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How to heal stomach acid naturally should be the first thing we look at, but if you're anything like me, the first thing recommended to you (or a family member) was to take an antacid or a heartburn pill. If you've ever suffered from heartburn, stomach acid, acid reflux, or stomach ulcers, you know how painful they can be. When it's really bad, it's not only painful, but it begins to negatively impact multiple areas of your life.
Below is episode #126 of the Pioneering Today Podcast , How I Quit My Stomach Acid Meds & Healed Myself Naturally-Part 1, where we teach families how to grow, preserve and cook their own food using old-fashioned skill sets and wisdom to create a natural self-sufficient home.
This is Part 1 of this series, you can read and or listen to Part 2 here, Episode #127 How to Find Your Trigger Foods – Part 2 of Healing Your Stomach Naturally and Episode #128 What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Healthy & Cut Out Sugar Part 3 a seasonal & ancestral look at eating naturally and with Keto
Today I want to share my story, how I went from being on prescription medications up to six times a day (and still suffering with breakthrough acid) to healing my stomach acid and ulcers naturally and without having to take any medications for over six years and counting. I've received numerous emails asking me how I did this and my goal is to give you the steps (or to share with a loved one who is suffering) that I took in the hopes it will help you.
Disclaimer: Important to note– I'm not a doctor, nutritionist, or professional medical personal, and this shouldn't be taken as medical diagnosis or treatment plan. I'm merely sharing what worked for this homesteading mama and if you're on any medications or have a health condition, please discuss with your doctor and pharmacist before making any changes or discontinuing any medications, okey dokey?
I first had heartburn issues when I was pregnant with my first child. Very common and after giving birth to my son, it went away. With my second pregnancy, the stomach acid started much earlier in my pregnancy and intensity. I first tried an H2 (histamine-2) blocker, Ranitidine, but it didn't quell the symptoms. I went on a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI for short) which is what Prilosec and Nexium are classified as.
I thought the symptoms would resolve themselves after the birth of my daughter, like they did with my son, but that was not the case. By the time my daughter was close to a year, the symptoms were so bad that I was in physical pain every day, not just heart burn, but chest pains and a burning all the way from my stomach to my throat.
My sleep was suffering and the burning was turning into a constant pain and ache in my stomach as well. At the end, I was on the maximum dose of the prescription PPI and another prescription that acts as a chemical band-aid on the stomach, which meant I was taking prescription meds up to 6 times a day and having to time my eating around them.
Worst part, it wasn't solving the problem, I was still having uncontrollable acid reflux. Finally, my regular doctor referred me to a specialist, who ordered an endoscope of my stomach. During the procedure they took a biopsy from my upper stomach and esophagus to test for cancer.
Thankfully, they came back benign, and I didn't have cancer. But, they showed cellular change and damage to both areas which meant I was on my way to having a serious problem. “You've been on these medications much longer than we like to see anyone and I want you to get off of them within the next 4 months.”
“Um, ya doc, me, too, but I can hardly function with them and you want me to go without?” My internal monologue might have been a wee bit harsher than this, but you get the gist.
He handed me a sheet of foods to cut out and I stuffed it into my purse, a little bit miffed, and started the drive for home.
It was on that drive that I realized I had a life defining decision in front of me. At the time I was in my late twenties, I had two small children and a husband at home, and if I wanted to be around for a long time, I was going to have to do something differently. No pill was going to solve this, I had to figure out how to heal myself, not just mask the symptom.
First thing I did was beginning to look up foods and ingredients. I immediately cut out all high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and GMO crop/ingredients. This naturally took away a lot of conventional convenience foods.. and some not so convenient foods.
I cringe to admit, I was a big diet soda drinker, but I immediately cut out all pop and switched to water. Cold turkey. Proud to say I've never went back nor do I intend to.
Next up, I had to cut out chocolate and coffee. I preferred to drink these two things together but I stopped them both. The first few days I had a caffeine withdrawal headache, but in light of the pain from my stomach, it was worth it.
I began using all organic grass fed butter, unrefined coconut oil, and olive or avocado oil for all my cooking and baking. No Canola, vegetable, and/or shortening.
All though we already grew a large garden, raised our own beef, and eggs, we started raising our own meat chickens and pork. With all of the research I'd done, I knew that I didn't want the meat we were eating to come from animals that were fed GMO feeds and commercially raised. I wanted grass-fed and organic. I started grinding my own flour to retain all of the nutrients and health benefits of fresh ground flour.
In a nut shell, I became aware of processed foods and strove to eat more whole foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Becoming an ingredient reading super-sleuth is a must.
Let me be clear, this is a process.
In the mean time, stopping the prescriptions was important to me… and my specialist (to this day I'm still thankful the Lord put me in that specialist's office).
