The Problem with Antacids

The health of the colon, with all the complex enzyme reactions that occur along the intestines, depends heavily on the fact that the stomach needs to be very acidic. Anything that interferes with this high level of acidity can lead to disease.

It’s hard to believe that the hydrochloric acid (HCL) in our stomach will burn holes in our clothes, eat up our skin, and is just as acidic as the HCL in swimming pools! But our stomach is designed to handle lots of acid (thanks to a thin layer of gastric mucosa), which is essential for good health. If the stomach is not acidic enough (pH 1.5) at the start of the digestive process, then enzymes are not triggered, minerals are not absorbed and dysbiosis and chronic illness may result. The use of antacids can lead to lowered levels of acidity in the stomach.

When stomach pH is at its optimum, proteins are digested into their individual amino acids, which are used by the body for many essential processes. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin, which is known as the feel good hormone. Phenylalanine is converted to make noradrenaline and dopamine. A lack of these amino acids, due to the incomplete digestion of proteins, could lead to a depressed mood and lack of motivation.

The correct stomach acid pH kills bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae and E. coli and so reduces the risk of unfriendly bacteria colonizing the intestine.


It is now believed that the chronic use of antacids leads to significant mal-absorption of many vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

Iron is absorbed from an acidic environment. A lack of iron, especially in a vegetarian-type diet, causes anaemia, fatigue, hair loss, decreased concentration, restless legs syndrome, mood disturbances, a painful tongue and more.¹

Calcium is better absorbed by up to five times in an acid environment.

Vit B12 enters the body bound to food proteins. It needs to be separated from the food proteins by adequate HCL and pepsin. Decreased levels of B12 are associated with anxiety, sleeplessness, memory loss, depression, confusion, asthma in children, autism etc.

Zinc absorption is decreased by 50% when antacids are used. Zinc is, according to the National Institute of Health Supplements, important in: immune defence, cell membrane stabilisation, bone formation, taste, anorexia, depression, impaired mental concentration, erectile dysfunction, low serum testosterone and night vision. According to scientific research, one of the most important risk factors for dry macular degeneration is the use of antacids.²

Copper is needed for immunity.³

Folic acid (water soluble form of vitamin B9) deficiency may result in many psychiatric symptoms including; depression, anxiety, fatigue, apathy, confusion and dementia.4

Vitamin B3 deficiency also causes dementia, dermatitis and diarrhoea.

Beta carotene helps maintain healthy skin and mucous membranes thanks to its vitamin A content.


If a patient is on NSAIDs or cortisone, always treat the lining of the stomach during treatment or, preferably, before treatment starts. There are several ways in which to protect and heal the stomach lining:

  • Deglycyrrhizinated liquorice root increases the production of prostaglandins that stimulate repair and it also makes more mucus.
  • The amino acid L-glutamine is the main fuel for the lining of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
  • Mastic or Arabic gum is a resin from the mastic tree. It helps to line the stomach, kills H.pylori and protects against irritants.5
  • Marshmallow root and chamomile tea have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Take one capsule to start with of Betaine HCL with pepsin with the first bites of each meal and gradually work up to five capsules. If in severe cases the patient gets stomach pain with even a little HCL replacement, use a stomach lining programme that excludes acid for about six weeks and then start again gradually as suggested here. It is best to embark on this treatment with the guidance of a health practitioner.
  • Pancreatic enzymes (plus bile salts) should be taken just after the meal if needed.
  • Vit C neutralises carcinogens.
  • Vit A builds stomach lining.
  • Zinc stabilises cell membranes and promotes tissue healing.
  • Curcumin increases digestive juices, improves gallbladder function, and helps to heal ulcers.
  • Capsaicin (a compound in hot peppers) enhances local blood flow via neural feedback and increases mucus production (use with caution).

Note: All these treatments are available in capsule form and dosages are according to package inserts.

The way in which you approach your meals also plays a role in the maintenance of the correct stomach pH. To start with, each plate of food should look like a painter’s palette: a mix of many colours. Then smell the food and think of a lemon to get the digestive juices going. Pray to show your thanks, and when you eat put your knife and fork down between each bite. Don’t drink too much water with the meal and don’t drink anything else except water with the meal.


It is important to always make sure of the diagnosis! Check your stomach pH by doing the Heidelberg Capsule Test, which entails the swallowing of a small pH capsule with a string attached so that the capsule can be pulled up again. The capsule is a microminiaturised radio transmitter which transmits the pH value of your stomach to a radio frequency receiver where the value is then converted to a numerical value.


There are several natural alternatives to antacids for caring for the lining of the stomach and restoring an optimal pH. Take the time to make the correct diagnosis and follow through with a treatment that suits you. If your problem persists, do not hesitate to contact your health practitioner.


  1. Kassaryjian Z., and Russel RM. Hypochlorhydria: a factor in nutrition. Annu Rev.1998; (9): 271-85
  2. Opthalmology 2000:107:2224 – 2232.
  3. Proheska JR., and Lukaswewycz OA. Copper deficiency suppresses the immune response on mice. Science. 1981; (213):559-61.
  4. Howard JS. and Chanarin I. Folate deficiency in psychiatric practice. Psychosomatics. 1975; (16):112-15.
  5. Huwez FU. Mastic Gum Kills Helicobacter Pylori. New England Journal of Medicine. 1998; (339):1946
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The Problem with Antacids

Chamilla Sanua
About The Author
- BPHARM CUM LAUDE, MPSSA. She is a practising pharmacist and has studied homeopathy, iridology, anthroposophy, Chinese herbal medicine, functional medicine and African traditional medicine. She considers the mental, physical and emotional aspects of her patients lives in every consultation. She runs a healing centre in Sandton called Naturally Yours which houses Weleda Pharmacy Bryanston. She also owns Weleda Pharmacy Pineslopes ( and online store: