Thursday, July 8, 2010

Acid Reflux

From Julie Daniluk, Meals that Heal “Acid reflux is not caused by too much stomach acid, but too little. It is caused by your stomach not producing enough digestive juices to kill off an over growth of bacteria that causes the reflux.

While I was in residency training in medical school in the early 80s, an Australian physician named Dr. Barry Marshall did some pioneering work on acid reflux. He discovered that an organism called helicobacter pylori (initially called campylobacter [aka, H-pylori]) causes a chronic low-level inflammation of your stomach lining, and is responsible, or at least a major factor, for producing many of the symptoms of acid reflux.

There are over 16,000 articles supporting the fact that suppressing stomach acid does not treat the problem. It only treats the symptoms. And one of the explanations for this is that when you suppress the amount of acid in your stomach, you decrease your body’s ability to kill the helicobacter bacteria. So it actually makes your condition worse and perpetuates the problem.” ( [Fantastic article and website!]

Perfectly said!

Acid reflux is when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and throat, also affecting the voice box and air passages to the lungs, which don’t have the same protection as the stomach, therefore doing damage to other parts of the body.

Some other causes of acid reflux may be eating foods cooked in trans fats, lying down right after a meal, weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) or not having enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Our stomachs contain hydrochloric acid to help break down the food we eat, it’s part of the digestion process. But without enough acid, our food won’t properly digest.

Stomach acid also works to keep harmful bacteria and viruses from harming us when we ingest them through our mouths. And when the good bacteria work their way up to the stomach from the intestines, the acid works to reduce them since they are not needed in the stomach. So taking medications that neutralize or shut down stomach acid for long periods of time will have an effect on other areas of our health.

Drug makers want us to believe that acid reflux is caused by too much stomach acid so they can sell us their ‘cure’. But if the problem isn’t too much acid, why are we blindly taking these pills? They are just a band-aid to the problem without getting to the root cause.

What are the long-term effects of taking antacids or acid blockers? These are relatively new on the market and we don’t know the answer to that yet. Although short-term effects can be headache, diarrhea, taste perversion, back pain, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, nausea, stomach pain, fever, fatigue, hypoglycemia, weight gain, sleep disturbances, depression, along with a whole list of other things! (Without any deep research I counted 195 different side effects for Prevacid! Whoa!)

Keep in mind that products like Prevacid, Nexium and Prilosec are only to be used for 2 weeks at the most. They aren’t meant to be used long term, as many people do.

Treating acid reflux with natural cures seems like the answer to me! Here are some things you can eat and do to combat acid reflux.

The most important is to eat whole foods and stay away from processed foods.

Avoid trans fats, coffee and alcohol, fried foods, spicy foods, chocolate, raw garlic, raw onion, mint, milk and dairy products (although plain yogurt is beneficial), citrus fruits and juices, and tomatoes. Also smoking can contribute to acid reflux.

I love vinegar, so for me this is not something I’d be afraid to try. Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and sip it while eating. Crazy, I know, but I’ve seen this remedy on many websites and lots of people testify to its effectiveness. Pickle juice also seems to be a favorite and it’s said to work almost instantly. (I’ve also seen a variation of 1 teaspoon of undistilled apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon of honey in a glass of water, which helps 85% of acid reflux sufferers.)

Fresh pineapple has digestive enzymes as well as dried figs. Bananas are a natural antacid. Cinnamon has an antiseptic effect and has the ability to settle acidic stomachs as well as lower insulin levels.

I’ve read in many places that gum increases the production of saliva, which helps neutralize stomach acids. Apples and almonds are also great to eat. Be sure to get plenty of fiber from vegetables and quality whole-grains.

Drink lots of water! This helps with SO many functions in our bodies!

If you’re interested in the health food store, things like Slippery Elm, Aloe Vera juice, Ginger Root and licorice can help. Bromelain (found in fresh pineapple) can be purchased as a tablet or pill and is also a natural anti-inflammatory. Probiotics can help your acid reflux and intestinal problems by improving digestion as well as a hydrochloric acid supplement.

Eat dinner at least 3 hours before bed and don’t lie down for 45 minutes after you’ve eaten.

Eating smaller amounts more often through the day will also help the stomach to digest food easier.

When you eat, make sure to chew your food well as this will help since the saliva begins to predigest our food. I read in “French Women Don’t Get Fat” that we should slow down when we eat, take our time, enjoy our food and the way it looks and smells and the way it feels in our mouths; notice our surroundings. Americans are so busy that we gobble food down while on the go and don’t even have a chance to enjoy what we’re eating.

Pay attention to how different foods affect your acid reflux. Listen to your body and it will tell you what it wants and what to stay away from.

And exercise, of course!

It boils down to a lifestyle change.