Last Modified on Apr 19, 2014
Is Frequent Use of Painkillers the Cause of Your Acid Reflux?
Years ago, Earth Clinic contributors started writing in about acid reflux and GERD, with so many people suffering from these disruptive and dangerous digestive ailments. Then we began to notice how many were also writing about using large amounts of over-the-counter pain meds, specifically non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Could it be that overuse of pain killing drugs was causing the epidemic of acid reflux?
We know for certain that these anti-inflammatory drugs claim a toll on stomach and liver health. Some can trigger gastric ulcers and all must be processed by the liver, placing an extra burden on that organ so essential for digestive enzymes and cleaning toxins out of the body. Is this enough to disrupt the acid balance in the stomach and weaken the valve between the stomach and esophagus, creating your acid reflux symptoms?
Examine the first-person evidence described below to draw your own conclusions about the link between painkillers and acid reflux treatment!
Note: This page continues from Page 1 of Acid Reflux Natural Cures.
[SIDE EFFECTS] 07/09/2013: Puneet Bery from Delhi, India: "I am having a lot of Reflux and pain after having Pain Killers, I would Like to try apple Cider Vinegar as suggested but there is no clarity as to when I should be having it... before having my medicenes or what. Please clarify so that I can start."Replies
07/10/2013: Leah from Philly, Pa replies: "Check your medication to see if you have fluoride poisoning. If so, you need to detox the fluoride to prevent further damage. Boron, calcium and iodine are very useful for detoxing fluoride. There are places in India where ground water is dangerously high in fluoride. Find an Ayurvedic doctor and stay away from western medicine."
07/10/2013: Baldev from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India replies: "Hi Puneet, Pain killers have the side effect of Reflux for some, because they create extra acidic environment in the system. To start with why are you taking the pain killers? If you can have some alternate for the problem for which you are taking the pain killers and in turn are having the Reflax and pain, logically pain killers should be stopped and some other alternate be looked for. Unless we know the reason which makes you to take the pain killers, it will be difficult to suggest any alternate. Good Luck
07/11/2013: Trudyg replies: "I, too, get reflux from pain meds. I have neck and shoulder pain from injuries and now I work at a computer all day. My bad eyes make me hold my neck a certain way and boy, do I hurt. I got an ulcer from taking advil. I now take astaxanthin and serrapeptase, but still get reflux. I take heartburn ease for the acid, but not a fix. What should I take for pain?"
07/11/2013: Kt from The Usa replies: "Just a suggestion---pain is inflammation... Turmeric and ginger are reported to reduce inflammation... they have worked for me but you have to keep in mind things you may be eating that contribute to inflammation."
07/11/2013: Mmsg from Somewhere, Europe replies: "Trudyg, get up and walk around often. Do head/neck stretches often. Keep circulation going!"
07/11/2013: Baldev from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India replies: "Hi Trudyg, For your kind of problem, I suggest you apply Magnesium Oil on the area where you get pain. It will be still better if you mix DMSO 80% and Magnesium Oil 50:50 and this mixture's application will surely give you relief from the pain and no acid reflux.
07/11/2013: Mama To Many from Middle, Tennessee, Usa replies: "Trudyg, Have you tried apple cider vinegar (internally) for the pain? Some find it helps pain that is arthritis related. It may also help the reflux. (It keeps mine in check.)
Apple Cider Vinegar topically is also something we have found helpful for pain. We soak a cloth with it and cover with plastic and then another towel. Not very convenient for neck and shoulder... I think it reduces inflammation. We have seen this help very much many times.
Castor Oil and or Peppermint essential oil can also be applied topically for the pain.
White Willow Bark Capsules are a good herb for pain, but I find they only help with mild pain.
Alternating Hot and Cold (heating pad, then frozen rice sock) is something else that is good for pain.)
I do notice that sugar consumption makes my pain worse. (I have scoliosis and my back is always off, so I am often dealing with some kind of back or neck or hip pain. Peppermint oil and avoiding sugar, hot and cold have all helped me at different times.)
Hope you find something to help... Have a great day!
