Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach acid flows up the esophagus causing heartburn. Learn all the natural approaches you can use to get rid of acid reflux forever. 

Acid reflux that occurs more than twice a week is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a more serious condition that, left untreated, can lead to problems such as inflammation of the esophagus, scarring, ulceration, inflammation, hemorrhaging, and even esophageal cancer.

Symptoms

Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux. Other symptoms include:

  • Bitter or sour taste in the mouth
  • Belching
  • Chronic dry cough
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Pain in the chest

Causes

Acid reflux occurs when a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) doesn’t function properly. Normally, the LES keeps stomach contents in the stomach and prevents the backflow of acid by tightening up after swallowing. But in people with acid reflux, the LES becomes weak and relaxes, allowing acid and stomach contents to flow back up the esophagus.

Factors that worsen acid reflux include:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hiatal hernia, a condition in which the top of your stomach protrudes above the diaphragm muscle in your chest
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol or caffeine consumption
  • Eating large meals
  • Eating before bedtime
  • Exercise
  • Medications such as antihistamines, aspirin or ibuprofen, calcium channel blockers, theophylline, and nitrates
  • Fatty, fried, and spicy foods; tomato-based foods; citrus fruits; chocolate; mint; garlic; and onions

Diagnosis

Acid reflux that occurs more than twice a week could be GERD and should be evaluated by a doctor, especially if you have been taking antacids or over-the-counter (OTC) reflux medications for more than two weeks.

Conventional treatment

Conventional doctors usually recommend over-the-counter medications for acid reflux. Next, the patient is given prescription medication. Here’s the problem. When you take acid reducers, you reduce your stomach acid – the substance you need to digest and extract nutrients from you food. So, long-term use can result in mild to severe malnutrition. They are not worth the price in your health. You must address the cause, not cover up your symptoms with medications.

Antacids

These OTC drugs (Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums) use different combinations of either magnesium, calcium, or aluminum and hydroxide or bicarbonate ions to help neutralize stomach acid and temporarily relieve symptoms. Depending on their ingredients, they may also cause diarrhea or constipation. They also contain a lot of aluminum, which builds up to toxic levels in your body. Aluminum toxicity leads to a whole host of health issues, including Alzheimer’s.

H2 Blockers

Available both OTC and by prescription, these drugs (Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, Axid) provide short-term relief of GERD by preventing production of stomach acid.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Available by prescription, PPIs (Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Nexium) block stomach acid production more effectively than H2 blockers. However, they can cause “rebound” reflux: If the patient uses them, then stops taking them, the stomach acid may return worse than before.

Studies have shown long-term PPI use may reduce the absorption of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium and vitamin B12, leading to many health problems, including osteoporosis and bone fracture.

PPIs are not only addictive, but they also have the unintended effect of actually causing the stomach to produce more acid-producing cells to compensate for the decreased acid levels. This means that when people stop taking PPIs, their acid reflux symptoms can intensify to unprecedented levels because of too much acid, which can cause serious harm. Read more about the dangers of PPIs here.

Wendy’s Recommendations for Natural Treatment

Acid reflux is a sign that your entire digestive system is not functioning properly. My recommendations will give you the tools you need to heal the entire tract. Note that eight percent of acid reflux issues can be healed by excluding grains from the diet and drinking three liters of water per day to dilute the stomach acid. Medications are only a temporary fix and are toxic to the body in various ways. They should only be taken for short-term relief. In addition to the lifestyle measures listed above, Wendy recommends:

Lifestyle

  • H. Pylori. Check to see if you have an H.pylori infection, a very common cause of acid reflux. H. pylori is the most common chronic bacterial pathogen in humans. I believe that H. pylori infection plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of GERD, acid reflux and other digestive disorders. See my article H.pylori Infects 50% of the Population.
  • Elevate your head. Tilt the head of your bed a few inches above your feet when you sleep to reduce symptoms.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking will kill good bacteria you need to have a healthy digestive system.
  • Lose weight. Extra weight increases the frequency of heartburn.
  • Reduce stress. Stress and anxiety can worsen reflux symptoms by increasing acid production.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Avoid stimulants. Caffeinated beverages, coffee (including decaffeinated coffee), tobacco and other stimulants can irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Hydrochloric Acid. Increasing natural production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is the first step at preventing acid reflux symptoms. Eat bitter foods such as pepper, garlic, ginger, celery, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. You can also supplement with Betaine HCL with pepsin.
  • Take a Class. Chris Kresser, a licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of integrative medicine, has created an amazingly thorough series of videos and articles on how to cure acid reflux and GERD without drugs. See his Heartburn/GERD Series.

