The drug Prilosec (Omeprazole) is commonly prescribed to people with heartburn, gastric reflux, and ulcers. Prilosec blocks the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and reduces acidity, thus lessening the pain associated with these conditions. A recent study shows that Prilosec not only blocks acid production, but also inhibits absorption of calcium, an essential mineral, by 41%. In this randomized, double-blind trial, 18 elderly women took either 20 mg of Prilosec or a placebo every day for a week. All participants also took 500 mg of calcium carbonate daily. The women who concurrently took the Prilosec had a 41% decrease in calcium absorption as compared to those who did not.

Calcium and additional important nutrients, such as iron and B-12, require hydrochloric acid for optimal absorption. Millions of Americans use Prilosec, and other acid-blocking drugs. Long-term use can potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies, resulting in health problems, such as osteoporosis, anemia, and fatigue. Additionally, people with low stomach acid are more susceptible to bacterial or fungal overgrowth, such as Candida, in their stomach or intestines.

There are many alternatives to the pharmaceutical approach of blocking stomach acid production. Ingredients, such as zinc carnosine and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), heal the stomach and cure the pain. Some products, such as Refluxin, use bicarbonates to create a floating “raft,” which blocks the acid from refluxing into the esophagus. The important point to note is that unlike acid-blocking drugs, these natural options will not prevent the absorption of key nutrients.

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