Before my Crohn’s Disease was under control, at the height of my illness I got really bad stomach acid. I was still in my 20s when it started and didn’t really recognize it as being a heart burn or acid problem at first. At times it would feel like an intense painful hunger that couldn’t be satisfied (weird, I know), chronic pain in my upper stomach, or at times more like a burning in my throat and an acid taste in my mouth. It was constant and didn’t seem related to eating certain foods like it was presented in the antacid commercials on TV.
Eventually a doctor started to take my symptoms seriously and finally prescribed me an antacid. To my shock, something as simple as a common antacid actually helped my chronic pain. However, it kept getting worse and worse. By the time I was under treatment with a gastroenterologist, I was taking an H2 Blocker (pepcid) twice a day, a max-strength proton-pump inhibitor (omeprazole) twice a day, and chewing on tums throughout the entire day. So as you can see, I was taking a lot of antacids. Pretty much the maximum that anyone can take.
Finally I was put on Humira and my Crohn’s got a lot better. However, my problem with acid never got better at all. To me, the acid seemed to be caused by the Chron’s so I didn’t understand why it wouldn’t get better too. My gastroenterologists didn’t seem concerned at all and told me that the acid must not be related to the Chron’s and to just keep taking the antacids. When I told them I wanted to ween myself off of them they couldn’t understand why I wanted to do that. Basically I was given zero support from my doctors in the matter.
When I went to the grocery store, I felt embarrassed having all of these antacids in my cart week after week. It made me feel bad about myself. I didn’t want to have that kind of lifestyle anymore. I started researching antacids and realized that my current problem was not that I had too much acid, it’s that I was taking all these antacids! Let me explain.
If you have problems with GERD or heart burn, the problem is not that you have too much acid, the problem is that the lever at the top of your stomach that keeps the acid in has stopped working. It was never an acid problem. Acid is necessary for digesting food. When you take a bunch of antacids you can actually cause yourself to have nutritional deficits over time. Antacids will never fix a faulty lever. In fact, as you take antacids, it will cause your body to produce more and more acid over time to try to fix it’s “low acid problem” caused by you taking all these antacids. And thus you will then need to take more and more antacids. You basically become addicted to them.
So the only real solution is to fix this faulty lever issue. No one wants to be told they need to lose weight, but weight is the number 1 cause of the lever not working. It makes sense if you think about. When we sit, our stomach rolls fold in and press up right against where the lever is located, preventing it from working. If you have Chron’s disease, the inflammation in your digestive system will cause the lever to stop working also. But if you are even slightly over weight, I still think it’s worth it to look into trimming your waist and even doing some exercise that focuses on strengthening your core. Also look at the clothing you wear and how it smooshes your stomach. I used to be very into fashion, but in order to fix this problem, I got rid of all of my restrictive clothing. You can watch my videos to see how I dress. I don’t want to make it sound like I only wear sweatpants or yoga pants, but I do only wear stretchy waistbands or loose dresses these days. Fortunately there are a lot of fashionable options now. But yes, I had to commit to living my life differently in order to solve the problem.
Basically the point is that if you want to get off of antacids for good, you are going to have to take an honest look at your lifestyle and make some big changes. I threw out a lot of clothes, and I’m somebody that loves clothes! I also lost some weight even though I started out in a normal BMI bracket. Take a close look at the foods you’re eating and ask yourself “Is this really healthy food?” I know people get really upset about weight-loss and diet talk, but I wanted to give you the God-honest truth of how I permanently got off of antacids if that’s what you’re looking for. Look at my videos, I’m not super skinny. I’m not perfect either when it comes to eating healthy. But you have to fix the acid-lever problem if you have any hope of doing this.
The next step is to start weening yourself off the antacids. I did tell my doctor that I was going to be doing this. I started with the PPI first since that one is supposed to be the hardest. I cut it down from twice a day to once a day. I did that for two weeks and then went to every other day for two weeks. Then ever two days for two weeks. Then I stopped taking it completely. I actually didn’t find getting off the PPI to bed that difficult. I waited another two weeks and then cut my H2 blocker down to once a day. Around this time I ran out of Tums and decided to stop buying them.
So I was doing pretty good. I had gotten down from all those medications to just taking a Pepcid once a day. At this point I still wanted to get down to nothing, but was having a really hard time getting off the Pepcid. When I would go a couple days without it I would get acid-rebound so bad I simply couldn’t take it. I experienced acid pain so bad I was literally afraid that I would burn a hole through my stomach and bleed-out. I had no idea it could get that bad and was genuinely worried about causing injury to myself.
One day while driving around I came across a roadside herbalist and pulled over. It sounds weird, but Shaman-like people living in organic off-grid farms is not that uncommon here in Appalachia. She suggested I use Calamus Tincture. So I bought it and started using it daily. It does not work as well as Pepcid, but it did make it possible for me to endure what I needed to endure. By the time I was half-way through the bottle I was off the Pepcid completely. Maybe it was placebo-effect, but it did work. I have seen Calamus Tincture for sale commercially in Health Food stores if you would like to give it a try.
At this point it’s been a solid 5 months and I haven’t used or needed an antacid whatsoever. I do think it’s possibly to become “addicted” to antacids and find yourself needing more and more over time and then experiencing a withdrawal syndrome once you stop. Fortunately your body has natural ability to regulate itself and will eventually adjust to the lack of antacids just like how it adjusted to the introduction of antacids by creating more acid. Remember, acid was never the problem. The first step is to figure out what is causing your lever problem and then start making the necessary changes. Keep your doctor informed during the process.
Getting off of antacids completely was not easy but was 100% worth it. I eat well and do not experience problems with acid anymore. These days I feel pretty healthy and good about myself. Getting off the antacids helped me feel more like a “normal” person.