~Mama to Many~"
07/11/2013: Kt from The Usa replies: "Neglected to mention that I had read a doctor reported indigestion is caused by too many carbs in your diet. It would be a good idea to ask for the package insert for your medication--not the computer print-out. See if the ingredients include any kind of starch. When I started to have a lot of indigestion I learned it was from what the animals were being fed that I was eating. I am not going to go into detail here unless someone is truly interested. After I read what the doctor reported and started to pay attention to what I was ingesting I began to realize what he reported was accurate. I can report that this is what also caused me be to incontinent for a short time. Once I became aware and started to reduce my consumption of GMO's the problems ceased. It is difficult because all of our food has been corrupted. We are not only exposed to GMO's in our food, our medications and/or supplements come from this food. Organic is not safe and, for me, it was worse. This discovery was after phone calls, screening and very expensive purchases."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 12/23/2008: Chuck from Warner Robins, GA: "I am just now finding out that I have acid reflux. I shattered 3 neck vertabrae and ruptured a disk in the thoracic area of my back. I was prescribed Lortab and 800mg Ibuprofin. I started feeling this constant urge to have to swallow about 2 yrs ago and felt like everytime I took my pills, it would get stuck in my throat. I was just diagnosed yesterday. Do you have any advice for me? Thank You."Replies
[SIDE EFFECTS] 04/24/2010: Judy from Marianna, Fl replies: "I have just recently started having somewhat the same symptoms you are experiencing. However, mine does not have the burning sensation at all, mine is pure raw pain at times. The lump in my throat is very uncomfortable and the pain in my chest right around my esophagus can be excrutiating at times. I have arthritis in every joint and I have been taking ibuprophen pm everynight to help me rest since there is no comfortable position. I have just recently started investigating this and was deathly afraid of cancer of the esophagus. Have apt set to see Dr. This has relieved me tremendously, but I sure sympathize with the pain."
04/07/2011: Jane from Portland, Oregon replies: "RAW Apple cider vinegar
1-2 T vinegar
1/3-1/2 t Baking soda
4-6 oz water
Tall glass for fizz reaction and bang it down to Alkalinize your stomach. Must use RAW Apple Cider Vinegar to make it turn from an acid to an alkaline in your stomach. I spell relief "BURP"
Pure Turmeric with coconut oil. I make a lukewarm drink of Coconut (vanilla flavored)milk with a spoon of coconut oil to melt and 1/2 t turmeric. Mix and sip. If you like curry, this will taste good and comforting. Tummy ache from meds will be all gone."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 06/14/2008: Ross from Vancouver, BC Canada: "I used Ibuprofin for at least 20 years ( Ate them like candy.Thought they were like crack for pain)Then I developed Reflux.Tried everything. Until I stopped taking any NSAIDS there was no respite.What has worked for me is boiled ginger root tea, strained and kept cool,after a meal.(3oz) This has really helped me and the reflux is now barely noticable.I now use tramadol and Tylenol for pain. ( I have diabetic neropathy (sp?) so I need some relief fror that). No connection with those painkillers, but definitely with Ibuprofin."Replies
06/17/2008: Joyce from Joelton, Tn. replies: "Hi Ross from Vancouver. Please be aware that there is lots of controversy with prolonged use of Tyelnol (acetaminophen) even at recommended levels. Too much tylenol destroys the liver. It is also recommended that you never take it on an empty stomach. Why are you taking all these pain medicines for such a long period? If it's joint pain or post-traumatic arthritis type pain, consider MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) instead. One fellow I got started taking it for post fracture/repair pain liked the way it worked so well that he gave it out for Xmas presents that year. It is a whole lot safer than NSAIDS or tylenol."
08/16/2012: Willow9 from Stockholm, Sweden replies: "Why take such bad medication for Diabetic Neuropathy?
When you can take Evening Primrose tablets? I'm Diabetic and I take very few meds because the more meds the more side effects. Evening Primrose really works... You need about 5 or six days to notice the results.. And walk as much as you can to keep circulaton going. Pain killers all have terrible side effects. Ask your Dr if you can try Evening Primrose.. And just a normal daily dose. More is NOT better. Good luck :-)"
[SIDE EFFECTS] 06/06/2008: Kira from Los Angeles, California: "Up until two months ago, I had never experienced acid reflux. I've spent almost 50 years eating almost nothing but chocolate, citrus and several cans of diet coke a day.I then developed a sudden onset of acid reflux attacks -- to the point that my throat was closing up, causing me real terror for about 48 hours as I struggled to breathe. I am writing to relate what I think may have caused the problem (which I now seem to have on a regular basis but less severely).
I had minor cosmetic surgery that involved removing some of the "matrix fat" in my lower abdominal area. To put me to sleep for the surgery, I was given one Benedryl tablet. After the surgery, I had acid reflux -- although it remained mild and went away in a couple of weeks. I attributed the problem to the one Benedryl tablet. After the acid reflux went away, I thought maybe the Benedryl had been falsely accused. So I took a tablet to sleep one night, and the next day was fine. That night I took another Benedryl, and I had acid reflux the next day.
