This awesome post was written by Dr. Hamid Tajbakhsh. He combines the latest in Western science and traditional Eastern philosophy to help patients achieve their health goals. You can check out his Facebook page here, or follow him on Twitter.
Digestive problems are a concern for a lot of patients that seek a naturopathic doctor, and the most common of these problems has to do with acid reflux. Acid reflux can cause uncomfortable symptoms including burning sensations in the chest, burping and nausea after eating, abdominal fullness, and overall discomfort following meals.
This condition is usually misdiagnosed by conventional medical doctors as hyperacidity, a condition causing too much stomach acid. This means if there is too much acid coming upwards from the stomach, it is the flow and production of acid we should inhibit. Following this misguided logic will lead us to believe that we need ant-acids or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which both serve to reduce the production and effect of stomach acid.
Of course, reducing acid in our stomach and intestines does reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, but it does not treat its cause and can actually lead to worse problems. Of the major health problems it can trigger involves the improper breakdown of our food which will lead to nutritional deficiencies of the vitamins and compounds needed by our body for energy, blood formation, and the nervous system.
Another of these problems has to do with the changing of our gut microflora or, more specifically, altering the pH of the environment where our gut bacteria live. Doing this can change the bacteria’s compositions entirely which can then lead to an overgrowth of certain organisms while others are displaced. This can even escalate to a point of compromised immunity, as much of our defences lie in our gut.
In addition to creating worse health problems, the drugs that inhibit acid production can in fact lead to chronic acid reflux. This point is explained in the next paragraph.
The actual cause of acid reflux usually has to do with a lack of gastric acid production or not enough production. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which functions to separate the stomach from our esophagus, requires an acidic signal to close thereby not letting stomach acid through. If there is a lack of stomach acid, the LES does not close and acid is free to rise up into the esophagus because of the squeezing and churning action of the stomach while food is being broken down. There is a myriad of reasons why people develop low amounts of stomach acid that range from dietary factors to lifestyle choices.