Burn baby burn …. is it really a deficiency of Prilosec?

That burn that keeps you up at night… 

Treated by most with years and years of medications (Prilosec, Pepcid, Nexium, etc)… Is this ‘treating’ your symptom or covering it up?

At least 10% of Americans have episodes of heartburn every day, and 44% have symptoms at least once a month. And instead of learning WHY nearly 1/3 of our country is suffering… we take pills (or chew tums or plop, plop, fizz, fizz) and keep that $13 billion business going…

You have heartburn – you take tums.  Tums doesn’t work – you take zantac (isn’t it nice that this is over the counter now?).  Zantac stops working – you tell your medical provider – they prescribe Prilosec or Protonix or Nexium.  The heartburn goes away – you stay on this for YEARS because your insurance pays for it and your provider tells you there is no harm in shutting off all that ‘extra acid’ you have in your stomach.  A great example of ‘just because it’s sold over the counter doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe”.  Its at most checkouts and there’s an entire isle for these ‘remedies’ in our local Target store.


Let’s play digestion dominos:


  • You eat – your food goes through your esophagus into your stomach through a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES closes, preventing food or acid to move back up. GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease occurs when the LES relaxes inappropriately, allowing acid from your stomach to flow backward (reflux) into your esophagus
  • Your body makes stomach acid (hydrochloric acid aka HCL) to change your steak, pizza, nuts, and all other SOLID food you eat into LIQUID. The pH in our stomach should be low (1-3) for optimal digestion- HCL brings our stomach to this point. (psst…digestion and absorption of all your proteins, minerals and vitamins starts in the stomach by HCL and low pH)
  • Your HCL domino topples to the “PEPSIN”. Pepsin is a digestive enzyme that comes from cells in the lining of your stomach that are our major protein-busters which make amino acids . (ah-ha! We talked a
    bout amino acids in mysleep and depression blogs?)
  • PEPSIN domino clicks other cells to stimulate GASTRIN which stimulates the stomach to contract (as well as promote a healthy mucousy thick stomach lining which allows for secretions and lubrication)
  • GASTRIN signals to the furthest domino to prepare for dumping (ie: sending what is supposed to be liquid into small intestine through the duodenum).
  • At the same time the SECRETIN becomes part of the domino game sent from the pancreas (the pancreas lives in the same neighborhood as the stomach’s emptying section called the duodenum). Secretin sends out SODIUM BICARBONATE and CCK (cholecystokinin)
  • The CCK domino taps the GALLBLADDER and tells it to send out BILE to digest fats (we need fats for brain health, heat, to absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K and to support our hormones and adrenal glands)

So If the food is not liquid, the pH is too high, or the secretin doesn’t secrete sodium bicarbonate and CCK is not released to trigger gallbladder bile, it doesn’t matter how well we eat (organic, GMO free, high quality meats, etc), we don’t get our quota of vitamins and minerals, don’t absorb our proteins and can’t digest fats. Yikes… by “blocking or neutralizing” stomach acid, we are blocking the entire domino effect.

As you well know, Functional Medicine practices whole body interconnectedness.  The DINE approach at 4 Better Health ensures that all 4 tenets of optimal, vibrant living are addressed.
How can one feel vibrant or well if their nutrients and amino acids are depleted by these medications? If your nutrients and amino acids are low – you’ll likely suffer from insomnia, depression or anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, thyroid disorders and more.

So why does it matter if the dominos don’t tap eachother? Well – we have less ability to make neurotransmitters (mood, focus, energy, sleep) and vitamins (nails, hair, skin, energy) and minerals (thyroid function, energy and bones).  Studies reveal long term GERD medications cause B12 deficiency. We are at a much higher risk of a low immune system overall putting us at a higher risk for cardiac disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and auto-immune. Oh and by the way… also decreases your ability to paralyze incoming invaders (viruses & bacterias) at first entrance into your body – herein increasing your susceptibility to colds, flus and viruses.  WHOA –that’s a mouthful!

So what causes heartburn?

In our practice, heartburn is almost always one or a combination of the following:

  1. H-Pylori infection (easy to rule out with a blood test)
  2. Food sensitivity (3 most common: Gluten, Dairy, Soy)
  3. Too little acid – yup – Hypochlorhydria is the medical term for “low stomach acid”. Opposite to what you’ve been told by tv and store-shelf marketing. The older we get, the lower our production of stomach acid – but it turns on at inopportune times leaving us with symptoms
  4. Hiatal hernia (a part of the stomach that is supposed to stay below the diaphragm moves up)
  5. Lifestyle habits: coffee, tea, alcohol and nicotine are worst offenders
  6. Gut infections (either too much of one, not enough of another or overgrowth of candida – an insidious gut yeast)
  7. Medications – past and present:  heartburn medications, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, Aspirin, anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, Naproxen, etc), corticosteroids, Tetracycline, Bronchodilators (for asthma), Calcium Channel or beta- blockers (high blood pressure meds such as Cardiazem and those that end in ol or al such as inderal and propanalol), anti-cholinergics (sea sick pills), valium, Nitroglycerin (for angina), Demerol,  tricyclic antidepressants and many insomnia medications.
  8. Low Magnesium Nearly 75% of all Americans have low Magnesium (which can cause the LES to be relaxed).

What are some of the conditions caused by low HCL??

Acne rosacea






celiac disease


childhood asthma






Type 1 diabetes




gallbladder Graves’ disease




macular degeneration multiple sclerosis


myasthenia gravis osteoporosis


pernicious anemia Raynaud’s syndrome rheumatoid arthritis
Sjogren’s syndrome scleroderma


ulcerative colitis


Chronic fatigue  vitiligo



So NOW what?

1. You should NEVER stop heartburn medications cold turkey. You have to wean yourself off them gradually or else you’ll experience a severe rebound of your symptoms, and the problem may end up being worse than before you started taking the medication. This is where 4 Better Health comes in… We work together to find out WHY you are having symptoms and wean you off appropriately while optimizing your future 4 Better Health.

2. Chew your food.  Most of us chew while we’re driving, reading or on the computer- with no idea that we’re even eating. Toss food, a couple chews later we shoot it down the esophagus with a giant sip of something to help push it down. (see #3)

3. Drink as little liquid as possible with your meals.  Too much liquid during a meal increases the pH and decreases the efficacy of the acid of your stomach juices making your LES work less effectively.

4 Eat more often and less at once. Sometimes our LES gets blown open by the sheer volume of food we try to cram into our bellies. Smaller meals every 3-4 hours is better (and nothing 3 hours before bed).

5. Work with an Functional Medicine Practitioner.  Instead of taking medication symptom stoppers, figure out why you’re having heartburn, add in the supplements your body is deficient in for a healthier future.

6. Soothe the Gut

  • Take out the damaging foods and drinks. Consider cutting way back on alcohol and coffee or a trial of gluten and dairy free for 2 months while you heal the gut.
  • Take a digestive enzymes at the very beginning of each meal.
  • Re-inoculate the gut with healthy bacteria by taking a probiotic before bed
  • Take 1-2 grams of glutamine powder with DGL (Deglycyrrhizinized Licorice)  and aloe in water twice a day to help heal the gut lining.
  • Add 200 to 400 mg of magnesium  glycinate twice a day.
  • Add 1-2 capsules of Zinc Carnosine daily
  • Add in Aloe Vera juice daily

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