I stopped the Benedryl and was fine in about a week. I then had further cosmetic surgery and more matrix fat was removed from my abdomen. I took just one more Benedryl tablet for this surgery. The next day my throat was closing up and I've had daily acid reflux for 3 weeks now.
I am sure the Benedryl is part of the problem. I may also have been exposed to some bacterial infection in the doctor's office where both surgeries were performed under not overly sterile conditions (but then I've had plenty of surgeries in other doctors' offices with no problem re it not being very sterile). I'm just saying its possible I was exposed to some acid reflux causing bacteria in this doctor's office. It's also possible that the removal of the matrix fat itself somehow removed some sort of protective hormone in this fat -- just a theory.
I've also noticed that eating Flan seems to badly trigger the acid reflux (although I ate the same Flan constantly up until I took the Benedryl for the first time without a problem)."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 05/21/2008: Jack from Mosier, Oregon: "I have been using ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) for acid reflux for over 2 years. I started having reflux after I had a sore foot and was prescribed 600 mg of Ibuprofin 3 x daily. prior to that time I could eat anything. After a couple of weeks of the large dose of Ibuprofin I could not eat anything without severe Reflux. After using antacids for a long time I tried 2 TBS. per 8oz ACV to Water 1/2 hour prior to eating. It worked better than all of the antacids to releive the symptoms and the reflux slowly went away."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 03/29/2008: Jen from Paramus, NJ: "I have had symptoms of GERD for about 4 months-coughing, lump in the throat, terrible sore throats, etc. I can't pinpoint what the cause of it is. I have noticed though, that when I take aspirin -Excedrin, for several days in a row, my symptoms act up. Since I suffer from migraines and sinus headaches, Excedrin (2 pills) would be the only relief for me. I also thought back to when my symptoms of GERD began. Doctors had put me on rounds of antibiotics. When one didnt work, they prescribed another-several times. Again, I was taking aspirin during the same time as well. I truly believe there is a connection between the 2. Now Im hoping to find a natural cure, as I sit here typing and my throat's on fire! =/ I think Ill give the ACV a try."Replies
05/10/2009: Colin from Halifax, Yorkshire England replies: "have you tried salt gargle I had lump in my throat for a long time I gargled with salt and it was cured in days"
[SIDE EFFECTS] 08/31/2009: Ren from New York, Ny replies: "I have had a lump in my throat for about 4 months now and have some discomfort at my sternum (where the sphincter is in your stomach). I have been taking many brands of medications for reflux and nothing helped. I am a healthy, active, slim individual in her 40's and in the past could eat anything including spicy foods. But for the past 4 months nothing would work until I started reading all of your recommedations for Apple Cider Vinegar. I thought it was a crazy idea but at this point I wanted to try anything to make this discomfort go away. And to my surprise this is the only thing that helped. Started helping the first day. Took two teaspoons of ACV in a glass of water 3 times a day. And now I read about the connection of Acid reflux to ibuprofen. I have been taking ibuprofen for migraines and sinus headaches for over 15 years now. Usually every other month. That is the only medication that works for my headache. Very scary thought that this may be the cause of my symptoms. It seems my symptoms and use of ibuprofen sounds like the rest of you. I will now look into other medications for my migraines."
09/01/2009: Kathy from Punxsutawney, Pa replies: "Just FYI for the people who have never heard of this, but aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminofen, etc, even willow bark extract, can cause a rebound effect. That is, when you take a pain killer for a headache, when it wears off you get, surprize...a headache!, especially if you take a pain killer often."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 03/17/2008: Margaret from South Bend, Indiana: "In response to the acid reflux/ibuprofen link. I was a regular user of advil cold sinus during the fall to help with sinus headaches. I have suffered from reflux off and on for 5-7 years. I also am curious about a possible antibiotic link. I was prescribed tetracyclene in the 70's for acne. I took it for at least a year. In 1996 I was prescribed another cyclene antibiotic and it really bother my stomach."
[NAY] 02/25/2008: Kathleen from Fernley, Nevada: "I worked in Gastroenterology for years and GERD is not neccesarily caused by Ibuprofen.' People who get stomach ulcers (caused by the bacteria, helicobacter Pylori, a corkscrew bacteria that burrows into the stomach and causes the nasty ulcers) are advised not to take IBUPROFEN, Aspirin, and any other Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, because they thin the blood, and cause the ulcer to bleed. H.Pylori is easily cured with a triple antibiotic regime (which is quite uncomfortable, but it does work).
As for GERD, it is mostly caused by stress, caffeine, alcohol and over eating, and having a hiatal hernia contributes as well. I am all for natural cures, However, they may just mask the symptoms.
