The pros and cons of taking long-term antacid medication


I’ve been a natural health therapist for over 25 years, specialising in digestive, gut health disorders, and natural solutions to resolving such disorders.  I have observed, over the years, a steady increase in the number of people being prescribed powerful antacids to help reduce symptoms of acid reflux, heartburn, indigestion, abdominal pain and bloating. Why is this? Well I’m sure that a contributory factor to an explosion in the taking of such medications is due to the huge changes we’ve seen in our eating habits in the UK over the past 30 years.  Many of us are eating far too much food, more than our digestive systems can cope with, and we are eating food that is saturated with fat, sugar, salt and lots of artificial additives. We have a plethora of food shopping and dining options, with an endless choice of both healthy and unhealthy options, not to mention huge portion sizes.

too much

We don’t chew our food properly, so there is no time for the brain to send messages to the digestive system to release stomach acid and enzymes in preparation for the food being transported into the stomach and intestines so that digestion can begin.  This can impair nutrient absorption. I often quote the old adage that we are ‘digging our graves with our teeth’.

Due to longer working hours and shift work, many people are eating late in the evenings, sometimes as late as 9 or 10pm.  At that time in the evening, there may be very little stomach acid and enzymes left to break down and digest the food.  As such, whilst we are sleeping, the food sits in the stomach and first part of the small intestine putrefyiing and fermenting away, creating excess gases and pressure in the stomach, pushing undigested food and acid up, out of the stomach and up into the oesophagus, where it can burn and cause pain, particularly in the stomach area and chest. Many people don’t understand why, in the mornings, they are bloated and uncomfortable, even before they get out of bed.  Eating large meals, late in the evening could be the cause. If you are a smoker and you suffer with acid reflux and/or heartburn, please do think about stopping or at least reducing. Smoking weakens the sphincter at the top of the stomach, allowing food and acid to push up and into the oesophagus. There is also an increased risk of developing lung infections if the acid from your stomach pours down the trachea into the lung tissue.

If you suffer with bloating, indigestion, acid reflux or heartburn, you may have paid a visit to your GP, and he may have prescribed you what is known as a proton-pump inhibitor AKA antacid.  Such medications are designed to dramatically reduce your stomach acid to almost zero!  Lanzoprazole and Omeprazole are amongst the top three most prescribed drugs in the UK after statins and aspirin, and account for over 33 million prescriptions per year. Source: NHS Information Centre.

We need our stomach acid though. It’s there for a purpose, helping to digest our food and helping to neutralise and destroy any bacteria and other pathogens in the food that may be harmful to us.  If we don’t have enough of this acid, then potential pathogens may gain access to our intestines, causing all manner of ‘stomach’ upsets, not to mention an increased risk of developing Clostridium Difficile, a particularly nasty and life-threatening gut infection.  Women that take regular antacid medication are at greater risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures due to the antacid medication ‘blocking’ absorption of calcium.

It’s not always necessary to take strong antacids to control such symptoms. There can be a more natural way. I regularly recommend my Just For Tummies Digestive Enzymes to people, especially over the age of 40 that suffer with indigestion, belching, burping, reflux or heartburn.  As we age, our acid and enzyme production can slow down, predisposing us to developing indigestion and heartburn. My Digestive Enzyme tablets are £19.95 for 60 tablets and I recommend that you take one before lunch and one before dinner in the evening. I would advise also that you chew better, at least 20 x each mouthful, eat smaller meals, don’t snack between meals, reduce or eliminate caffeine, and try not to eat too late in the evenings. If you have weak digestion, don’t’ drink water with your meals, as this can dilute your own acid and enzymes. Drink water an half hour before and hour after meals.

However, my advice cannot trump what your GP or Gastroenterologist advises.  Regular episodes of heartburn are serious, and can predispose people towards developing Barrett’s Oesophagus, a pre-cursor to oesophageal cancer. In such cases, it may be necessary to take regular proton pump inhibitors, but do also take one of my  Live Bacteria probiotic capsule daily before a meal, alongside to help support digestive and gut health.

Live Bacteria probiotics and Digestive Enzymes

For more information visit the Just For Tummies page on indigestion, heartburn and acid Reflux:

If you suffer with indigestion, burping, belching, acid-reflux, heartburn, bloating and abdominal pain, then don’t hesitate to contact me at: and I will help and advise you. Please also join my Tummy Talk community at: for all things digestive and gut related.

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