Nutritional Approach to Acid Reflux and GERD

Hypoacidity

Most people think of “heartburn” as a “too much stomach acid” problem. This could not be further from the truth. The majority of people with heartburn/acid reflux actually have low stomach acid. This causes food to sit in their stomachs too long because it is slow to digest. They often feel “full” for an extended period of time following meals. Weak/brittle nails are also a side effect of low stomach acid, as well as constipation and food allergies. Natural stomach acid (HCl) is one of the first lines of defect to “kill” incoming bad bacteria. If you don’t have it, you are more likely to get sick.

Many different things can cause hypoacidity, including: chronic stress, chronic fatigue, age and the presence of H. Pylori infection. As we age, we produce less stomach acid which always needs to be addressed for optimal mineral absorption for bone health. We are often given Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) like: Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, etc, or an H2 Antagonist like: Pepcid, Zantac for treating the burning sensation at the base of our sternum. Some of the side effects of these OTCs include: B12 deficiency, Magnesium deficiency, increased risk of hip, wrist, and spine fracture, and more

These drugs were originally designed for short term use but have developed into long term usage. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013 stated “...physicians need to use caution and balance benefits and harms in long-term prescription of high-dose PPIs”. These medications basically tell our stomach cells (called intrinsic cells) to stop working because “the pill can handle the job”. The concern with long-term PPI use, is that when we stop taking these drugs, our body has to work again and ends up “overcompensating” with a large surge of stomach acid and we hurt again. Then we run back to our reflux medication and the vicious circle begins.