A safe way to extinguish nagging heartburn

Q: I have been suffering from stomach acid reflux whenever I sleep, even when I sit up to sleep (although less so). Not having dinner at all or eating a very small evening meal helps but does not remove the problem. I’ve been to many doctors but have found no relief. Can you give me some advice or a solution?    — P.Y., Bath, U.K.

Dr. Micozzi: I’m assuming you’re not currently taking an acid-reducing drug—which is a very good thing. Big pharma makes a killing selling proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid to men and women with acid reflux. Yes, PPIs suppress stomach acid. So you might think they’re a quick, easy fix for your acid reflux. But they also increase your risk of weight gain, severe diarrhea, bone fractures, pneumonia, and dangerous bacterial infections. You may wonder how a drug with so many serious side effects sells so well.

But it’s very simple…once you start taking a PPI, it’s very hard to stop.They’re actually addictive.You see, PPIs block the production of acid in the stomach. But as a result, your body overcompensates. It thinks it needs more acid-making cells in your stomach. So it makes more cells. And the cells lie in wait. Then, when you attempt to stop taking the PPI, the new acid-making cells launch into overdrive. Your reflux symptoms return with a vengeance. And you actually feel worse than before you even started taking the PPI. So, naturally, you go back on the drug…indefinitely.
Unfortunately, the longer you’re on a PPI, the more likely you’ll experience health problems. Plus, we now know that taking a PPI for an extended period blocks your body’s absorption of key vitamins. In fact, the latest study found PPIs zap your vitamin B12 levels.
Of course, all the B vitamins are essential to human life. And vitamin B12 has a special role as the so-called “energy” vitamin. It also supports healthy neurological function. Without enough B12, you can suffer from anemia, neurological disorders, and even dementia.
So you simply should never take a PPI. But that doesn’t mean you just have to live with your nagging heartburn. There is a safe, effective alternative. And it’s been around for generations.
I’m talking about good, old-fashioned sodium bicarbonate—more commonly known as baking soda. You see, baking soda is a base. So it will help neutralize the acid in your stomach. You can find bicarbonate of soda tablets or powder at your local drug store and even grocery store. Just follow the instructions on the box.
You can also try drinking more mineral water, like San Pellegrino. As Nelson DeMille says in his books about the Mafia, San Pellegrino is the Italian Alka-Seltzer. And the Italians should know a thing or two about preventing acid reflux with all the tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, and spices on the menu.
So, try starting your day with a glass of mineral water with a splash of fresh lemon or lime (for added vitamin C). See if that helps.
And don’t forget to take a high-quality B supplement each and every day. Regardless of whether or not you take a PPI, it’s a good way to make sure you’re getting enough of these essential vitamins.