bacteria that contribute to digestion die, leaving you at risk for low-level microbial infections that can lead to chronic indigestion. Because HCL levels often decrease with age, antacids present more of a problem as we grow older.
{"Upset Stomach? The Right PH," Family Health, Taste for Life magazine, Nov. 2000}

Your stomach and intestines are the first line of defense against food-borne bacteria and parasites, and because stomach acid kills bacteria, it’s a good idea to minimize the use of acid-lowering drugs like Tagamet and Zantac. Antibiotics can decimate “good” bacteria that live in the gut and leave you vulnerable to infection by disease-causing bacteria. If you must take an antibiotic, ask your doctor about taking it with the good bacterium Lactobacillus plantarium, which is sold in health food stores. It is the only variety not harmed by antibiotics.
{“Physicians Guide to the Right Medicines,” Leo Galland, MD, director of the Foundation for Integrative Medicine in New York City, and author of ‘Power Healing,’ 2000}

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Other Reports

From “Why Antacids Are Not a Good Source of Supplemental Calcium,” by Schuyler Lininger, Jr., DC, a member of the “Let’s Live” Medical Advisory Board and is a chiropractor practicing in Sandy, Oregon. Let’s Live Magazine, Aug. 1990:

The calcium carbonate contained in antacid tablets ranges from 317 mg to 500 mg per tablet. Unfortunately, calcium carbonate is only 40% calcium; the other 60% is the carbonate carrier. So the actual calcium content ranges from 127 mg to 200 mg per tablet. If you want to get the recommended RDA for calcium using antacids say 1,000 mg, you need to take between five and eight tablets a day (cost = $1.24 to $2.00). The cost of a 1,000 mg calcium supplement in your natural health food store is only $0.12 to $0.14 per day, and without the potentially toxic chemicals that are in the antacids.

Aluminum-containing antacid use has been connected with severe bone pain and fractures, and some doctors have suggested that antacids cause bone loss. A key factor in protein digestion and some mineral absorption (including calcium absorption) is an adequate supply of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach. Since the function of antacid tablets is to reduce stomach acidity, antacids will reduce, rather than increase calcium absorption. Frequently, when stomach HCL is in short supply, the symptom is heartburn. With low HCL, people usually cannot tolerate fried or spicy foods or even eggs, butter, milk, meat, or cheese. These are the same symptoms that antacids are prescribed for. Other symptoms include a feeling of fullness after eating, belching, constipation, diarrhea, and flatulence (gas). Why does low HCL cause such symptoms and why do antacids relieve the problem?

If HCL is low, the stomach holds the food longer, and instead of the stomach emptying its contents into the small intestines, some food regurgitates into the esophagus. Since the throat is not protected against acid with the same mucosal barrier of the stomach, the throat gets burned (heartburn). By treating with antacids, the burning stops, but all the other problems just mentioned can still occur. If antacids aren't good as a calcium supplement nor alleviating the cause of heartburn, what are they good for?

From “Healthy Bones, What You Should Know About Osteoporosis,” 1991 book by Nancy Appleton, PhD, clinical nutritionist:

Antacids upset the body chemistry. When the calcium goes up in the bloodstream and the phosphorus drops, all the minerals become toxic and/or nonfunctional. It is well documented that antacids can impair phosphorus absorption, because something in the antacids seems to bond with the phosphorus escorting it out of the body. Frequent use of antacids wreaks havoc on the bones because antacids deplete stomach acid, making the calcium more difficult to absorb.

Tums does not contain the necessary magnesium for calcium absorption. Many antacids contain aluminum, and a lower calcium level seems to increase the absorption of aluminum because the phosphorus has been depleted — antacids lower the functioning calcium level. Aluminum is difficult to avoid because it is present in antacids, salt, baking powder, non-dairy creamers, cake and pancake mixes, frozen dough, processed cheese, toothpaste, deodorant, anti-diarrhea products, and buffered aspirin. Also aluminum in pots and pans can be leached out when acidic foods are cooked in them.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we need only 500 milligrams of calcium per day. However, if our bodies are not in homeostasis, even the 1,000 milligrams or more that the FDA says we should have is not absorbed. Osteoporosis is becoming an enormous problem, but taking more calcium is not the answer. As long as you eat a natural diet that includes vegetables, beans, grains, and small amounts of protein, you will get all the calcium you need. Add caffeine, alcohol, antacids, drugs, sugar, or refined food and it won’t matter how natural the rest of the diet is.

