How to Wean off of PPIs
If you’ve been a lifelong PPI user and read the research that has come out about its dangerous effects in recent years, you probably feel discouraged.
PPIs can cause osteoporosis? How come my doctors didn’t tell me? What am I supposed to do without my drugs?
Those were questions I struggled with when I was going through a bad episode of laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) several years ago.
PPIs had completely stopped working for me after about 2 years of taking them religiously. So I decided to stop taking them cold turkey and look for alternative treatments.
It was tough. My body went through withdrawal and my reflux symptoms seemed to get worse. But now looking back on it, I’m glad I stopped PPI treatment because it was my first step towards healing from acid reflux naturally.
In this article, I’m going to share with you how to safely wean off of PPIs. I will also share 10 natural remedies for acid reflux.
An Important Medical Disclaimer
I want to say at the outset that you should consult with your doctor before trying to wean off of PPIs to make sure it’s safe for you.
If you have esophagitis, Barrett’s Esophagus, or another serious gastrointestinal condition you should consult with your doctor before getting off PPIs. In many cases, PPI therapy is beneficial and can prevent further damage and progression from acid reflux.
How to Wean off of PPIs
If you have been taking PPIs for more than 1 month it’s not a good idea to just quit cold turkey like I did, though it is manageable for some people.
Ending PPI medication suddenly when your body has already adapted can cause your acid reflux symptoms to worsen and make you very sick.
The best way to wean off PPIs is to do it gradually. First, start with halving the dose you are taking per day.
So, if you are taking omeprazole pills twice a day, cut it down to just 1 dose per day.
For example, if you tend to experience acid reflux right before bed, then go ahead and stick with your dinnertime dose; cut out the morning dose. Vice versa if you tend to get acid reflux around breakfast time.
Do this for about a week, then halve your dose again. If you are taking solid PPI pills then you can use a sharp knife to cut the pill in half. If you are taking PPI capsules I would switch to solid pills so that breaking a pill in half is easier.
Once you’ve taken the lowest dose possible you can take for another week, try to stop taking PPIs completely. If you experience worse than usual acid reflux symptoms during this time, don’t worry. It will pass.
Your stomach cells are simply readjusting to normal acid levels again. (1) In the meantime, keep a pack of gum nearby and try one of the natural remedies for acid reflux in the next section.
If symptoms are unbearable, try taking the lowest possible dose of PPI medication again for 3 days. Then try stopping again.
Also, consider switching to H2 blockers for one week. H2 blockers target different chemicals in your body but work similarly to limit the acid your stomach produces. (2)
Once you have weaned yourself off of PPIs, you can experiment with different remedies to see if they work for you. Here are my 10 natural remedies for acid reflux:
1. Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is one of the most powerful natural foods with anti-microbial and healing properties. In a case of a young boy who recently received an amputation below the knee and was suffering from a bacteria infection unresponsive to conventional medicine, doctors applied a Manuka honey lined dressing pad to treat the young boy’s wound. Amazingly the wound healed in 10 weeks! (3)
Manuka honey may also be effective in treating acid reflux induced by peptic ulcers, which are sores that grow in the lining of your stomach.
The reason why Manuka honey can be effective in treating stomach ulcers and bowel disease is that it has natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce gastric inflammation and damage. (6)
I used to take about a tablespoon of Manuka honey right after dinner and noticed that it really helped me digest food better. If you suffer stomach inflammation, Manuka honey with your meals, or with some tea may just do the trick. I like the Manuka honey Wedderspoon makes.
One of the most overlooked causes of acid reflux is indigestion. It hardly gets any attention in conventional medicine, but the truth is it’s actually a very common cause of acid reflux.
Common symptoms of indigestion-related acid reflux include regurgitation, bloating, diarrhea, suppressed appetite, constipation, and flatulence.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, especially from suppressed appetite, taking an HCL supplement to stimulate stomach acid may help you digest food better and relieve your symptoms.
I really like Solaray HCL with pepsin. 1-2 capsules of HCL is typically the recommended dose, but different products may have different dosage instructions. A slight burning in the stomach means you can begin eating.—you should feel hungry. If you are suffering from indigestion this may just help!
A word of caution on HCL: they can aggravate and burn your stomach if you have peptic ulcers. Also, it is NOT recommended to take HCL if you are still on PPIs. They can potentially mess with your stomach.
And obviously, it’s not smart take the supplement out of its capsule or let the capsules dissolve in your mouth. If you are pregnant, consult your physician before you take an HCL supplement.
Probiotic supplements or foods with probiotics can also relieve indigestion-related acid reflux. Studies have shown that probiotics may improve digestion transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency. (7)
1-2 capsules are the typical recommended dose with big meals like lunch and dinner.
Including more fermented vegetables in your diet, like sauerkraut or kimchi is another great way to get more probiotics into your diet. I take purple cabbage by Wild Brine with my dinner every night and have noticed a significant improvement in my digestion. Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (fermented apples) is also great.
4. Digestive Enzymes
In addition to HCL and probiotics, digestive enzymes can also be helpful in relieving indigestion-related reflux by improving digestive transit time
Along with stomach acid, digestive enzymes play a crucial role in breaking down the proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids in our food. (9) (10) If you suffer from poor digestion, taking an enzyme supplement may help your body absorb more nutrients and reduce reflux symptoms that stem from indigestion.
