On April 1, 2020, the Food & Drug Administration requested that Zantac as well as other acid reflux remedies with the active ingredient, ranitidine, be withdrawn from the marketplace.
Some batches of ranitidine drugs like Zantac have tested positive for high levels of a cancer-causing contaminant known as NDMA. The older your Zantac box has been lying around, the higher the levels of NDMA it might contain.
While there are other acid reflux remedies that do not contain ranitidine, there are all risks associated with heartburn drugs. Especially if you use them long-term. Research shows that chronic use of either acid reflux prescriptions or over-the-counter remedies can lead to a condition called hypochlorhydria. This condition is characterized by insufficient stomach acid. Low stomach acid results in the same problem Zantac is intended to treat: indigestion and heartburn.
The good news is you may be able to prevent or relieve your acid reflux symptoms naturally. Here’s 5 research-backed natural remedies:
#1: Peppermint Pills
Before eating a meal, try popping a peppermint pill. Peppermint pills are relatively affordable, costing as low as $7 per bottle. Peppermint has been shown in research studies (like this one) to help improve irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia. The menthol in peppermint helps to cool digestion and block calcium channels. When buying peppermint pills, make sure they are enteric-coated capsules. Enteric-coated capsules bypass the esophagus and stomach, thus preventing the peppermint oil from repeating back up the esophageal tract.
When you think of licorice, what comes to mind? Probably Twizzlers candy, right? Well, Twizzlers is loaded with sugar and very little of the active ingredient that makes licorice beneficial for heartburn. Licorice root, which has been used as an herbal remedy since at least 2,000 years B.C., may help relieve or prevent heartburn because it increases the mucosal coating of the esophagus.
Licorice root supplements may be labelled as “DGL” after the active ingredient in licorice, which has long been used to treat gastric inflammation. In a small, human study, licorice extract showed a “significant decrease in total symptom scores and improvement in quality of life.”
Integrative medicine doctors use licorice root to wean their patients off acid-suppressing drugs like Zantac.
Bromelain is an enzyme in pineapples and papaya. You can buy bromelain in supplement form. It’s effective at breaking down protein. One tip for avoiding heartburn is avoiding large meals that contain rich, fatty protein sources such as steak. But if hell will freeze over before you give up your barbecue and steak, try taking a bromelain supplement.
Although bromelain is actually acidic, it may help neutralize acid reflux by alkalizing it (the opposite of acid is alkaline). One unpleasant acid reflux symptom is diarrhea. Long-term use of antacids like Zantac may make you more vulnerable to catching food-borne illnesses such as E. coli, which causes diarrhea. This study says bromelain counteracts some of the effects of E. coli.
Taking ginger powder, supplements or drinking ginger tea may help relieve acid reflux symptoms. There is a lot of evidence that supports taking ginger for nausea. As for other digestive disturbances that can be caused by acid reflux, more research is needed. One study showed that ginger can help improve gastric emptying and improve motility (movement) in the GI tract.
#5: HCL With Pepsin
HCL stands for “hydrochloric acid,” which is your stomach acid that helps break down food. Pepsin is one of the stomach’s major gastric juices that forms HCL. It’s one of the first enzymes that starts the digestion of protein. The more pepsin released, the better you’re able to digest protein.
In a pilot study (a small study that occurs before a larger clinical trial), 1500 mg of an HCL supplement “significantly and safely reduced gastric pH in healthy subjects with hypochlorhydria [low-stomach acid] by over 4 pH units. The HCL supplement lowered gastric pH from above 5 to below 1 for more than an hour. (Normal stomach acid should be no more than 2 on the pH scale.)
When you take Zantac or other heartburn drugs on a daily basis for a long time, not only can it cause insufficient stomach acid, it can also cause your stomach acid to be too alkaline.
Although purchasing all 5 supplements may cost more than one heartburn drug, there is a very low risk of side effects with these natural alternatives. And you don’t have to try all 5 to notice positive results. Start with one supplement at a time. If you experience benefits from one, you can try adding an additional supplement.
These additional tips can also help relieve heartburn without the use of Zantac or other drugs:
- Chew gum after meals
- Go for a walk after meals
- Don’t lie down after meals
- Do not eat very large meals
- Avoid spicy food
- Avoid high-fat, rich foods
- Do not eat late at night or close to bedtime
- Avoid citrus fruits and carbonated drinks