THE TRUTH ABOUT HEARTBURN AND GERD
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD is when stomach acid and fluids rise into the oesophagus causing irritation and inflammation. This problem is often associated with the abnormal relaxation of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), which is the muscle at the top of the stomach. When this sphincter is relaxes or doesn’t close correctly it allows fluids to escape from the stomach. Adequate stomach acid production is needed to signal the LES to close tightly. Even reduced stomach acid can cause this sphincter to stay open and cause reflux. Adequate stomach acid is essential to protect us from infection and to help us break down, digest and absorb nutrients such as protein.
- Low stomach acid
- Food allergies
- Being overweight
- Cigarette smoking
- Hiatal hernia
- Chronic stress
The standard American diet, high in animal products and fatty foods and low in plant foods, with high alcohol consumption, is strongly associated with GERD. There are also more incidences of heart burn and GERD with western diets. Specific foods such as alcohol and carbonated drinks, coffee, chocolate and citrus fruits are common triggers.
STANDARD MEDICAL TREATMENTS
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
- H2 blockers
There is no doubt that these medications work effectively at reducing and eliminating symptoms. At the same time it is important to address the cause, because these medications were originally only recommended for short term use, no longer than 14 days. PPIs block the ‘proton pumps’ of gastric cells, to prevent the production of hydrochloric acid (HCL).
Stomach acid is vital for releasing B12 from the protein we eat and it blocks the production of intrinsic factor which is necessary its absorption, which is critical for our nervous system, to prevent muscle weakness, fatigue, dementia and mood changes. Without hydrochloric acid vitamin B12 absorption is reduced by as much as 98%.
Worryingly, long-term use of PPIs can cause a deficiency in calcium, zinc, magnesium and B12 and it has been shown that over time PPIs can actually weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter. There are huge side effects to using them; dyspepsia, belching, increased risk of food poisoning, clostridium difficile infections, fractures, pneumonia, Alzheimer’s, dementia and kidney damage.
The removal of any food allergies or intolerances is the first important step and a diet diary is essential to assess inflammation. Gentle botanicals, pre-and probiotics and sometimes enzymes are necessary, alongside diet management can heal up the stomach lining and regenerate beneficial bacteria. This way many patients heal successfully from reflux and GERD.
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