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Blog: Blog2

How Do I Get Rid of Acid Reflux?

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

How do I get rid of my acid reflux?

The answer might surprise you...

Welcome to the Gut Honest Truth blog where a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner gives you digestible information to tackle your chronic health concerns.

That’s me, Katie Morra; and in this blog I am going to talk about acid reflux and how many of us can relieve heartburn by getting to the root cause. In doing so, I hope to help you not only relieve your acid reflux symptoms but to improve your overall gut health.

I can assure you the answer is not popping (and paying for!) heartburn medications (like Prilosec, Nexium, etc.) every day. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Side note- If you want an even deeper dive into understanding and resolving acid reflux - check out my "How to Get Rid of Your Acid Reflux" e-book.

And as always, working one-on-one for your specific needs is always our top recommendation, check out our appointment options to get started with one of our licensed health care professionals today.

What is Gastroesophageal reflux, or acid reflux?

"Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when your stomach contents come back up into your esophagus."

A study from Gut in 2005 found that 1 out of 5 Americans experience occasional acid reflux (or regurgitation) at least once a week. The same study found 2 out of 5 report these symptoms at least monthly.

As it turns out, when your stomach acid travels upwards in your digestive tract, it can cause quite the uproar in your esophagus. This can lead to irritation and inflammation which then often presents as, you guessed it, a burning sensation often referred to as "heartburn."

How do I know if I have acid reflux?

The symptoms of reflux are fairly consistent: a sensation in your chest that feels like something is burning a.k.a heartburn. But that's not where it ends. Reflux symptoms can lead to a long list of ailments including chest pain, hoarse voice, indigestion, and general misery.

Here's a full list:

  • Bloating, belching, burning, and gassiness immediately after eating

  • Heartburn symptoms, burning sensations

  • A sense of fullness after eating

  • Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation

  • Multiple food allergies or sensitivities

  • Nausea after taking supplements

  • Itching around the rectum

  • Weak nails and hair

There is also a condition called "silent reflux" which presents itself in various forms such as a cough, difficulty swallowing, or general malaise.

Occasional heartburn is a part of life; it is when heartburn becomes frequent that it may lead to more serious conditions, if left untreated. This is where GERD comes in.

What is chronic reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease/GERD?

Many of us face even more frequent bouts of reflux that lead to a diagnosis of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

This is prolonged exposure of the lining of the esophagus to the acidic contents of the stomach. This constant exposure can lead to many health complications such as Barrett’s Esophagus and even cancer.

An epidemiological study found the quality of life for individuals with GERD symptoms was similar to that of those with depression or cancer! Astonishingly, the same Gut study estimated that almost 18% - 28% of the U.S. population suffers from GERD!

The reflux and GERD epidemic:

Even with a large margin of error, the data supports that there is a borderline epidemic of reflux and GERD in the United States and now spanning beyond American borders. So what is being done to rid the population of these common and, if left untreated, potentially dangerous disorders?

What is the typical treatment for Acid Reflux or GERD?

More often than not, traditional medical providers treat both acid reflux and GERD today in a way that simply treats an overproduction of acid. In short, the current approach is to reduce stomach acid or neutralize stomach acid all together.

Are you currently taking an acid reducing medication (Prilosec, omeprazole, Nexium, and the like) that costs you $40-100 per month? Then you would fall into this boat.

Here is a common scenario that will play out in a physicians office:

  • Patient experiencing job stress/kids stress/traffic stress/money stress/STRESS! experiences heartburn symptoms

  • Looking for heartburn relief, patient sees doctor and shares that they often experience frequent heartburn with certain foods, especially fatty foods, and that it leads to chest pain

  • Doctor prescribes over the counter medication to reduce heartburn and alleviate heartburn discomfort.

  • Patient takes medication indefinitely without proper guidance that it should only be taken for approximately 6 weeks at a time

Types of reflux medication prescribed:

Generally, there are 3 categories of acid reducing medications doctors prescribe, all of which work in different ways to slow down or halt stomach acid production in the digestive system:

  1. Antacids Tums and Rolaids are two very common brands of antacids

  2. Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) Prilosec and Nexium are over-the-counter medications, but doctors sometimes offer higher dose proton pump inhibitors via prescription

  3. H2 Blocker Pepcid and Tagamet are the big players here, again higher doses via prescription

With these options, the medications slow down acid production, targeting overproduction of acid. Acid goes away, so does the inflammation and irritation, so you reduce your heartburn symptoms. At least temporarily.

The cost of treatment:

In 2015, Americans spent over $15 billion dollars on acid reflux medications and treatments. $15 with a B! And that's just medication! Let’s not forget to add in the endoscopy many likely had for diagnostic purposes which can range from roughly $1,200 to $3,200 a pop.

It should come as no surprise then that Big Pharma spent $520 million on advertising the top two prescribed medications in 2018 alone (I won't name names but it's obvious).

Other types of treatment:

Lifestyle changes are also often recommended to prevent heartburn. These include basics such as avoiding trigger foods - like spicy foods, carbonated beverages, acidic foods, or chewing gum - or losing weight.

There are more natural remedies like eating more fibrous foods, drinking ginger tea or aloe vera beverages.

