Ask The Doctor:

I am trying to wean myself off of Nexium. What herbs and enzymes are best for stomach issues? I have been on this drug for seven years.
Answered by Dr. Frank Lipman

Congratulations on deciding to wean yourself off Nexium, as it is just treating the symptoms and not addressing the underlying cause. To make matters worse, it has a number of serious side effects when taken over long periods of time. Nexium inhibits acid production, which is an essential part of digestion, hinders your ability to digest food properly, and can lead to malabsorption of key nutrients, too. Acid is your first line of defense in the digestive system, so blocking acid increases your risk of food poisoning and allows bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and small intestine. Recent research has even shown that these drugs can make people more susceptible to pneumonia and hip fractures.

Here are a few tips for you:

>> Never stop Nexium cold turkey as you will get a rebound acid secretion effect, giving you symptoms worse than when you started the drug. So, you need to wean yourself gradually.

>> Eliminate food triggers, the most common being gluten, dairy, processed foods, spicy foods, citrus- and tomato-based foods, caffeine, and alcohol.

>> Eat small, frequent meals and try not to eat at least three hours before bed.

>> Treat the small bowel overgrowth, yeast overgrowth, or Helicobacter pylori if present. You can try herbs like olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract, Berberine, oregano oil, and mastic gum. Often these overgrowth problems need prescription medications like Nystatin or Diflucan for yeast, Xifaxin for small bowel overgrowth, and triple therapy for Helicobacter pylori.

>> Take a good probiotic with at least 30 billion good bacteria a day. You can get some probiotics from fermented foods like natto, sauerkraut, and kefir, but not enough, so you will still need to take a probiotic supplement.

>> Take 3 to 6 grams of Glutamine powder in water twice a day between meals.

>> Try 75 to 150 mg of zinc carnosine twice a day between meals.

>> Chew 2 or 3 chewable DGL (deglycerized licorice) 15 minutes before meals.

>> Try 1 gm of mastic gum twice a day between meals.

>> And if the above doesn’t work, try a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without a prescription. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, it often works, especially in older folks. You need to slowly increase the dose until you get the slightest burning sensation. You then decrease that dose by one capsule and continue to take that dose.

Dr. Frank Lipman specializes in Integrative and Functional Medicine. He is the founder of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center in New York.