How To Reverse Acid Reflux and Heartburn – Functional Medicine Approach
Acid reflux is a big problem that can range from mild to chronic.
Almost half of all adults in the developed world suffer from heartburn at least once a month. 25 to 35% have reflux. Acid-blocking drugs, knows as PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), like Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec—that little purple pill—are the third most prescribed medications in the USA. Medical insurers report that the third most expensive condition after heart disease and diabetes is acid reflux because of all the scopes, pills, and procedures needed to diagnose and treat it.
Getting to the root cause of acid reflux:
Unlike conventional medicine that deals with curing through medication, Functional Medicine is interested in finding out the ‘why’. “What is the root cause of the problem, and how do we correct it?” For reflux, the root cause is sometimes very straightforward. It may be what we are eating. Some common triggers of reflux include:
However, acid reflux could be caused by other factors too:
Eating before going to sleep
Eating with an already full stomach—which can cause the food to reverse back up.
Being overweight and having a big belly—which can push your stomach up, producing acid reflux.
Chronic stress affects the nerves in the stomach, making it impossible to process the food adequately. This will cause food to go up instead of down. In fact, in order to digest well, one has to relax. So, doing a breathing exercise prior to eating is a very important tool.
Loss of magnesium, which is caused by stress. Magnesium is required in order to relax the sphincter at the bottom of the oesophagus that actually lets the food go down. When you don’t have enough magnesium, the food can reverse up.
Food sensitivities that are often not diagnosed by your average doctor, including gluten and dairy.
Bad bacteria or yeast growing in the gut. If you have taken a lot of antibiotics, if you have been on hormones, if you eat a lot of sugar and processed food, you are likely grow bad bacteria in your gut, and they ferment and cause reflux.
H. Pylori, a bacterium that affects a number of people, can sometimes be linked to reflux.
So, there are many causes, everything from nutrition, to lifestyle, to stress, to smoking, caffeine, alcohol, to bacteria in the gut, to food sensitivities—all these things can trigger acid reflux.
Correcting your acid reflux at its source:
The key solution isn’t taking an acid blocker, which can cause all sorts of problems. It may give you symptomatic relief, but there are problems with these drugs. They may cause an increase in pneumonia, in bloating, in overgrowth of bad bugs in the gut and even contribute to kidney failure. They might also prevent mineral absorption. Note that some acid is needed in the stomach in order to digest food and absorb the nutrients it contains. So, reducing the acid in the stomach could lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies. For example, a B12 deficiency is quite common. Taking an acid blocker for a considerable period of time, ,may lead to a zinc deficiency or a B12 deficiency that can cause depression. It can cause peripheral neuropathy, memory problems, digestive issues, osteoporosis, and much more.
It’s best to avoid the drug and focus on finding the cause. Functional Medicine is medicine by cause not by symptom, and that is also how we deal with acid reflux.
There are some really simple actions you can take to see if there are any specific triggers that are causing your problem.
Fix your diet. Popular causes which are easy to remove are spicy foods, citrus foods, tomato-based foods, and fried foods.
Get rid of possible food allergens for a short period of time, like two weeks. Gluten and dairy are the most common ones. Try to get rid of the triggers for a few weeks, like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, all of which trigger acid reflux. Not forever, but try it for a little while, and see if it’s causing your problem. You may want to try an elimination diet
Change your lifestyle. For example, don’t eat three hours before bed. Give your gut a chance to digest your food.
Distress before you eat. A couple of minutes of HeartMath™ quick coherence exercise can do the trick for you. Easily create a state of coherence in about 60 seconds by releasing stress and stopping draining emotions such as frustration, irritation, anxiety and anger. When you are in a coherent state, your thoughts and emotions are balanced and you experience ease and inner harmony. You’ll notice a huge relaxation in your nervous system, and you’ll digest your food better.
Try specific supplements to help. Liquorice is a good one. Professionally called deglycerised liquorice or DGL, which helps to coat the stomach and prevent acid reflux. You can chew two or three tablets before you eat. You may also use a glutamine, aloe, and liquorice combination that can be taken as a powder, a teaspoon in water, 10 to 15 minutes before food. It really coats the stomach lining and helps you digest food. Try probiotics, like Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Also, you can use digestive enzymes that help break down the food. In addition, magnesium is a very powerful relaxation mineral for the digestive system that helps prevent acid reflux.
Last by not least, zinc carnosine has been also shown to help reflux.
Get tested. If you are still not getting better after taking these steps, then, you should have some tests done:
• Test for H. Pylori
• Test for celiac and gluten sensitivity
• Test for food sensitivities
• Test for abnormal gut bacteria, bacterial overgrowth, yeast overgrowth, and parasites