Natural Treatment For GERD, Acid Reflux and Heartburn
Americans spent more 13 billion dollars in 2006 on acid stopping medications. Nearly 100 million Americans experience acid reflux at least 1 time per month and about 15 million struggle with acid reflux at least 1 time per day. To put this in perspective, heartburn over-the-counter sales are about equal to over-the-counter sales of antiperspirants!
Standard Treatment for GERD, acid reflux and heartburn is the use of an antacid to stop the production or neutralize the acid in the stomach. This approach definitely can work to reduce symptoms in most individuals, but like many other drugs, fails to address the root cause of reflux.
If the root cause isn’t addressed, then over time I have found that patients report that they stop working and even those taking 2-3 medications can no longer get relief from reflux.
Danger Ahead – Stomach Acid
The acid in your stomach acts as a buffering system from the outside world. If you consume any contaminated food the low pH in the stomach can kill the microorganisms and decrease your possibility of getting infected. It also acts to protect from bacterial overgrowth of the stomach, a well known cause of stomach pain. (gastritis)
The acid in your stomach is also primarily responsible for breaking down protein and increasing absorption of essential nutrients. If you use an antacid to decrease stomach acid, over time many if not all individuals end up nutrient deficient and undernourished.
In addition, the remainder of the digestion of your food requires stomach acid to stimulate the gallbladder, pancreas and small intestine to further break down and absorb your food.
So now that you know some of the benefits of stomach acid, you may be realizing that you don’t really want to get rid of it after all.
But the Pain Is Too Much
Heartburn or GERD, contrary to popular belief, is not caused by too much stomach acid.
Reflux is almost always caused by too little stomach acid rather than too much stomach acid.
Essentially, acid reflux is caused by stomach dysfunction which is more common to be under-functioning than over-functioning. New research teaches us that while the esophagus is often damaged by stomach dysfunction, GERD can also contribute to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). And in case you didn’t know, IBS is the 2nd leading cause of missed work. (The 1st is having a cold.)
Hidden Causes of Reflux
GERD, acid reflux and heartburn are symptoms, they are not a root cause. You know that a drug is suppressing a symptom because if you don’t take the drug, the symptom returns. While I don’t recommend antibiotics for most people, and the right herb is often more potent, antibiotics are actually a drug that treats a root cause because when you finish your antibiotic, you don’t have to take it again over and over. Antacids are the opposite, they are a life sentence unless you treat the cause.
Reflux is caused by increased intra-abdominal pressure. Essentially stomach bloating, swelling or distention. Many things can contribute to this pressure including carbohydrate malabsorption, obesity, bacterial, parasitic, fungal or viral infection, food allergies/sensitivities, diaphragm injuries and stress.
Applied Kinesiology and Hiatal Hernias
For years applied kinesiologists were famous for manipulating the stomach to decrease or eliminate functional hiatal hernias. The problem was that although instant relief was frequently achieved, it seemed that the manipulation needed to be performed often. In modern applied kinesiology, the hiatal hernia acts as an indication of an underlying root problem that needs to be addressed and thus is a great tool to use when searching for root causes associated with reflux. Thus, the hiatal hernia maneuver is much rarer to be utilized in most offices.
What to do?
One of the simplest things to do to reduce reflux is to decrease your carbohydrate intake. Bread often makes reflux symptoms decrease, but in turn contributes to additional reflux hours later.
Clean up your diet by avoiding common food allergens. If you can’t find a local practitioner that is trained in professional applied kinesiology to help determine your individual food sensitivities, then avoidance of all gluten, dairy and corn is a good place to start with regards to GERD.
Next, using cholagogues such as Chinese Coptis are my go to remedy to treat infection, increase digestion and improve bile flow which can decrease inflammation and allow the stomach to recreate its own acid. (My favorite Chinese Cotpis.)
Lastly, because reflux is most often caused by low stomach acid, taking a betaine HCL supplement to increase stomach acid can be a good temporary fix. Digestive enzymes can support your digestion while you are addressing root level causes, but absolutely should not be taken long term.
GERD, acid reflux and heartburn are rarely a sign of excess stomach acid, but rather low stomach acid. By addressing the often hidden causes of decreased stomach acid and addressing common triggers like SIBO, candida and food allergies, you can avoid the use of detrimental drugs and achieve relief from persistent reflux each and every time you eat.
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