The Truth About Acid Reflux (Hint: It’s Not All About Acid)
It is estimated that acid reflux affects more than 25 million Americans every day. Most people think that their chronic acid reflux and indigestion is related to excessive stomach acid production.
This is not surprising, considering that is what we are told by pharmaceutical companies who want to sell us medications that block the production of acid by the stomach.
However, in most situations, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the majority of people who suffer from acid reflux actually have decreased stomach acid. Have you noticed that acid reflux issues become prevalent as people get older? Well, it is a clearly documented fact that stomach acid production declines as we age!
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The pH of a healthy stomach should be about 2. This is a strong enough acid concentration to dissolve a nail! This highly acidic environment helps the body break down food, absorb nutrients and defend against dangerous organisms. Stomach acid is considered an important part of our immune defense system.
To minimize damage, your stomach has developed ways to protect itself from this corrosive acid, but your other organs have not. The burning symptoms associated with acid reflux occur when that strong acid splashes up on your esophagus ,which cannot protect itself from acid secretions.
As we age, our body is prone to make less of the special lining that protects our stomach from acid. Stress also contributes to this and is one of the reasons that stomach ulcers are so closely correlated with high stress situations. When the stomach lining is irritated due to lack of protection, it is more likely to spasm, which sends the corrosive acid into the esophagus.
The Traditional Approach to Managing Acid Reflux
Acid suppressive medications shut off acid production. When stomach pH is increased (less acidic), there is less irritation in the esophagus and stomach, thereby relieving the burning symptoms associated with acid reflux. This effect deludes us into thinking that the problem was too much stomach acid.
Several serious problems can arise from this type of therapy.
1. The body requires a low enough stomach pH (sufficient acidity) to absorb certain nutrients, the most important one being calcium. Without a strongly acidic environment, calcium can not be ionized into its absorbable form. This has serious implications for the health of our bones, considering that calcium is one of the most important building blocks of healthy bone. In fact, some research suggests that individuals taking acid blocking medications for more than five years increase their fracture risk by more than 60%! Although not all research shows levels of risk that high, it is clearly documented that people taking acid suppressive medication for extended periods of time do have higher rates of osteoporosis and osteopenia and have an increased risk of fracture.
2. Because your body knows that stomach acid is crucial for immune defense, food digestion and nutrient absorption, it will try to keep stomach acid levels strong even when acid blocking therapy is being used. To do this, it releases high levels of a hormone called gastrin that stimulates stomach acid production. As a result, when a person tries to discontinue acid blocking medications, huge amounts of stomach acid are produced due to high circulating levels of gastrin. This usually causes very uncomfortable symptoms and makes it very difficult for people to easily transition off of the medications because, in effect, they are addicted to them. It is no wonder that acid blocking medications like Prilosec, Nexium and Aciphex are some of the biggest money making drugs on the market.
A Natural Solution for Acid Reflux
The trick to getting your acid reflux under control is to take nutrients that promote increased production of the protective lining that coats your stomach. In addition, it is important to take digestive enzymes that aid in the proper breakdown of food.
The first step is to start the process of reducing the inflammation and irritation in the esophagus and stomach by promoting the production of your body’s natural protective coating.
The best way to achieve this is with DGL (deglycerated licorice). This is a specially prepared extract of licorice that will not affect blood pressure levels. It triggers your body to naturally increase production of secretions that offset the damaging effects of stomach acid. Mastic gum is another natural preparation known for its ability to heal esophageal and gastric irritation by naturally stimulating the body to make more of the protective coating that protects it from acid. Another method, although not as popular, is fresh cabbage juice, eight ounces twice daily.
Dietary Considerations for Acid Reflux
Coffee, soda and alcohol can all contribute to the worsening of acid reflux symptoms. Avoiding these foods in your diet while using the natural aids will help to speed the process of recovery.
Taking a digestive enzyme with meals will help your body to break down the food more completely and reduce gastrointestinal irritation.
Making the Transition to a Natural Approach
Usually it is recommended to be on the natural therapies for 4-8 weeks to allow your body to recover from the chronic irritation and inflammation. After that time, you can speak with your doctor about reducing or discontinuing the use of prescription acid blockers. Often times, switching to Tagament (a drug with less potent acid suppressing qualities) can be a good intermediate step on the way to controlling the situation without pharmaceuticals.
If interested in a simple 30-day to help you safely recover from reflux, you can use the strategies and tools outlined in The Drug-Free Acid Reflux Solution — you will be acid reflux and medication-free in no time!
Dr. Passero completed four years of post-graduate medical education at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado. Dr. Passero has trained with some of the nation’s leading doctors in the field of natural medicine. In his practice, Dr. Passero focuses on restoring harmony to both the body and mind using advanced protocols that incorporate herbal therapy, homeopathy, vitamin therapy and nutritional programs. Through education and guidance patients are able to unlock the natural healing power contained within each one of us. For more information, visit his website, Green Healing Wellness, or follow him on Facebook.
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