What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is the common name for GERD. GERD stands for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease. What are the most common symptoms you experience if you have GERD?
- Frequent burping and belching
- Bad breath
- A feeling of fullness or bloating in your stomach soon after meals
- A burning sensation in your throat or lower down in your esophagus
- Acid regurgitating up into your mouth
- Persistent dry cough
- Positional cough (you feel the need to cough after lying down or bending forward)
- Heartburn or a pain in your chest, especially after meals
Besides simply feeling bad there are also dangerous manifestations of living with GERD. Acid reflux can can cause esophagitis, a condition that can affect the vocal cords and/or your ability to swallow foods. GERD can also cause tooth decay, trouble breathing or taking a deep breath and increased risk of stomach and esophageal cancer.
Acid Reflux Treatment
What is the traditional treatment for GERD? If you have a TV or if you’ve visited any of the medical websites searching for answers you must have been exposed to the most common treatment for GERD, acid reducers. The two most common types are acid blockers like TUMS (calcium carbonate with a few other chemicals mixed in for color and flavor) and Proton Pump Inhibitors. There are many different variations and brands of proton pump inhibitors, the one thing they all have in common is their official chemical name always ends in “prazole”– Omeprazole (Prilosec, Prilosec OTC), lansoprazole (Prevacid), esomeprazole (Nexium) are some of the more common medications that patients have told me they use. What’s great about these medications is that they often work to alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux. What concerns me and should concern you the most about any sort of acid blocker is that it rarely addresses the CAUSE of GERD.
There is a basic philosophy that I need to repeat to people all the time. Whenever possible, you want to treat the cause of your symptoms, rather than merely treat the symptoms themselves.
So what are the CAUSES of Acid Reflux or GERD? This is where it can get tricky. I believe everyone is an individual and the cause of your GERD may be different from another person’s.
What happens when you simply take the medications that treat the symptoms and don’t address your CAUSE? Side effects. I don’t really believe in the term side effects, there are simply effects from taking any medication or nutritional supplement. There are desirable effects and undesirable effects.
The desired effects of using acid reducers or proton pump inhibitors are fewer symptoms and decreased risk of esophageal and stomach cancer.
What are the undesired effects? By not treating the cause of acid reflux you create many more problems.
First and foremost, read this carefully: YOU NEED ACID IN YOUR STOMACH!
If you take any type of medication or supplement and the goal of that pill or powder is to reduce stomach acid, you are creating a major problem. Our body creates hydrochloric acid in our stomach. Hydrochloric acid is extremely acidic and without it we can’t break down our foods for digestion. That says it all right there. Why would you take anything that reduces something that your body needs?
The acid in your stomach is also an integral part of our immune system. The most common ways pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites) enter our body is when we swallow something that has been contaminated with these little bugs. Our stomach acid has two vital functions: break down food and kill bad microorganisms. When you take acid reducers you actually harm the immune system. Here’s a list of side effects (undesired effects) from acid reducers:
- Micronutrient deficiencies
- C. difficile infection
- Bone loss / fractures
- Nausea, vomiting, bowel movement issues
- Dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue
- Joint aches
- Sleep problems
I won’t say that acid reducers don’t serve a purpose. There are some individuals who need them. That can only be determined by discussing the benefits and risks along with your doctor. But I believe that there is a better solution!
How To Treat GERD: Find The Root Cause
The key to acid reflux treatment is to figure out WHY you have the symptoms in the first place. There are three major issues that if left unaddressed can cause GERD.
- Low stomach acid
- Hiatal hernia
- SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth)
Low stomach acid
How does a lack of stomach acid cause acid reflux? Remember we need stomach acid to break down our foods. We also need stomach acid to keep our LES (lower esophageal sphincter) healthy. The LES is like a valve that separates our esophagus from our stomach. It should function mostly as a one-way valve that lets food into the stomach and doesn’t allow it to escape. When we have the proper amount of acid in our stomach it stimulates the LES to be healthy and strong. When we have decreased acid in our stomach the valve can weaken and the acid that is in the stomach can escape. After a meal your body increases acid production as much as it can to aid in digesting your food. This temporary increase in acid production after a meal combined with a weak LES can cause your symptoms.
What leads to low stomach acid?
- Nutrient deficiencies like B12 and zinc
- Autoimmune conditions
- Infections like H Pylori
- Poor diet choices
- Medication side effects
Hiatal Hernia and Acid Reflux
Often there is a mechanical cause for acid reflux called a hiatal hernia. Sometimes these hiatal hernias are called sliding hiatal hernias because they go back and forth between herniating and moving back into place. What is it?
The esophagus (the tube your food travels through before landing in your stomach) and your stomach are separated by a large, strong muscle called your diaphragm. There is an opening in your diaphragm that allows for the esophagus to pass through. If you develop a weakness in your diaphragm, the stomach can slide upwards and herniate through that opening in your diaphragm. This can allow acid to escape from the stomach and cause reflux.
If a hiatal hernia is the main cause of your acid reflux, GERD medications are not going to help you! You actually need to release stress from the diaphragm so it can function better. Book an appointment with me so I can help.
SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) & Acid Reflux
We are supposed to have 100s of trillions of microorganisms (the human microbiome) that live in and on our body. These “bugs” are a big part of our immune system, help us to digest foods, to detox and to live a healthy life. Inside our digestive tract the vast majority of these “bugs” (aka microorganisms–mostly friendly bacteria) are found lining our large intestine. SIBO is a term that describes the migration of these microorganisms up to our small intestine where they don’t belong. Hence, small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Common causes of SIBO are food poisoning, stomach viruses, antibiotic use and antacids. Common symptoms of SIBO are all over the map but commonly include bloating, gas, food sensitivities, acid reflux and bowel movement issues. SIBO is also often the cause of IBS. SIBO symptoms can flare up after eating carbohydrates/starchy foods or fiber-rich foods. I recommend specific laboratory tests to discover if SIBO is the root cause of a patient’s acid reflux. I then create a targeted protocol and treatment plan to get rid of both the SIBO and symptoms of GERD!
Are you tired of suffering with symptoms of acid reflux? Are you looking for a GERD treatment diet and specific plan to relieve your acid reflux? Book your appointment today and let’s get you better! I assess patients in person at my NYC office or virtually via video consult.
If you want to get a head start on uncovering the root cause of your reflux and treating GERD naturally, let me send you my free guide.
DRUG FREE RELIEF!
3 Steps to Relieve Acid Reflux Naturally (No More Meds!)
If you are one of the millions of Americans suffering from any upper digestive symptoms, learn more about it and please do not ignore it!