Acid reflux (GERD) affects 20-35% of the US population. As a result acid-blocking medications and drugs that treat reflux (Nexium and Prevacid) are among the world’s best selling drugs. Unfortunately taking these drugs have many undesirable side effects.
The acid blocking drugs do block the acid that can cause symptoms of heartburn and reflux. But your body actually needs stomach acid to stay healthy. Stomach acid is necessary for protein and food digestion, activation of digestive enzymes in your small intestine, keeping the bacteria from growing in your small intestine, and helping help you absorb important nutrients like calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12.
Research indicates that taking these medications can prevent you from properly digesting food, cause vitamin and mineral deficiences, and lead to problems like irritable bowel syndrome, depression, hip fractures and more. For example, long-term use of these drugs can lead to deficiencies in vitamin B12 that can lead to depression, anemia, fatigue, nerve damage, and even dementia.
Use of these drugs can cause dangerous overgrowth of bacteria in the intestine called Clostridia, leading to health and even life -threatening infections. A recent study in JAMA found that chronic use of these drugs can lead to osteoporosis and increase in hip fractures as they block absorption of calcium and other minerals necessary for bone health.
What Causes Reflux?
-Fried foods, caffeine, alcohol and soda can all trigger reflux. Spicy, tomato-based or citrus foods can also present problems.
– Smoking also increases risk of reflux.
– Being overweight and having your abdominal fat push up on your stomach can prevent stomach emptying , triggering reflux.
– Eating large meals and eating before bed are both strong triggers.
– Stress contributes to reflux. Food is supposed to go down, not up, when you eat. There are 2 main valves or sphincters that control food going in and out of the stomach – one at the top ( the lower esophageal sphincter) and one at the bottom ( the pyloric valve). When you are stressed, the valve on the top relaxes and the valve at the bottom tightens up. This can lead to food moving back up the esophagus. Practicing relaxation and deep breathing exercises techniques has proven to help with this problem.
– Magnesium deficiency is another significant cause of reflux – magnesium helps the lower (pyloric) sphincter relax.
– Food sensitivities or allergies can also cause reflux. Common culprits include dairy and gluten-containing foods like wheat, barley, rye and oats. Also, yeast overgrowth in the gut can cause reflux.
To properly diagnose the cause of your reflux you may need to do the following:
1. A test for IgG food allergies and celiac disease.
2. A urine organic test to check for small bowel bacterial growth.
3. An upper respiratory endoscopy or upper GI series x-ray.
Steps to Permanently Overcoming Acid Reflux:
– Treat your yeast overgrowth with anti-fungal drugs such as Nystatin, or Diflucan or herbs such as oregano or caprylic acid.
-Treat bacterial overgrowth in small bowel with Xifaxin.
– Change your diet: Eliminate dairy or gluten products, alcohol, caffeine, citrus, tomato-based foods, and spicy foods.
– Don’t eat within 3 hours of going to bed.
– Hydrate well during the day.
-Don’t eat junk or processed foods.
-Eat cooked foods like- fish, chicken, cooked veggies, and brown rice ( avoid raw foods until reflux disappears.
– Eat smaller, more frequent meals ( 5-6 x daily)
– Take 2-3 capsules of digestive enzymes.
– Take probiotics ( acidophilous) daily.
– Take 400mg of magnesium citrate daily.
– Take 3-5 grams of L-glutamine daily 2x /day
– Chew 2-3 tablets of DGL ( a form of licorice) 15 minutes before meals.