My husband never had heart-burn. He Had a gastroscopy for stomach problems which was Gastritis, and it was discovered then, that he had damage to his esophagous.
Interestingly our Endoscopy Suite, we found that people with symptons of pain and burning had less Barret's, because they usually sought treatment before damage occurred.
My husband has been on Protonix since he was 53 years old (he is now 66)and over the years, protecting his esophagous with Protonix, his Barrett's is actually healing.
He must have a Gastroscopy every 2 years, to keep track of this condition, as Barrett's Syndrome (caused by acid reflux into the esophagous which changes the esophageal lining from normal to that of the stomach)is abnormal and is a pre-cancerous condition because stomach lining doesn't belong in the esophagous.
For people who have non-healing Barrett's or excruciatingly painful GERD, there is a procedure called Nissan Fundiplication that has been helpful. Look for a G.I. or General Surgeon who has done many of these procedures and ask if he will talk to previous NF patients that would be willing to talk to you, about their results. Hope this Helps."
03/09/2012: Patty from Daytona, Fl replies: "Yeah, my GI told me that too, they all do, but they are wrong. Gerd is definitely related to NsAIDs, ibuprofen and the others. I think they just want you to keep taking them so you can keep coming back to them to get scoped and your ppi prescriptions. I got my gerd from aspirin that I took for years for a medical condition. My GI told me it wasn't the aspirin, but when I stop the aspirin the gerd gors away completely in a couple of months, when I take aspirin it comes right back. Doctors are not always right, and this is one they are very wrong."
08/13/2012: Laurie from Middleton, Idaho replies: "My GI doc specifically told me that my use of Ibuprofen was most likely the primary cause of my acid reflux as I do not smoke, drink, or overheat. In fact I'm slender."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 01/27/2008: Kathryn from Stuttgart, Germany: "My husband and I suffer from headaches (bad ones). In 1995 he introduced me to ibuprofen, which greatly helped his headaches, and mine too.' He had been taking it for headaches for several years. In 2000, he thought he was having a heart attack, and went to the hospital. There, after many tests, they determined it was reflux. Two years later, I too, turned up with mild reflux. A few years later, we figured out that ibuprofen relaxes muscles, can cause constipation as well as relaxing the LES stomach valve and causing GERD. We very rarely use ibuprofen now, but still suffer from reflux problems. Orange peel/orange peel extract helps, as well as using a 2-week prilosec treatment when needed. Coffee is poison for me now! I try to keep away from coffee so I can drink wine now and then."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 01/23/2008: Lisa from New Jersey, United States: "I have been suffering with acid reflex for about three weeks now.' I am 46, in good health, trim and eat a fairly balanced diet. I do indulge in sweets occasionally and have three or four cocktails on the weekends. I have never had gastric issues, never had heartburn, not even with my two pregnancies. Early in December I had a nasty spill on the ice and landed directly on my tail bone. For the pain I was prescribed Hydrocodone with ibuprofen. I took about 10 pills out of thirty, but did not continue because I didn't like the way it made me feel. I continued with basically round the clock doses of advil instead. My suspicion is that my reflux is due to heavy ibuprofen use. I am now taking Prilosec OTC. I have been on it for a week and have noticed only a slight improvement. I also have a very annoying lump feeling in my throat that comes and goes. If anyone has had a similar experience what have they used and is this a temporary sort of situation or is it possible that this is an issue I will always have to deal with?"Replies
04/17/2009: Step from Houston, TX replies: "I had a very similar experience. I have NEVER had any stomach/acid reflux problems. No matter what I ate. A month ago I had some body pains so started taking ibuprofin (over the suggested limite, I took 8 in one day the second day I was taking them). I also mixed it with Vikoden. Well, I developed irratated stomach lining (not an ulcer yet) and have had acid reflux now for about 3 weeks. I dont know if it well ever go away.
For clarification, I was only on ibuprofin for 2 days and only mixed them with 1 pill of Vikoden twice. I stopped all medication after the stomack issues.
Feeling of something in the back of my throat
Waking up at night choking
Elevated bed, mattress and multiple pillows
Sleep on left side (this REALLY helps)
Take Whole leaf aloe
Eat last meal 4 hours or more before bedtime"
04/18/2009: Dianna from Austin, Tx replies: "IMO why pain-killers make you have gastric problems may be because they delay digestion and then the food sits in your stomach longer and may even start to rot and give off gas, acids, etc. before it gets digested."
