Taking Antacids for Heartburn? Make Sure They Aren’t Harming your Kidneys!

Kidney Health


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


If you’re one of the estimated 60 million American adults who suffer from heartburn at least once a month – or one of the more than 15 million who experience it daily – you probably have taken your fair share of over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription antacids to help put out the fire. These medications are so effective and popular that around 100 million Americans are estimated to take antacids at some point during the year. Together, sufferers spend in the neighborhood of $2 billion dollars a year on them.

But while antacids undeniably do a world of good for those who take them, they, as do all medications, carry some risks. This is especially true if you take them longer or more often than you should or use more of them than indicated. One such risk, which continues to garner attention in the health community, is the potential damage that a specific type of antacid – proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which include some of the most well-known brands of antacids on the market – can do to your kidneys.  

Since PPIs are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the world, researchers at the University of California San Diego wanted to determine if there were any unexpected consequences of taking PPIs beyond what may have been identified during the initial development and clinical trials of these medications. What they found by analyzing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) database of adverse effects (which are voluntarily reported by users of various medications) was that patients who took PPIs were more likely to experience kidney disease than those who took another type of antacid known as a histamine-2 receptor blocker.

The difference in reported kidney disease between both groups was significant. Around 5.6 percent of people taking PPIs reported some type of impact on their kidneys, compared to 0.7 percent of patients taking the other type of antacid.  

Other studies have shown that people taking PPIs had about a 33 percent increased relative risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) when compared with non-users. And yet another study from Johns Hopkins University, showed that PPI users were between 20 percent and 50 percent more likely to develop CKD than non-PPI users.

While researchers pointed out that more studies are required, these studies do show a significant association between the use of PPIs and an increased risk of CKD and even kidney failure. Given that up to two-thirds of people taking PPIs may not really need them, it’s important that you talk with your doctor or pharmacist about whether PPIs really are the best option for you. If they are, then be sure to follow the instructions carefully to better protect your kidneys.

Another major downside with proton pump inhibitors, as, again, with pretty much any kind of medicine you take (both prescription and over-the-counter), is nutrient depletion. As we have discussed before, long-term use of PPIs may deplete critical nutrients from the body, including calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin C, iron and magnesium.

How to be proactive about heartburn?

There are steps you can take now to help reduce your need for antacids and, if you must take them, how to help protect your kidneys when you do.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the foods you eat, and your lifestyle in general, may exacerbate the various health conditions that can cause heartburn and may even trigger symptoms. So, take a look at your regular diet and see if you need to make some changes.

The majority of your diet should consist of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean protein, like fish, fruitslegumes and whole grains. Drinking sufficient amounts of water is also important in balancing the acid in your stomach that can contribute to heartburn. And, if you eat too many fatty, oily or fried foods (pro-inflammatory foods), for example, this may contribute to heartburn and indigestion. Other trigger foods include chocolate, alcohol, soda and other carbonated beverages and caffeine.

If you do get heartburn, and if your doctor permits you to, you may want to consider natural remedies before turning to commercial antacids. These include:

  • Alkaline Water – According to the National Institutes of Health, alkaline water may have good acid-buffering capacities
  • ProbioticsProbiotics help keep the gut microbiome healthy. And having a healthy, diverse gut microbiome may help prevent any digestive issues and inflammation that can contribute to gut issues
  • Ginger – The root of the ginger plant is known as a digestive aid which may help reduce heartburn symptoms
  • Chamomile Tea – May also help soothe the digestive tract

In addition to taking a look at your diet, also remember that being overweight or obese may cause or make your heartburn worse. Furthermore, watch your posture while you eat – it’s best to sit up straight like your mother always told you! If you have heartburn at night, wait at least three hours after eating before going to bed.  

Your lifestyle and diet can also help protect your kidneys from any potential damage from antacids as well as help your kidneys function better overall. The latter is very important given that the prevalence of CKD is on the rise and that your kidney function decreases as you age. African-Americans are also at a greater risk of CKD and may especially need to be proactive.

One of the best things you can do to prevent kidney disease is to make sure you have a healthy blood pressure. And of course, one way to have a healthy blood pressure is by having a healthy diet (particularly, a heart-healthy diet). If you are eating to take care of your heart, you are also helping take care of your kidneys. Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, which are nutrient-dense and full of antioxidants, is extremely important.  Reducing the intake of sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods may also greatly reduce your chances of developing kidney disease. And staying physically active can also help protect the health of your kidneys.

If you are taking other medications in addition to antacids, make sure to talk with your doctor about them. Remember that generally the drugs you use pass through your kidneys and some combinations of medications can put a greater strain on your kidneys than they may do if taken alone. These medications that can damage your kidneys account for up to 25 percent of kidney injuries, so you do need to be aware of what you’re taking and their side effects.

If you have questions or concerns, you can also talk with your pharmacist who can tell you how your different medications may affect your kidneys or react with each other.


Enjoy your healthy life!


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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