Exercise is the only way, short of potent medication, to significantly increase bone mass after you have stopped growing. When the body’s pH balance becomes acidic, calcium is pulled from the bones to buffer this acidic state, thereby weakening the bones. A study at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reports that as little as two drinks in a day could cut the benefits of calcium in one’s diet. Also, a study conducted at Washington State University suggests that both caffeine and sugar intake have a negative effect on calcium balance, and that the calcium loss may be greatest when these two are consumed together. Americans drink an average of 380 sugared soft drinks a year per person, and it is one of the basic substances that can upset body chemistry.

Stomachaches and overeating go hand-in-hand. Eating too much can exhaust your enzyme system, resulting in undigested food, which causes stomach pain. Other common reasons for stomach discomfort: (1) eating foods your body is allergic to, (2) consuming alcohol with meals, (3) eating desserts (combining simple sugars in alcohol, or desserts, with the protein in a meal can cause stomachaches), and (4) eating when your body chemistry is upset such as when in distress or ill. If you know you are going to eat a big meal, you might take digestive enzymes.

Our cells don’t like to have too much calcium in them; it keeps them from functioning well. When the body chemistry becomes upset due to an increase or decrease in phosphorus, the functioning calcium level in the blood drops. This causes generalized bone mineralization (minerals are pulled out of the bone).

It also appears that excess calcium in arteries, joints, and tissues may be indirectly related to the generalized demineralization of bones. The excess accumulation of calcium in the cells of the arteries is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. Drugs are called in to rid the cells of excess calcium, but it seems more logical to stop upsetting the body chemistry so that the calcium won’t get into the cells in the first place.

From Better Nutrition, May 1996:

What’s wrong with traditional antacids? Antacids are formulated to reduce the acid in the stomach so that it will not hurt so much when materials are refluxed back into the esophagus. This is bad for two reasons: we need to have acid in the stomach, since it kills unwanted bacteria and stimulates the enzymes to break down the food we eat, and also, if we reduce the acidity in the stomach, our bodies will automatically adjust by producing more acid. Thus a vicious cycle begins. Most, if not all, of the biggest over-the-counter (OTC) antacid products contain aluminum hydroxide. Aluminum is toxic. Yale School of Medicine’s Stephen E. Levick, MD, in the book, “Toxic Metal Syndrome: How Metal Poisons Can Affect Your Brain,” tells us that large numbers of people in our aluminum-using society are the victims of slow aluminum poisoning.

More natural ways for reducing the incidence of heartburn would be to: reduce stress, eat several small meals a day, don't lie down immediately after eating, raise the head of the bed at least six inches, chew food well, and avoid very hot or cold liquids. People who have ulcers are susceptible to coffee’s ill effects.

From Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Health Wisdom for Women, April 1997:

A recent Gallup poll of 1,500 people 18 years and older found that more than half of them suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as gas, heartburn, indigestion, and bloating. Heartburn is caused by gastroesophageal reflux - acid and gas coming from your stomach up your esophagus toward your throat. The burning experienced can be mild, moderate or severe enough to mimic a heart attack in some people. Unlike your stomach, your esophagus cannot tolerate stomach acid and becomes burned. Alcohol, smoking, coffee, and emotional stress can set the scene for adverse changes in your stomach, and favor the overgrowth of H. pylori.

The acid in your stomach protects you against the overgrowth of H. pylori as well as antioxidants, so it makes no sense to take antacids on a regular basis. It ‘kills the messenger’, telling you something is out of balance. What’s wrong with conventional heartburn and ulcer treatment? Chronically taking a drug to deplete or alter your stomach acid will inhibit your absorption of foods and nutrients, which then sets the stage for illnesses. Some antacids contain aluminum which can accumulate in the brain, and has been closely linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS.

Too many TUMS (or other antacids containing calcium carbonate), currently a much-touted source of calcium and a popular antacid, cause an alkaline imbalance in your system known as milk-alkali syndrome. This results is too much calcium and phosphorus in the wrong places, and can cause kidney stones.

There are safer natural treatments for heartburn and ulcers: improve the diet to decrease excess body fat, avoid coffee, alcohol and cigarettes, take a high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement, eat smaller more frequent meals, don't go to bed on a full stomach, use calcium citrate as an antacid and/or source of calcium. Try herbs such as peppermint tea, DGL or deglycerized licorice extract, raw cabbage juice (or glutamine) or Aloe vera juice. For ulcers, stay away from aspirin and NSAIDs and cut out dairy which can increase acid production.

