Heartburn and acid reflux are painful and distracting for millions of Americans. In fact, 35% of people aged 45-79 suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Our digestive systems slowly wear out as we age, so many people seek medical help and medication. One of the most popular heartburn drugs is the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) Nexium. PPIs effectively halt gastric acid production in the stomach. Plus, Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Kenneth DeVault claims “they relieve symptoms better than any other medication that has ever been developed.” However, PPI medications may work too well, as lacking gastric acid can cause other severe complications. Some associated side effects include vitamin and mineral deficiencies, dementia, heart attacks, bone fractures, and kidney disease. Additionally, it’s difficult to stop taking PPIs altogether. Weaning off PPIs produces extra stomach acid in a “rebound effect,” causing intense pain. Try these safer alternatives to Nexium and Prilosec instead.
Alternatives Should Be Taken First or After 4-8 Weeks of PPIs
Due to serious potential side effects, the FDA strongly recommends people only take PPIs in dosages recommended by their doctor. It’s equally important to limit PPI therapy to a short duration of time. For most people, that means somewhere between 4-8 weeks. Yet for many GERD sufferers, symptoms persist for much longer — and there are several heartburn remedies to try before PPIs. Many acid-reducing alternatives can help ease GERD pain before taking Nexium, Prilosec or another PPI.
Quick Alternatives to Nexium: Popular OTC Antacids & H2 Blockers
Antacids help relieve GERD symptoms by neutralizing stomach acid. One helpful antacid is Alka-Seltzer®. Alka-Seltzer works quickly and comes in liquid or tablet form. Unfortunately, its benefits only last for a few hours per dose. But for many people, Alka-Seltzer is appropriate for occasional bouts of indigestion and heartburn. Pepto-Bismol is another effective upset stomach remedy. Its active ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate, coats your esophagus, reduces inflammation and creates a barrier to stomach acid reflux. Very few people taking antacids like Alka-Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol report side effects. But when they do, it’s usually a mild adverse reaction such as constipation or diarrhea.
Another great option that works just as well as Nexium, but without the scary side effects? Pepcid AC Maximum Strength. After one kidney failed due to daily PPI use in 2019, my nephrologist (kidney doc) suggested this swap. But the right dosage is key to swapping Nexium for Pepcid AC and maximizing its effectiveness. You want to take two 20mg pills in the morning before breakfast, then another two 20mg pills just before dinner. You can supplement this daily regimen with the occasional Tums or Rolaids as needed. Need a cheaper option? Try generic 20mg famotidine instead. It’s the same active ingredient as Pepcid AC, and you can get a 2-month supply for less than $35. Bonus benefit: Both those products are HSA and FSA-eligible expenses!
Natural Alternatives to Nexium: Ginger
Ginger soothes heartburn and reflux pain by naturally inhibiting stomach acid production. One 2007 study compared ginger’s properties with conventional acid blockers. Researchers discovered that ginger worked six to eight times better than PPI drugs like Prevacid. Ginger also contains enzymes that help with food digestion. Ginger tea (decaffeinated), ginger chews and even ginger ale can help ease GERD symptoms naturally.
Natural Alternatives to Nexium: Eliminate Peppermint, Alcohol, and Caffeine
Unlike ginger, peppermint does not help GERD sufferers. In fact, peppermint makes it significantly worse. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ingesting peppermint can relax your stomach’s sphincter muscle. This sphincter traps gastric acid within the stomach, so when it’s weakened, acid moves more easily into your esophagus. Drinking alcohol and caffeine may also weaken your esophageal sphincter and should therefore be avoided.
Natural Alternatives to Nexium: Chewing Gum
Chewing gum can sometimes provide heartburn relief. According to the Journal of Dental Research, people who chewed sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after eating experienced heartburn relief. Chewing gum stimulates your saliva glands, and increased saliva flow means more frequent swallowing. When you swallow more often, it helps clear away gastric acid build-up in your esophagus.
We like the Trident sugar-free cinnamon variety, which freshens your breath as well as mint without any stomach irritation.
What You Can Do
None of these alternatives to Nexium include side effects as severe as those reported by patients taking PPIs. Once your doctor gives the go-ahead, feel free to try any of these heartburn remedies before taking another acid-reducing medication. However, if you experienced serious complications after long-term PPI use, you may qualify for financial compensation. Fill out your free PPI claim review form today and a Nexium lawyer will contact you to discuss your case.
Related: When and How to Stop Taking PPIs for Heartburn Relief
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.