GERD-Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

GERD is one of the most common digestive disorders in the United States. It is a chronic condition caused by the refluxing of stomach acid into the esophagus. The most common symptom is heartburn, but could also include coughing, sour taste in the mouth, and/or sore throat.

The burning feeling may make you feel as though you have too much acid, but contrary to popular belief, low acid can actually be causing reflux symptoms. The stomach must have acid to break down food effectively. Generally it’s not the high amount of stomach acid, but actually the backup of acid going into the esophagus (acid reflux).  Unlike the stomach, the esophagus does not have a mucosal lining and cannot withstand the acid attack.

Reasons for low stomach acid:

  • Age- as we age less acid is produced
  • Poor diet-processed foods
  • Eating too quickly
  • Prescriptions/overuse of antacids
  • Dilution of acid- due to drinking too much liquid with meals
  • Refined sugar consumption- can deplete minerals and promote bad bacterial growth

Ways to increase acid/reduce heartburn:

  • Reduce stress- eat in a relaxed manner 
  • Chew foods slowly- foods such as carbohydrates actually use digestive enzymes in the mouth to start the digestive process
  • Eat unprocessed whole foods- organics, pasture raised, “real” foods are easier to digest
  • Use of sea salt- adds minerals/electrolytes that help signal the digestive tract
  • Drink a small amount of liquid with meals- so as not to dilute the needed acid to break down foods
  • Betaine HCl- a good digestive supplement to increase acid production
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, as they decrease stomach acid

GERD can also be managed by improving gut flora. This can be done by consuming appropriate foods (low sugar yogurt/kefir, sauerkraut/sour pickles) and supplementing with a daily high quality probiotic. Probiotics are good bacteria that keep bad bacteria from growing, aid in digestion, and help prevent infection and disease. Supplemental probiotics should be high count/high quality and able to survive the harsh environment of the stomach. 

If you have chronic heartburn and other GERD symptoms, trying some of the above mentioned ideas may be a good first step in solving this issue. Speak to your chiropractor/functional medicine practitioner to help guide you in finding the best supplements and/or probiotics for you.