Establishing whether you are producing too much stomach acid or not enough is prerequisite for the proper treatment of reflux. It is common practice within the allopathic medical profession to prescribe acid-stopping drugs on the basis of symptoms alone. While this might be effective for the those producing too much acid, what happens if you suffer from chronic digestive weakness and take a drug that further decreases gastric acid production?
In the case of sluggish digestion, food takes longer to liquify prior to emptying into the small intestine. Taking an acid-stopping drug will give symptomatic relief but presents your stomach with even less resources with which to work. In turn, the contents of your meal do not get fully broken down and larger and larger food molecules pass into the small intestine which is unfamiliar with the task of absorbing these larger particles of food. If enzymes, bile, and your intestinal flora cannot complete the job started by your stomach, these larger food particles can act as irritants in your system, heightening an immune response and resulting in inflammation throughout the gut.
A second problem associated with decreasing stomach acid production is the development of malnutrition by virtue of having less nutrients available for assimilation. The same parietal cells that produce stomach acid also release a compound called intrinsic factor into the stomach which is critical for the absorption of vitamin B12. Impairing the function of these cells can ultimately lead to a B12 deficiency, especially in susceptible populations such as the elderly.
To be clear, we are not talking about over-the-counter antacids which neutralize the stomach acid already present in the stomach. What proton pump inhibitors do is stop that acid from ever being produced in the first place. This provides very effective short term relief, which in acute cases of reflux due to secondary causes, is good compassionate medicine. If you can establish that you suffer from chronic digestive weakness (not producing enough stomach acid), being on these drugs for years on end is medically negligent, distracting you with symptom relief while the real cause of the problem worsens.
Let’s now look at how one can assess their digestive vigor. As mentioned in the last post, first establish the timing of the reflux. If occurring after a meal, chances are your stomach hasn’t emptied in a timely fashion due to an inherent weakness. Next, see if taking a digestive aid improves the problem. Drinking two tablespoons of raw organic apple cider vinegar in a little water prior to your meal will very likely improve reflux of this type by supplementing the stomach’s gastric juices. Another traditional remedy that works similarly is swedish bitters, which taken after a meal, coax your body to produce more stomach acid.
In some cases, apple cider vinegar is not a strong enough remedy. If helpful but not curative, betaine hydrochloride pills are the next step. This is the height of irony considering you are supplementing with an acid, the very thing that reflux drugs are suppressing. Despite this, I have seen many cases of reflux clear up, some practically overnight, by supplementing with a strong dose of betaine. The key here is to understand that by improving digestion we are expediting stomach emptying, leaving little to nothing left to reflux up. This is the proper treatment, for example, in those who get reflux lying down after a sizable late dinner.
True long-term healing from reflux also requires taking a good hard look at your diet and eliminating irritating foods. In general, processed and refined foods, sugars, and spicy foods can all be contributing factors. Eating too large a meal and drinking too much water with a meal (which dilutes stomach acid) can weaken digestion. Drinking cold beverages also slows digestion which speaks to the wisdom of the Chinese, drinking hot tea with meals. Consuming naturally fermented and unpasteurized foods with meals, such as homemade sauerkraut, also strongly improves digestion.
If you are willing to do your due diligence in treating the cause and not just the symptoms of reflux, most cases will rapidly improve imparting your entire body with optimal nutrition and resiliency.