From “Healthwise for Life,” 1998:

Antacids work by neutralizing excess stomach acid. Acid blockers work by reducing the amount of acid the stomach produces. Antacids are safe if used occasionally, but they can cause problems if taken regularly. Aluminum-based antacids (Amphogel) are less potent and work more slowly than other antacids. Some may cause calcium depletion and should not be taken by women after menopause. If you have kidney problems check with your doctor before using aluminum antacids.

Antacids may interfere with the absorption and action of some drugs, such as antibiotics, heart medication, and blood thinners (anticoagulants). Some acid blockers increase the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol. Avoid alcohol while taking these medications. Avoiding alcohol will help reduce heartburn.

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Prevention and Alternatives to the Use of Antacids

Heartburn actually has little or nothing to do with acidic foods, It is caused by gastroesophageal reflux, where the gastric acids, which are more acidic than any food, produce a burning sensation. The reason heartburn sufferers are often advised to avoid certain foods, such as alcohol or coffee, is because these relax or weaken the sphincter muscle above the stomach and allow the stomach juices to flow upward and burn the esophagus. Fatty foods may slow the emptying of the stomach, which can also lead to irritation. When acidic foods make heartburn worse, it is because they may irritate the esophageal walls damaged by repeated backup of stomach acid. Overuse of the anti-heartburn remedies may mask a serious problem more serious than heartburn. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol, and don't smoke. Don't take an antacid that contains aluminum if you are taking any prescription drug. The labels on such antacids warn about possible drug reactions - notably reduced absorption of the prescription medication.
{‘Heartburn Relief: the acid test,’ University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, Oct. 1997}

When heartburn is a problem, try two ounces of Aloe vera juice instead of an antacid. Antacids don't get at the root of reflux or indigestion, they only temporarily relieve. Avoid alcohol, chocolate, coffee and fats. In some people peppermint or spearmint can trigger reflux.
{‘Reflux and Indigestion,’ Richard Huemer, MD, Let’s Live magazine, Nov. 1997}

Natural heartburn treatments strengthen the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) so acid doesn't reflux. Some foods increase the secretion of stomach acids: alcohol, citrus fruits, garlic, milk, carbonated beverages, spicy foods and tomato-based foods. Others trigger the release of hormone-like compounds that relax the LES, explains Dr. Alan Gaby, Professor of Nutrition at Bastyr University, a naturopathic school. Some of these foods include alcohol, fatty or greasy foods, chocolate, tea, and coffee. Don't overfill your stomach with big meals which can force acid past even a strong LES. Lose weight, as extra weight increases physical pressure on the stomach, and can force acid up into the esophagus. Chew gum: gum boosts saliva production, which soothes the esophagus and washes acid back into the stomach. Don't smoke or drink. Chamomile is the first-choice herb for heartburn, says noted herbalist James Duke, PhD. Other aids include ginger, licorice (DGL), peppermint and homeopathic formulas for heartburn.
{“Natural Alternatives to Antacids,” GreatLife, May 1998}

About 80% of heartburn sufferers (nearly 50 million people) experience nighttime heartburn that affects their sleep. Lifestyle changes remain the best way to avoid nighttime heartburn, says former American gastroenterologic Association (AGA) president, Dr. Donald Castell. He added that he is discouraged by antacid advertisements that imply people can eat big, fatty meals and use antacids to alleviate reflux symptoms. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate, as these worsen the symptoms. Other suggestions are to take smaller portion sizes, avoid tight clothing and lose weight (if overweight).
{“Americans lose sleep over heartburn,” Reuters Health, - Aug. 2000}

Dr. Lennon Smith, MD, a general, gastrointestinal, and vascular surgeon, and Brenda Watson, founder of Renew Life Health Clinics with headquarters in Tarpon Springs, Florida, suggests reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption as one of the ways to prevent heartburn. The advice to patients is cut out the CCRAAPP: cigarettes, coffee, refined sugar, aspirin, alcohol, pop, and processed foods. Stomach acid is needed to sterilize food before it enters the intestinal tract, and since many sufferers don't have enough acid, going from low acid to no acid can be serious. They are then unable to neutralize the bacteria on all raw vegetables. Another major issue is with water, most people are dehydrated and they don't have sufficient mucus lining the upper digestive tract. These individuals need to drink a glass of room temperature water about 30 minutes before their meal to help with hydration, says Ms. Watson. However, she cautions against drinking with the meal to avoid diluting gastric acids.
{"Ease the burn - promote acid production," Complementary Therapies in Chronic Care, American Health, Jan. 2001}

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