Updated: Jan 14, 2021
One of the most common symptoms I hear from clients is acid reflux. There is a logical answer and it can be easily fixed, but so many people get too used to antacids for short term relief, or turn to proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs) like Prilosec, Nexium, and Protonix.
You may experience temporary relief because these medications reduce the effects of acid in your stomach or actually suppress the body’s ability to produce stomach acid altogether. However, here’s the big issue with this – we need stomach acid to digest our protein foods. If we aren’t digesting properly, then we aren’t getting the vitamins, minerals and overall nutrition our body needs to function optimally. Also, that undigested food causes uncomfortable upper abdominal bloating, pain and belching.
Here are more symptoms of low stomach acid:
Indigestion, burping, bloating, gas.
Heartburn or acid reflux symptoms.
Tendency towards allergies, eczema, and asthma.
Nausea in the evenings.
Loss of taste for meat. Protein foods and complex meals are difficult to digest.
Excess fullness after meals.
Feel like skipping breakfast or an overall low appetite.
Undigested food in stool.
Anemia that is unresponsive to iron.
Bad breath or halitosis.
Bowel movements that are painful or difficult, constipation.
Burning or itching anus.
Food allergies or sensitivities.
Sneezing attacks and/or airborne allergies.
Sleepy in the afternoon or after meals.
Binge or uncontrolled eating or excessive appetite.
Frequent skin rashes and/or hives.
If we do not have enough stomach acid to digest our food properly, that food sits in the gut, it ferments, and then it feeds unwanted bacteria and yeast in the gut. An overgrowth of these opportunistic bugs causes other issues and if left unaddressed, some experience more serious nutrient deficiencies (magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, and iron).
Other conditions caused by an unbalanced gut flora include:
Irritable bowel disease
Skin rashes or other skin issues
Foggy brain and memory issues
Weakened immune system
Which brings me to my next point. Another huge role of stomach acid is to eliminate bacteria and viruses in the stomach in the first place to protect your body from infection. Not enough stomach acid = low line of defense.
So, while these medications can be helpful in some cases, they really should not be used for longer than 6 weeks at a time. Though some people are on them for years!
Some side effects of long-term PPI use includes:
Chronic kidney disease
Heart disease and heart attacks
Reduced liver function
And even Dementia
Here are 5 reasons why you may be experiencing acid reflux as well as what you can do to support your body’s ability to heal from the source.
1) What seems like an acidic stomach can actually be an alkaline stomach. In fact, 85-90% of the time it is not that you have too much stomach acid, but that there isn’t enough! When we don’t have enough stomach acid – the valve connecting the esophagus and the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter, becomes weakened and allows stomach acid to flow upwards.
We do want to take this seriously because chronic gastroesophageal reflux can cause erosion leading to Barrett’s Esophagus and cancers of the throat and esophagus, but we have to find the right balance.
In Integrative or Functional Medicine, we protect and calm the lining of the esophagus with natural supplements like aloe and DGL. We then add digestive enzymes with Betaine Hcl to help balance pH levels. You can also try apple cider vinegar or lemon juice mixed in water before each meal. As the stomach begins to balance, we then start to taper off the medications slowly and steadily.
2) Reduced overall healthy gut bacteria can also cause acid reflux or chronic heartburn, so probiotics are a nice addition in balancing the body.
3) An infection called H. Pylori can be the cause of your acid reflux or GERD symptoms, as it likes to suppress stomach acid. We can help you test for this at home and we do have natural ways to work through this infection as well.
4) Food allergies and/or sensitivities can be a huge trigger for heartburn and reflux also. The main food sensitivities include dairy, eggs, and gluten. Other foods that can cause irritation include citrus fruits, fried foods, coffee and tea, tomatoes and sauces, chocolate, onions and garlic, fatty foods, and alcohol. We have food sensitivity and allergy testing also if you would like to get to the bottom of this.
5) Lastly, the lower esophageal sphincter can also get pushed out of position due to an odd movement and even just high stress.
Hiatal hernias can also be a cause – this is when the upper part of the stomach moves through a small opening in the diaphragm.
Either way, a chiropractor can help you with these situations as well as teach you what you can do at home on an as needed basis.
(If you live in the Philadelphia and Suburbs area, I do recommend Dr. Richard Schwartz at Advanced Chiropractic and Wellness Center)
As you can see, there are many avenues to take in finding the root cause and a solution to acid reflux symptoms. If you need more support and guidance, food sensitivity testing, and/or gut flora testing, please contact us.