Heartburn Pills Raise Pneumonia Risk

October 12, 2009
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

A Little Acid Actually Fights Harmful Bacteria.

12067219-600x800On a daily basis, television bombards us with commercials about antacids and other pills that reduce acid. But those popular purple pills are overused today, research finds.

Proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs) are most commonly taken for ulcers, heartburn, and acid reflux. Trouble is we all need some stomach acid to fight bacteria.

People taking PPIs are more likely to develop pneumonia. And that’s not all. Long-term use of these acid-suppressing pills increases the risk for diarrhea caused by the “superbug” Clostridum difficile.

Because sufficient stomach acid is needed to digest food and absorb nutrients properly, taking heartburn drugs—over time—also leads to deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals. Research even links these acid reflux pills with hip fracture in osteoporosis.

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

I find it alarming that PPIs are so routinely recommended for heartburn, acid reflux, and ulcers. Close to 70 percent of ulcers, for example, are linked to the “superbug” Heliobacter pylori, against which these pills—and antacids, for that matter, are powerless.

To add injury to insult, a recent article in Gastroenterology points out that acid suppressing drugs can have rebound effects, causing the very heartburn and stomach pain they’re meant to treat. “Acid secretion is normal in most patients with reflux disease and acid inhibitory therapy makes it abnormally low,” researchers say.

Natural Pain Relief
The first step in preventing acid reflux is to watch what you eat and drink. Alcohol, coffee, peppermint, raw onions, sugary refined foods, and too many fatty foods can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which prevents stomach acid from splashing up into your esophagus.

The LES is supposed to be a one-way valve. But the wrong diet, eating too much or too fast can cause it to malfunction—resulting in painful acid reflux. Overweight and obesity also cause acid reflux.

Hiatal Hernia?
As many as 90 percent of people with acid reflux have a hiatal hernia, where the upper part of the stomach pushes into the opening of the diaphragm and gets stuck. Talk about pain!

Once you treat your hiatal hernia, however, acid reflux goes away. Well-trained naturopaths and chiropractors who are skilled in soft-tissue manipulation can pull your stomach back down where it belongs and put an end to heartburn. Or try simple do-it-yourself techniques to relieve pain:

• Rebounding—Drink two glasses of water; then bounce 15 times on your heels to help pull the stomach back into place.
• Yoga Poses—Both the “donkey” and “modified cobra” can be used to stretch and strengthen both the stomach and diaphragm.
• Rescue Remedy—Helps calm the solar plexus, the area of the body’s most sensitive nerve center that can become too tight, resulting in a displaced stomach.

Prevent Osteoporosis
If you have been using PPIs for any length of time, you need to protect your bones. Take Vitamin D with at least 5,000 IUs, plus added calcium, to make up for poor absorption when you were reducing stomach acid with those infamous purple pills. Osteo-Key contains microcrystalline hydroxyapatite, the most bioavailable form of calcium, along with key bone building nutrients.


Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Betty

    May I add, digestive enzymes and probiotics can help prevent the problem. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  2. Michelle

    I tend to get exercise induced acid reflux. There are quite a few OTC remedies but I’m not sure which one is the best one. I suppose I could go down the list and try each one, but I’d much rather receive some professional advice and possibly a more naturalistic approach to resolving my issue. Thank you!

  3. tami

    You didn’t tell us how to get off them safely and effectively if you’ve been on them for years. That’s what I want to know.

  4. Ann Louise Gittleman

    I agree with Betty; try digestive enzymes and probiotics. These would be helpful in trying to get off of PPIs and antacids in general. I like Infl-Zyme and HCL *2, which can be cut in halves or quarters for starters. My book, The Fast Track Detox Diet, provides an HCL challenge.
    In any case, Tami, you will need to cut down gradually and try any of the above on for size 🙂

  5. Sue Bristow

    About a year ago I read the fast track detox diet book. Since then I have become as much as possible organic, also I used to have acid reflux, had it for years on and off and was using all sorts of otc and prescription meds.. I now take two HCL with pepsin each day, plus lots of other supplements, and have not had one episode of AR or indegestion since commencing the healthy organic eating. Hows that for a quick fix that actually works!
    PS I have also lost 21lbs and 4inches on my waist

  6. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Wow, Sue. Your post was such a delight to read. I love to hear about such results.

  7. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Dear Friends:
    I would love to answer each and every single one of your queries, as I have done to the best of my ability, in the past. The popularity of this Blog has grown to the extent that I can no longer provide that service but I am in the planning stages of an Internet – TV show where you can call in and get those questions answered by me in person! Please stay tuned for this exciting development. I first must complete a new manuscript and then will make some exciting announcements. In the interim, may I suggest that if you have questions about products, call UNI KEY at 1-800-888-4353. The folks there are helpful and will direct you accordingly. If you are concerned about a particular health condition, then by all means check out the Testing Kits on my site which will help you to determine underlying causes. Please don’t let this dissuade you from posting. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and interest!


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