Let's chat a few minutes about why being on and staying on proton-pump inhibitors (and I'm still aghast that these are now over the counter and don't require a prescription) may not be a good idea.
The use or PPI, especially long term, has been linked to kidney disease, heart attacks, and increased risk of dementia. *source
Also this report shows the adverse effects of PPI use with an increased risk of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, community-acquired pneumonia, community-acquired pneumonia, bone fractures, and interference with mineral and vitamin absorption. *Source
Not only that, but a study done in Hong Kong (while it doesn't prove that the use of PPI causes stomach cancer) it did show in an observation study (meaning we don't know that the PPI was the cause of this or to blame) that people who had Helicobacter pylori (h-pylori for short) infections and who were on PPI long term associated a more than double risk of cancer. *source
I do want to take a minute and say that there are definitely short term uses or certain medical conditions/diagnosis when the use of PPI can be a very beneficial thing. I'm going to give you this warning again, if you're on a PPI don't stop taking it, or any medication, without talking with your doctor or pharmacist. You can get rebound acid production so developing a plan is very important. This is going to vary depending upon your dose and how long you've been on it. For me, it took months of tapering.
As I stated above, it took me months to taper off of the medication and it took several weeks for my stomach to stop hurting once I was serious about cutting out all of the above foods and beverages.
After a few months I was able to bring back in cold brewed coffee (it has 67% less acid than hot brewed coffee) and chocolate. This is where you take cold water, pour it over grounds and let it sit for 12 hours, then drain. The coffee is stored in the fridge and can then be heated or used iced. I have this cold brew system and have used it for years.
I was able to have chocolate again, but now its organic and dark, much less sugar content and Theo brand is one that doesn't have soy. Because each of our bodies are different, the amount of damage, the other underlying health causes, I don't think we can really say how long it will take.
Truthfully, I believe it's a life long process and it involves healing our gut. If you're interested learning more about how our stomach effects our overall health, gut healing protocols (including leaky gut), you'll want to check out from my affiliate the Ultimate Gut Health Bundle. These were the steps I initially took and outline in my book, The Made-from-Scratch Life: Simple Ways to Create a Natural Home.
Many of my readers wrote in and shared their natural acid reducing tips. Please note: I have not tried all of these myself and they shouldn't be taken as medical advice.
Reduce stress, one reader's story:
“A few years ago I went to the doctor for issues with my stomach. I was having indigestion and a spot in my stomach that burned constantly. He asked if I was under stress- I was a single mom, with little to no support from my daughter’s father, with a full time job-of course I was under stress!! He prescribed me Nexium. I started taking it and it helped my stomach aches. But, I never liked being on medications. While in church one Sunday, I was listening to a message on worry. I decided then to give my worry to God. Now, I will admit- it is a process. It did not happen overnight by any means, but eventually I stopped taking the medication. I can honestly say I do not worry near as much as I once did. It’s sometimes scary to me that things don’t bother me as much as they bother others. I wanted to share with you my experience with stomach issues and how I overcame them. Anytime I feel over-stressed, I remember how good God always takes care of me!” R.
A shot of apple cider vinegar, one reader's story:
“I was put on prescription Nexium, which I continued taking until I was closing in on 60. By chance one day I happened to read that the FDA approved Nexium for ONLY up to 3 weeks of daily use! My doctor(s) never mentioned this to me, but then I didn't do my due diligence, either, so I have to bear most of the blame for that. Nevertheless, I determined at that moment to stop taking Nexium, even if it meant resuming my daily Tums/Rolaids routine.
About the same time a friend had been urging me to drink apple cider vinegar, so I decided to give it a try that before going back on the antacids. I was quite surprised, a bit amazed, and considerably delighted to discover that it worked! It didn't even take as long as I expected to get used to the taste, but my heartburn/GERD/reflux became a thing of the past. Now I seldom have to drink the ACV and rarely do I need to take anything to calm my stomach acid!
Incidentally, I also read that roughly 40% of adults with heartburn actually suffer from too LITTLE acid, not too much! That might explain why vinegar – an acid – helped me, but it has also helped many others, and it certainly is worth trying instead of the harsh prescriptions so readily available these days. I only use raw organic apple cider vinegar.” L.
Digestive enzymes, whole foods and watching for trigger foods, one readers story:
“Stomach acid issues are something I have just about overcome from taking enzymes, eating whole foods, and watching for trigger foods. Holistic living and eating has helped enormously in my journey—that and stress reduction. ” C.
In Part 2 I'll share what I learned and the protocols I'm now using for my continued gut healing and health, because I believe their are levels of healing and it's a life long process. In part 2 I'll specifically talk about thyroid, hormone levels, and the connection with our foods and stomach.
But there you have it, how to heal stomach acid naturally, going on 7+ years and counting. Do you suffer from stomach acid? What's worked for you?
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.