A lack of digestive enzymes can cause digestive disorders like lactose intolerance. (11) (12) There’s also evidence that plant-based enzymes like bromelain which is found in pineapples, aid in breaking down proteins. You can find digestive enzymes at any health food store or get them here.
5. Throat Coat
Throat coat is a special tea that is great for sore throats and dry mouth. It contains a blend of licorice root, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, and other herbs that work to coat your throat with a gelatin-like secretion called mucilage.
Mucilage can help soothe a sore, inflamed esophagus as well as protect against acid reflux. When I had severe vocal problems I used to drink this tea with breakfast and right after dinner, sometimes with a tablespoon of Manuka honey.
6. Chewing Gum
Chewing gum is one of the best natural remedies for acid reflux and GERD especially if you experience regurgitation or a sour taste in your mouth.
When you chew gum, you stimulate saliva which contains a chemical called sodium bicarbonate, a natural neutralizer of acid. (13) (14) Additionally, there are also enzymes in saliva that aid digestion and help clear away most acid reflux.
Any type of chewing gum will work, but I prefer natural kinds that don’t have added sugars or preservatives. Try chewing a piece of gum right after a meal or when you are most susceptible to acid reflux. Also, remember to swallow often so that your saliva can do its job and neutralize residual acid in your throat.
7. Baking Soda
Baking soda is a great temporary way to help relieve an acid reflux attack. It is literally pure sodium bicarbonate, which if you remember, is the same acid-neutralizing chemical naturally found in saliva. Funny enough, sodium bicarbonate is the main ingredient in Alka Seltzer.
So the next time you get that horrible sour taste in the back of your throat, you can try sipping about 4 ounces of filtered water with ½ a teaspoon of baking soda. You should experience instant relief.
A word of caution though. If you’re experiencing dyspepsia or indigestion-related reflux, you shouldn’t drink baking soda.
Neutralizing your stomach acid when your body already has difficulty digesting food is a bad idea and could lead to health problems.
For those who experience indigestion often, taking HCL, probiotics, and digestive enzymes may be the better option. Baking soda is really just a quick fix.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is another one of those amazing natural remedies that everyone should know about. Not only has it proven effective at healing burn wounds, but one study found that it’s actually effective at treating acid reflux symptoms when you drink it (15).
In a 2015 randomized controlled trial, subjects who drank aloe vera were found to have reduced acid reflux symptoms that included heartburn, regurgitation, dysphagia, flatulence, belching, dysphagia, vomiting, and nausea. (15)
So how can you take aloe vera to treat acid reflux? Well first of all, if you can, get an aloe vera plant. They’re super low maintenance and can treat skin conditions like bug bites, cuts, and burn wounds.
I have 2 aloe vera plants in my backyard. I water them about once every 3 months and they still produce aloe for me year round.
Once you’re in front of an aloe vera plant, use a pair of scissors to cut off an aloe vera leaf. Next, take a knife and cut off the sides of the leaf.
Once the aloe vera gel is exposed, take your knife and fillet the gel off of the outer leaf. Keep your knife close to the base of the outer leaf to get out as much gel as possible.
Finally, scoop the aloe gel into a blender along with one and a half cups of apple juice and two cubes of ice. You can also add this gel to your favorite morning smoothie if you’d like. Blend it up until smooth and enjoy!
If you can’t get an aloe vera plant, a great alternative is Aloe1. Aloe1 is pure unprocessed aloe gel that is shipped to you frozen. Aloe1 is 100% natural with no added preservatives and you can add it easily to any drink. You can get a free tube of aloe cream when you purchase a jug of aloe gel here. Good stuff!
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL is a herbal supplement that increases the amount of mucus in your stomach lining. DGL is modified so that a naturally occurring chemical, glycyrrhizin is removed to avoid its adverse effects.
Some studies show that the extra mucus DGL produces can help protect the stomach lining from acid and stomach ulcers. (16) If you are suffering from chronic stomach inflammation and ulcer-induced acid reflux, DGL may help alleviate your symptoms. (17) I like the DGL Enzymatic Therapy makes.
You’ve probably taken melatonin before when you had trouble sleeping but did you know that it can actually improve acid reflux symptoms? Melatonin has a range of benefits including, antioxidation, immunity enhancement, and stress relief. (18) Studies have found that melatonin even protects the esophageal lining of the stomach.
Another study showed that melatonin greatly improved heartburn symptoms and stomach pain in GERD patients. Interestingly, there’s also evidence that melatonin is able to control the lower esophageal sphincter to keep acid in the stomach and prevent it from leaking out. These studies have suggested that insufficient levels of melatonin can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). (19)
It’s common for GERD patients to suffer from insomnia and sleeping disorders. Taking melatonin 2 hours before bed can help improve acid reflux symptoms as well as help you get a better night’s sleep. You can get Melatonin supplements here.
I hope these natural remedies for acid reflux help you heal from GERD/LPR. Remember, you should wean off of PPIs before trying these remedies, especially before trying the ones involving stomach acid and digestion.
Taking HCL while at the same time taking acid-suppressing drugs like omeprazole can really mess up your body. You should consult your doctor before trying these acid reflux remedies for your safety.
*This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure here.