Supplements

  • Licorice. Specifically DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice). Slowly chew two tablets or take a half-teaspoon of the powder before or between meals and at bedtime. Taper your dose down after your symptoms are under control. Licorice is stimulating for those with adrenal or thyroid problems, so avoid if you suffer from these conditions.
  • Slippery Elm: Coats and soothes from the mouth all through the whole intestinal tract. Contains antioxidants that can help address inflammatory bowel conditions. Stimulates nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract. This helps increase mucus secretion, which protects against ulcers and excess acidity.  Take 1 tsp. in water 3 x a day.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. I recommend taking one tablespoon of raw organic apple cider vinegar mixed in about half a glass of spring or alkaline water before each meal. This will help calm the stomach and support digestion. This remedy also works for acute episodes of acid reflux and is my favorite, fast-acting home remedy for acid reflux.
  • GB-3. Overall gut health must be improved to heal acid reflux. If you have gut dysbiosis, or an overgrowth of bad bacteria, you can suffer acid reflux as a result. An amazing supplement that can help is GB-3. It kills yeasts including Candida Albicans, parasites, etc. in your intestines. It is incredibly powerful. GB-3 can be found in the Liveto110 Store.
  • Aloe vera juice. This juice is commonly used to treat upset stomach, diarrhea and inflammation associated with bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis. Aloe vera juice supports digestion and is another great remedy for acid reflux. I recommend drinking 1 ounce of the juice mixed in 2 ounces of water when acid reflux symptoms begin.
  • Betaine Hydrochloric Acid. Take Betaine HCL with pepsin before meals will help balance your stomach acid levels. This is extremely effective at preventing acid reflux symptoms. This is counterintuitive, but it is a mistaken belief that acid reflux is caused by too much stomach acid. Too much stomach acid is a very rare cause of acid reflux. Normally, the problem is too little stomach acid. You can find HCL with pepsin in the Live to 110 Store.
  • Probiotics. Use probiotics to increase the health of your digestive tract. Take a few times a day in the form of probiotic supplements, fermented foods, and fermented coconut water or kombucha. I have the best lines of probiotics in the Live to 110 Store.
  • Glutamine. This amino acid can be found in dietary sources such as milk, eggs, fish, parsley, spinach and more. Glutamine reduces intestinal inflammation associated with acid reflux and is the main amino acid the body uses to heal the intestinal tract.
  • Baking Soda: 1/2 – 1 tsp. of baking soda in 8 oz. of water can ease the burn of acid reflux. DO NOT do this on a regular  basis, but  only in an emergency when you are in a lot of pain.

Foods

  • Eat smaller meals. Large meals will increase the chance of acid entering your esophagus.
  • Grains. It is a good idea to remove grains from the diet completely for a few months. At the very least, you need to remove gluten-containing grains, including wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats.Gluten contributes to many digestive issues, including acid reflux, because it causes inflammation in the gut in everyone. For more information on gluten and the health issues it causes, see my article Gluten Sensitivity Affects 1 in 3.
  • Water. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. You need to dilute stomach acid with 3 liters of water a day.
  • Fermented Foods: kimchi, miso, yoghurt, kefir, Chutneys, etc. This comes at the top of the list.  These foods, among others, are high in probiotics.  If you do not regularly eat these foods, you need to supplement with a good quality probiotic.
  • Fiber. Eat a diet rich in fiber including vegetables and low sugar fruit.
  • Sauerkraut or cabbage juice: Stimulates the body to produce stomach acid.  Take 1-4 tsp before eating.
  • Food Sensitivities. Determine if you have food sensitivities. See my article Food Sensitivities Make you Sick and Fat. Keep a food log to track the foods and beverages that make your symptoms worse. Food sensitivities are a big factor in causing acid reflux.
  • Salt. Replace cheap table salt with high-quality sea salt. I recommend Celtic Sea Salt because it contains chloride and dozens of trace minerals the body needs. Sea salts have a better mineral profile than land salts like Himalayan Salt. The body needs the chloride to make hydrochloric acid.
  • Stop drinking alcohol. Keep alcohol to a minimum if you do drink, and drink only with meals.
  • Ginger: Chew on fresh root or make a tea with fresh or powdered.  Shown to suppress H. pylori and prevent formation of ulcers.

Alternative Treatments

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  • Mineral Power. Improve your digestive health and overall health with a Mineral Power program using hair mineral analysis. Ultimately it is better to heal your whole body rather than targeting one issue, as all health issues are really a systemic issue. There are many causes of acid reflux, all of which will be healed on this program. For more information see Start a Mineral Power Program. Increasing phosphorus and balancing other minerals will improve digestion and overall health. Many times low stomach acid is due to adrenal fatigue. All these issues are addressed on a Mineral Power program.

References
1. Campbell-McBride, Natasha MD. Gut and Psychology Syndrome. 2nd Edition.
Medinform Publishing, 2010.
2. Kresser, Chris. Acid Reflux/GERD. http://chriskresser.com/heartburn
3. Robillard, Norm. Ph.D. Heartburn Cured – The Low-Carb Miracle. Self-published, 2005.
4. Rogers, Sherry. No More Heartburn. Kensington Publishing, 2000.
5. Weil, Andrew, MD. Acid Reflux.
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02882/acid-reflux.html

This material is for educational purposes only. The preceding statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Wendy Myers, FDN, CHHC, is a functional diagnostic nutritionist, certified holistic health coach and founder of Live to 110. Her passions include getting you healthy, Modern Paleo, retoxing and detoxing. Discover her Mineral Power Program and enjoy freedom from fatigue and brain fog with metal detox.