July 21, 2012

Escape From Prilosec

Following a recent article on the New York Times Well blog, I made a pretty big decision to get off a medication I've depended on for more than 12 years. I've been taking a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) since my mid-20s for what has always been a mysterious stomach problem. PPIs are prescribed for acid reflux, but I didn't have reflux, instead I had a chronic, deep pain in my stomach that was very perplexing. After seeing specialists and going through an endoscopy, ultrasound, biopsy and CT scan the only answer seemed to be that I produced too much stomach acid and could benefit from a PPI.

I started to feel better and life went on thanks to this miracle drug. I honestly rarely thought twice about my daily pill until I read that article. Long-term side effects were unknown until recently and while I was aware of the risk of calcium deficiency, I had no idea about overall poor nutrient absorption, possible weight gain and acid rebound. I decided it was time to take control.

I did some Googling and read horrible stories on message boards about the misery of coming off the drug. Most people were forced to go back on it because they were in so much pain. I plotted my approach of taking Prilosec every other day and 150mg ranitidine twice daily on the alternating days. I bought ginger tea, apples, applesauce and almonds - foods that naturally alkalize the system according to my research. Then I woke up on a Monday morning and didn't take the pill.

It's been almost two weeks and it's going well so far, but I have really challenging days. During the first week I felt so ill some days I could barely eat. I had to make some changes in my diet, mainly giving up coffee or only having a very small cup. I temporarily gave up beer, which makes me very sad, but it has the lowest pH of alcoholic beverages and is not good for the stomach. I reduced the amount of wine I'm drinking, but haven't given it up. That is one change I'm not willing to make! I'm seeing how everything I eat reacts in my system and dialing up the good ones and minimizing the not so good ones.

After a week I moved to two days ranitidine and one day Prilosec and feel pretty good. I gave up my weekend to do a two-day juice cleanse to further speed up the healing in my stomach and alkalize my system. I'm usually a huge fan of a cleanse, but this time I'm bored out of my mind. My stomach feels amazing though so I'm sucking up the boredom and pushing through. Ironically I spent most of the day reading food blogs and posting food pics to Pinterest and tumblr. I'm a glutton for punishment.

The phase off usually takes about three months due to the acid rebound so I'm not planning a victory party yet, but I feel good knowing I'm taking control of my health and ridding my body of something it doesn't need.


  1. sorry to hear you're dealing with this, but good for you for taking control of your health! i hope things continue to get easier and better : )

  2. Oh my, this is too random. I just came over from Theodora's blog because I saw your comment about running and happened to also catch this post! I also have been on Prevacid for 5ish years and am in the process of weening off of it. I never had the true "reflux" feelings either but was that achy pit in the area that is my stomach that is really, really hard to describe to a doctor...had all the tests done to find essentially nothing and was then put on Prevacid. Well, 4 years later my body was starting to rebel against it so I started the process only to give up and now I am starting again a year later. It's so frustrating, isn't it? Stay strong! Hopefully you don't meet with too much resistance on the acid rebound part. That's what killed me last time but is going better today with the step down approach versus cold turkey.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! It's been really hard, but I'm sticking to it. I had a horrible weekend, ended up having to supplement with a bunch of chewable and liquid antacids, but I feel so much better now. It's a process to learn what works and doesn't work. I'm only taking Prilosec every 3 days now and hope to be 100% off within the month. Then I will start the process of weaning off the ranitidine. One step at a time...



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