Brenda Watson

Is That Antacid Killing You?

PBS's "GI Jane," Brenda Watson helps Americans with their plop, plop, fiz, fiz problems.

Quick Fix Remedies

Clearwater, FL -- Antacids are quick-fix remedies taken by millions to help relieve heartburn, acid reflux and other uncomfortable digestive problems. Americans spend more than $3 billion a year on over-the-counter heartburn drugs, according to the American Pharmacists Association, and more than $13 billion on prescription acid reducing drugs.

There's a growing concern among physicians about the hidden dangers of heartburn and many are now warning patients who have had severe gastric esophageal reflux disease for several years that they shouldn't keep popping Tums, Pepcid or other pills without seeing a doctor first. Heartburn seems to be driving the nation's fastest-increasing type of cancer, a type of esophageal disease called adenocarcinoma. The occurrences have jumped six-fold in the last 30 years and many suspect heartburn is the culprit.

Stomach Acid: Too much? Too Little?

"People take antacids to lower the amount of acid in their stomach but many are misdiagnosing themselves and shouldn't be taking antacids at all," says Brenda Watson, author of, "The H.O.P.E. Formula," and "Gut Solutions," a series of books on digestive health. "Ninety percent of people with heartburn or acid reflux symptoms actually don't have enough acid in their stomach."

Too little acid in the stomach, or what's known as hypochlorhydria, is more common than most realize. Stomach acid production starts to naturally decline in your mid 30s, and by age 50, doctors say 50 percent of people will have the condition. Watson recommends asking your physician for a "Heidelberg" test to determine if your underlying problem is low or high acid.

Signs and symptoms of too little acid include:

  • Feeling hungry all the time;
  • Gas, bloating, burping after meals;
  • Bad breath;
  • Low energy;
  • Dilated capillaries in the cheeks and nose; and
  • Iron deficiency.

"Many doctors don't test for it or know how to treat it, so acid blocking medications are being over-prescribed in the same way antibiotics have been," says Watson. "It's a big concern because hypochlorhydria can be reversed by changing your diet. The condition should never lead to cancer."

Watson launched a crusade to educate Americans about problems affecting their gut as a result of her own poor digestive health. She began hosting a PBS television special airing nationwide called, Brenda Watson's H.O.P.E. Formula - The Ultimate Health Secret. The program will expose Americans to the hidden dangers of heartburn and acid reflux, IBS, ulcers and constipation; and what to do to eliminate these health problems without drugs. Go to for show times, dates and more GI tips.



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