Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Do You Suffer From GERD, Heartburn or Acid Reflux?

by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath


Regardless of what you call it; GERD, heartburn or acid reflux, it still spells one thing, PAIN!


It is amazing to me how many people suffer from this pain and discomfort regularly in our culture. What is even more amazing to me is to watch the questionable treatment of this through conventional means.


For simplicity sake let’s refer to this as GERD throughout the article, understanding that GERD itself stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease.


Basically, GERD refers to the stomach and esophagus and reflux means to flow back. Therefore, GERD is the return of the stomach’s contents back up into the esophagus. This causes the pain and discomfort that many feel today.


From a conventional treatment standpoint this appears to be an easy fix. Typically you will be told that you have too much acid in your stomach and you need to reduce this acid content. From there you simply go to the doctor or the local drug store for an acid blocker or a proton pump inhibitor. Sounds easy, right?


Not so fast!


First understand that this is typically caused by too little stomach acid and not too much. The stomach prefers to achieve the optimal breakdown of your food based on early enzyme activity and proper breakdown with stomach acid. Low stomach acid will significantly slow the movement of your food through the stomach and potentially put pressure on the esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the muscular valve connecting the esophagus to the stomach. This pressure can lead to a dysfunction in the LES and the contents of the stomach backing up into the esophagus.


Since this is typically tied into low stomach acid, why would you be given an acid blocker or a proton pump inhibitor (blocks stomach acid production)? Well, for many this may provide some relief because there is no longer any acid to flow back into the esophagus. While this may appear to work for some, it is leading to other definite challenges.


You see, the stomach acid plays a major role in digestion by breaking down proteins properly and also plays a role in the uptake of your minerals and B-vitamins. The two hardest minerals to absorb without proper stomach acid are calcium and iron and interestingly enough, these deficiencies seem to almost be at an epidemic proportion.


I remember back when I worked alongside Dr. Joseph Mercola, he shared with me that when the acid blockers were first introduced, they included a “black box” warning. Never prescribe the acid blocker for more than one week. Yes, I said one week. Many are told they will be on their acid reducing meds for life. The reason you do not want to be on these drugs long term is due to the fact that your health will quickly deteriorate when you cannot absorb and assimilate your food adequately. This is a significant challenge without proper stomach acid.


For my clients I recommend taking some simple steps to improve and potentially eliminate any challenges with GERD by focusing on the fundamental core imbalances. Here is my list of recommendations.


· Chew your food slowly and thoroughly

· Deep breathe before and during your meals

· Use a probiotic to enhance beneficial bacteria

· Use the Prime Digestive Support or other digestive enzyme

· Reduce your stress levels

· Do not consume large meals

· Stay away from trigger foods such as chocolate, peppermint, fried or fatty foods, coffee and alcohol

· Make sure you do not eat a meal within 3 hours of bedtime

· Do not lay down immediate following any meals

· If there is a challenge with your LES, visit a chiropractor to assist with strengthening the LES muscular valve


If symptoms continue there may be a deeper challenge with an infection, such as H-Pylori. An H-Pylori infection can significantly lower stomach acid production and would need to be tested and addressed appropriately. There are natural protocols that you can use to address H-Pylori. This is important to understand because the conventional treatment for H-Pylori includes a proton pump inhibitor and strong antibiotics. I think you are already “getting” that this would not be my recommendation for obvious reasons.


If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post these below and I will address them personally.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Glen,

    I've been reading some different things lately on digestive enzymes and I thought I'd get your thoughts on it. I've been taking some for over a year because of GERD, and it seemed to have cleared up. But recently it's come back a bit and so I started reading up on things again as I take different supplements for working out and the such. Anyway, I came upon a few articles saying that taking digestive enzymes all the time can stop your body from producing their own digestive enzymes. And as you grown older you'll need to take more digestive enzymes to make up for it. Is there any truth to this? I'm 38 now and I don't want to be taking more pills the older I am.

    Was also wondering what your thoughts were on having a bit of dry mouth, as I'm thinking that may be causing some of my GERD issues lately.

    Thanks,
    Lee

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