Taking Tums, or medications to decrease stomach acid may not be the answer for heartburn sufferers at all. The food you eat will remain in your stomach, being chemically broken down by your stomach acid and enzymes until the pH of your stomach falls to between 1.3 and 3.0. Only then does the food move into the duodenum, the first part of your small intestine.
If your stomach acid fails to reach that acidic level, food will stay in your stomach. Or worse, it will regurgitate up into the esophagus through the cardiac spincter. This is a relatively weak sphincter, unlike the pyloric sphincter, which is the entrance to the duodenum. Regugitating even weak stomach acid is painful and the esophagus is not meant to withstand that repeated onslaught.
For many people, acidifying the stomach is the answer, not the problem, although advertisers would have you believe just the opposite. Try drinking warm water with lemon juice 20 minutes before a meal. This will aid digestion. You can also take a hydrocholoric acid supplement with meals. This is extremely effective for most people with decreased stomach acidity. It is a condition that often comes with aging and is called hypochlorhydria.
Moving food from your stomach into your small intestine in a timely manner is crucial to eliminating heartburn and acid reflux. It is in the small intestine that most of the nutrients from your food, and the vitamins you ingest, are absorbed. Food that lingers too long in the stomach goes through a variety of unpleasant changes. Protein putrifies, fats rancidify, and carbohydrates ferment. These unwanted chemical changes all add to digestive upsets, including painful heartburn, gas, bloating, and constipation, to name just a few problems.
You can tell from this information that not lowering the acid output of the stomach will lead to a vicious cycle of more antiacids and less effecient digestion and nutrient uptake. Make it a priority to raise stomach acidity. Many food traditions aid this endeavor by including fermented foods with a meal, such as sauerkraut, kim chi, pickled ginger, kefir, etc. Enjoy these foods often and see if they helps to alleviate your painful condition.