There are even home remedies for heartburn symptoms such as using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and apple cider vinegar shots.

What is wrong with the typical acid reflux treatment?

So let’s jump a little more into the science, dispel some myths and get to the root of the issue, shall we?

As I said, the current thought in most medical facilities is that acid reflux is caused by an overproduction of acid. As in your stomach is just a lean, mean, acid churning machine that needs to take a chill pill.

Simple explanation, simple solution.

What if I told you that this was one big lie? What if I told you that you possibly needed MORE acid to feel LESS acid reflux?

What if I told you that more often than not, shutting down someone’s acid production with acid reducers is the wrong thing to do?

The truth is, most people need more acid secretion to feel less acid reflux. Say it again - more acid to feel less reflux. WHAT?

So let’s jump into the science.

What is low stomach acid?

Hypochlorhydria is a condition when the acid-producing, parietal cells in the stomach are not producing sufficient hydrochloric acid.

If your body isn’t producing enough stomach acid to break food down adequately, large chunks can make it to the intestines, leading to bacterial overgrowth.

This low acidity, combined with bacterial overgrowth can lead to intra-abdominal pressure (pressure within the abdominal cavity that’s promoting things to go back up rather than down the GI tract) which leads to experiencing heartburn.

What are the symptoms of low stomach acid?

Common signs and symptoms of low stomach acid:

  • Bloating, belching, burning, and gassiness immediately after eating

  • Heartburn symptoms, burning sensations

  • A sense of fullness after eating

  • Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation

  • Multiple food allergies or sensitivities

  • Nausea after taking supplements

  • Itching around the rectum

  • Weak, peeling, and cracked fingernails

  • Acne

  • Iron deficiency

  • Chronic intestinal parasites, candida, or abnormal bacteria

  • Undigested food in stool

  • Chronic SIBO

Hmm those first 5 or 6 bullet points sound very similar, don’t they? That’s right, too much and too little acid production often present with similar symptoms.

The medication you're taking to decrease acid production - while getting rid of your symptoms (temporarily) - could be making things worse. I see this all the time in my practice.

Stomach acid is responsible for:

  • Breaking down the proteins you consume

  • Orchestrating your digestion

  • Breaking nutrients apart for increased availability the rest of the body

  • Stimulating the production of digestive enzymes

  • Stimulating the production of bile

  • Promoting nutrient absorption

  • Acting as your first line of defense against pathogens

You can imagine what even a slight drop in stomach acid production over a few years could do to the body’s overall well-being, right? We will list a few associated conditions to low stomach acid secretion for further food for thought.

Common conditions associated with low acid secretion:

  • Pernicious anemia

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Osteoporosis

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Depression, anxiety, mood disorders

  • Asthma & Allergies

  • Stomach cancer

  • Skin diseases (acne, eczema, rosacea, urticaria)

  • Diabetes

But wait, if it’s not always an overproduction issue, what on earth is causing the reflux then?

Main causes of acid reflux (as observed in my clinical practice):

  1. Digestive output (low stomach acid, digestive enzyme and bile production)

  2. Infection or illness - H. pylori, SIBO, candida etc.

  3. Environmental - stress, age, medications, nutrient deficiencies, etc.

  4. Food sensitivities/allergies

  5. Gut microbiome issues (dysbiosis, H pylori, Candida, SIBO, Parasites)

  6. Bile Reflux

  7. History of gallbladder or liver disorders

  8. Hiatal Hernia or structural issues (especially with the esophageal sphincter)

So, how do I get rid of acid reflux?

The most important first step of getting rid of reflux is determining the cause. Oftentimes this involves asking the right questions when you see your doctor, or seeing a provider that can help you root out the real cause.

Please note: if you were diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus, esophageal cancer or active ulcers, we recommend that you work with you physician and avoid stopping any prescribed medications or taking additional supplementation.

If you know the cause of your acid reflux, here are some starting suggestions:

  1. Digestive output - increase hydrochloric acid and enzyme production. My e-book goes in depth on how to do this.

  2. Illness, infection, or gut microbiome issues - if you know you are struggling with one of the aforementioned gut infections, I recommend you download my ebook on IBS where I go into each of these more in depth. Or if you are not sure if this may be your cause and want to dive in and get tested, schedule an appointment with us today.

  3. Food sensitivities - Consider an elimination diet with proper reintroduction phase (not necessarily a low acid diet).

  4. Hiatal hernia - We recommend finding a provider that knows how to do hiatal hernia releases. You can also trial hiatal hernia heel drops.

  5. Gallbladder or liver disorders - Work with your provider on liver and gallbladder optimization. If you have had your gallbladder removed you want to ensure you are seeking medical advice on proper supplemental support for fat digestion.

The roles of stomach acid make it a pretty important component of your overall health. Meaning, if you don’t have enough of it, you run the risk of furthering health complications.

Yes, we care about your comfort (acid reflux symptoms), but we care even more about your digestive health in the long run. As you can see, that’s not something a medication is likely to do here.

Looking to learn a little more? Check out my e-book on EXACTLY how to stop acid reflux issues that you can download here and start working toward healing today!

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