Home Remedies for Acid Reflux
Home Remedies for Acid Reflux: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a more serious form of acid reflux and it is the most common digestive disorder in the United States. Heartburn and GERD can result in serious long term problems, including scarring, constriction, ulceration and even cancer of the esophagus. More recent studies even link the damage from GERD to Irritible Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal problems.
The most common treatments for acid reflux are over the counter antacid medications. However, more chronic cases are often prescribed pharmaceutical drugs – in fact, in 2004, more than 60 million prescriptions were filled to treat GERD. Nexium is the most popular treatment, and it is the second highest selling drug behind Lipitor.
According to Chris Kresser, L.AC, it is a misconception that heartburn and GERD are caused by excess stomach acid. The real culprit is a dysfunction of the muscular valve that separates the lower end of the esophogus and stomach, which is caused by increased intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure is typically caused by stomach bloating that pushes the stomach contentes and acid through that muscular valve and into the esophagus. The prevailing thought is that this is caused by overeating, obesity, or eating the “wrong” foods. But Kresser and microbiologist Dr. Norm Robillard believe the true underlying cause for heartburn can be traced to bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid, which leads to maldigested carbohydrates, which in turn leads to gas.
This finding is extremely important, because it explains why many people who take antacid medications to control heartburn end up developing chronic heartburn and GERD, and eventually IBS. Stomach acids kill bacteria, so reducing stomach acid actually creates an environment where pathogenic bacteria thrive. This not only causes more heartburn, but it also inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight off illness. For the body to function properly, it simply must have a healthy digestive system. And according to Kresser,
“Stomach acid is a prerequisite to healthy digestion. The breakdown and absorption of nutrients occurs at an optimum rate only within a narrow range of acidity in the stomach. If there isn’t enough acid, the normal chemical reactions required to absorb nutrients is impaired. Over time this can lead to diseases such as anemia, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, depression, and more.”
So stomach acid plays a critical role in the body’s ability to not only digest food, but also to kill bacteria and protect the rest of the body from disease.
When the stomach’s pH (acidic balance) is 3 or lower, this means it has a high enough amount of stomach acid to kill bacteria within 15 minutes. But if the stomach’s pH rises to over 5, many bacterial species can survive and actually begin to quickly multiply. And studies have shown that antacid medications – specifically Tagamet and Zantac – raise the pH of the stomach to 5.5 and 6.5. And Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) medications like Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium can reduce the amount of stomach acid by as much as 90-100%!
When you decrease stomach acid you increase your risk of bacterial infections and subequent development of a variety of ailments, including depression, anxiety and mood disorders, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. Additionally, chronic use of PPI drugs has been shown to increase inflammation in the digestive tract, which can lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
If this hasn’t scared you off of prescription medication, consider the new frightening trend of prescribing Zantac and Nexium to babies. Yes, babies.
At an alarming rate, babies are now being diagnosed with GERD (or GER in less severe cases) for excess spit up and discomfort that interferes with sleep and feedings. According to one study, between the years of 1999 and 2004 there was a sevenfold increase in acid reflux medications prescribed to babies under a year – and half of those were given before the babies were 4 months old.
What future illnesses lie ahead for these babies we can only speculate. It’s important to note that the FDA has not approved these drugs for children under a year old.
If you’re struggling with a baby with digestive issues and your doctor has prescribed antacid medications, it’s critical to seek out a second opinion – ideally someone versed in naturopathic remedies. There’s no doubt that every mother and father want the best for their baby and must weigh out the benefits and risks of these drugs to a distressed infant who may not be gaining weight properly. But with the right direction, relief can be found without the use of pharmaceutical drugs.
A good source for information on Homeopathic remedies can be found here: http://www.abchomeopathy.com/ – it also has a forum where you can get direct questions answered (note: we are in no way affiliated with this website).
As one might expect, natural remedies for heartburn in children and adults revolve around dietary changes. Specifically, Kresser recommends what he calls the “three R’s” of treating heartburn and GERD:
1 – Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid by adopting a low-carb diet, such as the “Paleo” diet
2 – Replace stomach acid, enzymes and nutrients that aid digestion by consuming bitter herbs, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, raw sauerkraut and naturally fermented pickles. HCL supplements with Pepsin may also be prescribed by a doctor.
3 – Restore beneficial bacteria and healthy mucosal lining in the gut with probiotics, fermented vegetables and bone broth.
For an in-depth look at heartburn, acid reflux, GERD and how to heal the digestive system naturally, Chris Kresser’s 5-part series is highly recommended and can be found here: http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
Many people with heartburn and GERD report that they respond well to nutritional regimes that heal the digestive system, such as GAPS and SCD (specific carbohydrate diet).
For more great home remedies using apple cider vinegar, visit:
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Fundic atrophic gastritis in an elderly population. Effect on hemoglobin and several serum nutritional indicators.
Wright, Jonathan. Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD. August 20, 2001.
Kresser, Chris L.AC “The hidden causes of heartburn and GERD”
Kresser, Chris LAC “More evidence to support the theory that GERD is caused by bacterial overgrowth”
Butt, Dr. Henry. “Fermentation in the gut and CFS”
ABC News: “Too Many Babies Receive Acid Reflux Meds, Says Pediatrician.” Nov. 11, 2011