04/18/2009: Joyce from Joelton, Tn replies: "Hello Lisa, Your suspicion of ibuprofen causing your stomach upset is probably right for it is an NSAID and the whole family of them are notarious for causing stomach problems ranging from acid regurg to outright bleeding peptic ulcers. It may sound strange but cayenne pepper will probably be kinder to your stomach than the prescribed medicine that you said isn't helping much.
For future reference, MSM also has an anti-inflammatory action but without the side effects of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is also a natural substance found in our bodies, but the NSAIDS aren't."
08/28/2011: Christine from Boston, Ma replies: "Thanks to all of you for sharing your info and experiences. I have been an avid user of Ibuprofen for years and recently had minor surgery where I was prescribed Tylenol w/codene (sp?). I finished about 3/4 of the prescription and since then, I have been suffering the same symptoms as "Step in Houston" w/random vomitting, choking and coughing in middle of night, lump in my throat and acid reflux or heartburn. Since I am a very healthy person in my 40's, I was concerned this would may become a permanent condition. Now I am convinced that it was from the prescription pain killer and plan to try the ACV and lay off the Ibuprofen for awhile to see if I can get rid of it for good. Thanks again all you posters!"
[SIDE EFFECTS] 01/11/2008: donna from atlantic beachl, fl: "hi' have had acid reflux for a number of years until the last few months i was an avid ibruprfin user taking 1600 miligrams a day for a knee problem. The last few weeks has been pure hell for me. backup on my esophgus, where at tines have to try and get it up.. A feeling of peanut butter in my throat, mucus all the time.. have been taking previcid to no avail, now have double op on a new medication aciflex, watching my diet.. doctor will do the endoscopy to see if i may have caused some damage to the esophogus or stomach."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 12/30/2007: Ginny from Marion, SC, USA: "GERD. Thanks for the info on your site.' Two weeks ago, I had a tooth extracted and ended up with a dry socket. I was given 1000 mg of erithimicin per day. This was the beginning of my troubles. After two days, I decided to stop and I started taking 3 ibupropins for the pain, 2x per day. A few days later, I was in so much pain, I thought I was going to have to call 911. I finally made myself throw up (6x) and I got some relief. I can see now that I was poisoning myself. Now I know what not to do! Thanks!"
[SIDE EFFECTS] 12/13/2007: Bev from Elroy, WI: "I had been treated with zithromax for pneumonia but what seemed to trigger the severe, sudden onset of reflux was taking 200mg of ibuprofen twice within the week for pain in my neck during that time.' The ibuprofen caused a gastric ulcer since I had been on periodic courses of prednisone earlier for acute asthma which resolved after seven weeks of antibiotics. When I got the pneumonia I had no asthma but a high fever, fatigue and pain in the neck. Steroids can cause ulcers but I didn't think the effect would last that long as I was not taking any at the time. I woke up choking at night with reflux and started protonix. Stopped after about one year and since use digestive enzymes, honey, camomile, ACV with baking soda. Caution: Prevacid ia a fluoridated medication. Along with the reflux, I began severe hypothyroid symptoms I believe caused by Diflucan and Advair which are both fluoridated. Have been doing the borax detox twice a week and have reduced thyroid medication from 3 1/2 to 2 1/2 gr Armour."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 12/08/2007: Sherry from Wyckoff, NJ: "I found this very interesting.' I was recently taking percocet for a horribly painful episode of sciatica. I've just stopped taking it in the past couple of days, but suddenly I have (the past couple of days) the worst case of acid reflux I've ever had. It's so bad I've been searching the web for some solutions. Right now EVERYthing I eat seems to give me terrible acid. I completely believe that pain killers can do this to us."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 12/01/2007: Grace from Chicago, Illinois: "I was baffled as to why all of a sudden for the past month I was suffering from severe Acid Reflux. Granted I've had various gastro-related problems (inherited IBS) and not ever exactly a person with a cast iron stomache, the Acid Reflux was entirely new. In fact, it started when I ended up in the emergency room with severe chest pains (feared it was the heart). I was prescribed Nexium and told it was Acid Reflux. I'm in my late thirties, slender and in good shape, a recent mom, and practice a healthy diet. I hate sodapop and most junk food, all with the exception of coffee and green tea, which I was drinking heavily. But while suffering rather severe throat pain and heavy acidity in my mouth recently, I was cutting down my caffeine intake and eating smaller portions of food... without much change. I'm trying the ACV and baking soda for relief... I'll report on its effectiveness soon, I hope! But going back to when this all started, I have to say I began taking Ibuprofen rather regularly (daily) for about 2 months for pain from a slip and fall accident prior to the Acid Reflux problem. For me anyway, there is definately a correlation. I plan to put the Ibuprofen away possibly for good!"