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Acid Reflux / GERD

Acid Reflux & GERD: Like Heartburn, It’s Really Not What You Think It Is!

The medical term for acid reflux is GERD, which means Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease. The incidence of GERD has risen dramatically over the last couple of decades and it affects tens of millions of people (probably hundreds of millions). In fact, according to Dr Leo Galland, MD, hospitalisations as a result of this disease doubled during the 1990s.

GERD and heartburn are essentially the same thing, although the pharmaceutical companies classify them differently in order to sell more drugs! We can classify GERD and heartburn differently, but only by the degree of damage they do. Other than that, heartburn and GERD are basically the same thing.

What does ‘reflux’ actually mean?

Reflux refers to the situation in which stomach contents travel back up your oesophagus. In essence, it’s food and stomach contents travelling in the wrong direction.

When stomach contents travel back up into the oesophagus, they can cause several problems:

  • A painful burning sensation in the stomach, chest and throat areas (heartburn).
  • Inflammation of the delicate lining of the oesophagus, known as oesophagitis. This can lead to bleeding and may increase the risk of oesophageal cancer.
  • According to Dr Galland, reflux as far as the throat can be inhaled into your larynx and bronchial tubes, causing a sore throat, cough and hoarse voice.
  • Laryngeal reflux has the potential to cause sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) and may exacerbate asthma in some people.
  • All the above symptoms can interfere with sleep, leading to fatigue, a weakened immune system and impairment of growth and repair processes in the body.

The Heartburn Hoax

The burning and pain sensations felt in heartburn and GERD are the result of hydrochloric acid in the stomach juices irritating the delicate tissues that line the oesophagus.

Because of this, the standard treatment for heartburn and GERD is the use of antacid medications known as (proton pump inhibitors) PPIs and H2 blockers.

But here’s the thing:

GERD, heartburn and all these other symptoms are HARDLY EVER THE RESULT OF TOO MUCH ACID. I will say that again.

Excessive stomach acid is NOT the cause of heartburn and acid reflux.

This begs the question of why the antacid, PPI and H2 blocker medications have become the mainstay of treatments. There are several answers:

  1. Everyone wants a quick fix. It’s easy to pop pills to suppress symptoms rather than working on discovering the root cause of the problem.
  2. PPIs and associated drugs are very big business for the drug companies. Prilosec and Nexium have been in the top ten biggest selling drugs for more than a decade, bringing in $15bn per year revenue or more. By NOT treating the underlying cause of the problem, Big Pharma is able to make more profit from you as a patient.
  3. Doctors often do not have time to uncover the root cause of the problem because the healthcare system is overloaded. It’s quick and easy just to prescribe antacids.
  4. Doctors do not receive training on identifying many of the root causes of heartburn and GERD.

What Causes GERD?

GERD is not caused by excessive acid. Therefore treatments aimed at lowering acid levels simply suppress the symptom without determining the cause.

The real cause of GERD is malfunction of the lower oesophageal sphincter valve (LES) and poor oesophageal motility. The proper treatment, therefore, should be to improve LES function and oesophageal motility.

Oesophageal motility is stimulated by three major factors:

  1. Chewing
  2. Swallowing
  3. Calcium

So many people I work with rush their food. They gulp it down without chewing it properly and then wonder why they don’t feel well. So the first step to overcoming GERD is to eat in a relaxed state and chew food thoroughly before swallowing.

Calcium is required for the trap door (LES) between the oesophagus and stomach to close properly. Oesophageal inflammation caused by acid reflux and GERD can interfere with the calcium balance in the cells regulating this function. In these cases, external calcium in the form of supplementation can help.

Calcium can tighten the LES and also improve motility of the oesophagus so that any stomach contents that wash up from the stomach are quickly pushed back down.

Supplemental calcium used for this purpose must be chewed or swallowed as a powder to give a positive impact and I always recommend that you seek guidance on how to use and dose the calcium properly.

Other Causes of GERD and Acid Reflux

Stomach acid is not the only irritating component of the digestive juice that refluxes into the oesophagus. The digestive juice also contains bile and powerful enzymes. Both of these have the ability to irritate the oesophagus. Suppressing acid levels with PPIs and H2 blockers may not, therefore, prevent irritation.

To put it another way, suppressing acid doesn’t stop reflux, it just makes the reflux non-acidic.

Below is a list of potential GERD triggers or causes

Action Steps

If you are currently suffering with acid reflux or GERD (or any upper GI symptoms), here is a checklist of the steps you MUST take in order to address your symptoms properly and also reduce your risk for developing serious diseases:

  1. Some drugs and nutritional supplements can cause GERD. It may benefit you to stop taking or change these. However, you must talk to your doctor in order to change prescription medications. Potential offenders are antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, progesterone, peppermint oil, fish oils, ginger capsules.
  1. Eat smaller meals that do not fill up your stomach.
    1. Change the foods that you are eating. Many foods can cause or contribute to GERD. These include gluten (bread, pasta, baked goods, crackers, pizza), cow’s milk and chilli.

A complete guide on how to change your diet to reduce or eliminate GERD can be found in The H Pylori Diet and we also have a complete recipe and cookbook, called “Digest-Ease” that is the perfect accompaniment.

  1. Chew your food thoroughly.
  2. Eat in a relaxed environment.
  3. Do not drink excessive amounts of fluid with meals.
  4. If you smoke, stop.
  5. Do not drink alcohol.
  6. Consider taking 250mg calcium citrate powder dissolved in a small amount of water after each meal and before bed if needed.
  7. Get tested for Helicobacter pylori, parasites and Candida albicans as both of these invaders can cause GERD. I personally had a very bad time with GERD as a result of H pylori infection. See our guidelines and information on testing by clicking here.
  8. Take the necessary steps to eliminate digestive infections.
  9. Consider taking digestive enzyme supplements with each meal.

The key point I’ve tried to make in this article is that GERD, acid reflux, heartburn or whichever term you want to use to describe this set of symptoms is usually NOT caused by your stomach producing too much acid.

At risk of appearing controversial, you are being ripped off by Big Pharma. It’s great for them for you to take antacid medications for months or years on end. It’s not profitable for them if you get to the cause of the problem, which may be something as simple as removing a couple of foods from your diet, or taking some meds/herbs to eradicate H pylori bacteria or Candida.

You are only masking the symptoms by taking antacid, PPI and H2 blocker medications. In fact, taking these medications can be very harmful in the long run, potentially leading to parasite infections, symptoms in the lower part of the digestive tract, osteoporosis, B12 deficiency, iron-deficiency anaemia, life threatening colitis caused by Clostridium difficile infection and many other diseases.

Key Acid Reflux & GERD References:

  1. Hompes, D. The H Pylori Diet. Health For The People.
  2. Dr. Jonathan Wright, JV and Dr. Lane Lenard. Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You. Rowman & Littlefield.
  3. Galland, L. MD. The Heartburn & Indigestion Solution. Renaissance Workshops Ltd.

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