H2 Blockers, PPI's, and Antacids
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
The FDA has issued a recall for Zantac (Ranitidine) an H2 Blocker, due to its possible link to carcinogens. You can read about the recall on the FDA's website https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-requests-removal-all-ranitidine-products-zantac-market
What is disturbing is that this product has been on the market since 1983. Most people don't understand how H2 Blockers work. H2 Blockers work by reducing the amount of acid the stomach produces by blocking one important producer of acid: histamine2 (hence the term H2 blockers). Histamine2, a common chemical in the body, signals the stomach to make acid. H2 Blockers oppose histamine’s action and reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. Other H2 Blockers include: Axid, Tagament, and Pepcid.
Protein Pump Inhibitors (PPI's) work by turning off many of the "acid pumps" in the stomach's acid-producing cells. This reduces the amount of acid in the stomach. PPI's include: Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix, Nexium, and Zegarid. I won't go into the side effects (direct effects) of these medications but I will tell you that most people don't know that they should not be taking this medication on a daily basis for more than 7-14 days.
Antacids are medicines that work by increasing the pH balance in your stomach. Antacids can quickly relieve the symptoms associated with occasional heartburn and indigestion. Due to several complex factors, a base can't neutralize your acid all by itself. A base needs some chemical "helpers," or ingredients, to accompany it as it neutralizes the acid in your stomach. All antacids contain at least one of these four primary ingredients: Sodium (Alka-seltzer, Bromo-seltzer), Calcium (Tums), Magnesium (Maalox, Mylanta), and Aluminum (Rolaids). When antacids are used as directed and only once in a while, they are unlikely to cause significant side effects. Frequent and prolonged use can cause irreparable harm to your heart, kidneys, or bones. Even if used occasionally and in moderation, antacids can cause problems for people with special medical conditions.
Many people with chronic indigestion may think that the use of antacid, PPI, or H2 Blockers will be helpful, but in fact one of the biggest causes of indigestion is low stomach acid or HCl (hypochlorydria) or no stomach acid (achlorydria). With low stomach acid, food can’t be broken down and digested easily; a low output of HCl can lead to chronic nutrient deficiencies, as the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, amino acids, and minerals becomes severely compromised. Bad bacterial and fungal overgrowths and prolonged nutrient deficiency set the stage for many chronic conditions.
When stomach acid is removed either by neutralizing it or by blocking its production, the body experiences a gradual health decline due to malabsorption of nutrients. For instance, low stomach acid impairs the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can lead to rickets (a softening of the bones). Other nutrients that are malabsorbed due to low stomach acid levels include: iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, folic acid, vitamins A, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B6), and E. Long term use often leads the body to compensate by producing more of the hormone “gastrin”. This hormone signals the stomach to increase acid production. Excessive levels of gastrin have been linked to the growth of esophageal, pancreatic, and gastric cancer cells.
HCl production decreases with age. The average 60-year-old produces only one-fourth as much HCl as a 20-year-old, and over half of people over 60 will be deficient in stomach acid or have achlorhydria. It is also wise to make sure you have proper stomach acid if you taking supplements or medication for a medical condition, as hypochlorhydria may impair the assimilation and reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.