We recently recorded one of our Functional Friday videos addressing this very common symptom. You may be familiar with some of the more well known symptoms like a burning sensation in your chest after eating or before bed, a lump in your throat or the regurgitation of food back into the esophagus or feeling like food is getting stuck in your throat. None of these symptoms are very fun to deal with.
There are also lesser known symptoms that are indicative of acid reflux like a metallic taste in mouth, chronic throat clearing, hoarseness, postnasal drip, a sore throat or even ear pain.
While blocking acid production with medications like PPI’s or H2 blockers often relieves the symptoms, it does not address why you are having these symptoms and they are not safe for long term use.
From a nutrition perspective, we really do not like to suppress stomach acid because HCL is one of our first defensive lines for protecting us from pathogens entering the digestive tract. You can think of reflux as a motility issue. If the digestive tract is not moving food down the tract efficiently, food will push back through the lower esophageal sphincter causing symptoms. Guess what, HCL signals the digestive tract to start moving. HCL is also important for breaking down protein in our food. If unwanted bacteria enter the digestive tract and we are not able to breakdown our food optimally, healthy gut bacteria will be altered and many different digestive symptoms can present like gas/bloat, belching, constipation or diarrhea. And with all we have been learning about the gut microbiome, we may be looking at other consequential symptoms like depression and an altered immune response.
Can you tell I am not a big fan of lowering stomach acid?
If low stomach acid is the underlying cause of your reflux, we also have to ask the question, “Why do you have low stomach acid” I am going to rattle off the many possibilities:
- Food intolerances
- Eating the foods that are not right for your body
- Lack of bitter foods in the diet
- Infections like H. pylori
- Nutrient deficiencies
I don’t want to give the impression that every single case of reflux is caused by low stomach acid. There are structural issues like hiatal hernias that are not related to stomach acid and there are medications or rare gastric tumors that can result in the overproduction of acid.
Dr. Kennedy and I discuss some of the Causes of Acid Reflux.
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photo credit: wuestenigel Good digestion concept, human stomach is made of pills on a blue background via photopin (license)