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The Truth About Antacids and Gastric Reflux – What You Need To Know

By April 24, 2022May 9th, 2022Uncategorized

If you experience gastric reflux, you’re likely no stranger to antacids. While they can provide relief from the burning and discomfort of gastric reflux, they might not be the best solution in the long run. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at antacids and reflux, including what you need to know about them. We’ll also explore some natural ways to combat gastric reflux that might be a better option for you. So read on to learn more!


A burning pain in your chest, just behind your breastbone


The digestive system is the most important system in our body. It takes the food we eat and extracts the vitamins and minerals from it. Then, those are transferred out to our other organ systems to feed our bones, brain, hair, heart, and so on. When the digestive system is not working, every other part of our body suffers. This is such a tremendous topic that we’re just focusing on the upper digestive tract today – mainly gastric reflux and heartburn. Is there a natural way to soothe the burn? Yes, there is.


We have some scary statistics: about a hundred million Americans deal with heartburn, every single year. It means that a third of our entire population experience heartburn, indigestion, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These are all different terms to describe the exact same thing. Heartburn really is a slang term. Many people experienced this condition without any burning at all.


Symptoms arise when digestive juices from the stomach backwash into the esophagus. Esophageal tissue is not made to handle stomach acid. It’s not made of the same durable tissue as our stomachs. It is subject to a lot of inflammation and damage by stomach acid. If we let heartburn go on and be untreated, it can progress to esophageal cancer, which the prognosis for is not good.


Most people ignore heartburn as an important clue from our body. Many of them will just say: “Oh, I’m going to take some Tums” or, “I’m just going to rely on this medication my doctor gave me to suppress the symptoms.” Heartburn is simply a symptom that the digestive system is out of balance. When we ignore it, like many things that we tend to ignore, it can really blow up in our face.


It’s similar to driving a car with the ‘check engine’ light is on and ignoring it. Then we just tend to use a band-aid approach. Probably, we’re going to “cut the wire on the check engine light” and take some Tums, but it is going to lead to bigger problems down the road because it just buys us some time. What are we looking at are more costly repairs ‘in our car’. More costly repairs and invasive procedures will soon be done to our bodies.


Early on, we have to be honest when something’s broken and put our attention on and fix it. Honestly, taking Tums, which is a quick fix, Is tempting. When you find yourself tossing and turning at night with indigestion, heartburn, and gas, it makes sense to reach for it as a short-term fix. The real solution to a healthy gut is to give your stomach what it needs. In this case, it’s more stomach acid, not less of the very acid that you’re struggling with.


Bandaging the symptoms


Acid blocking medications are a $13 billion a year industry in the United States. These medications are indicated for the treatment of gastric reflux, Barrett’s esophagus, peptic ulcer disease, and H. pylori (the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers). These medications can also just be prescribed if you have a chronic cough, hoarseness, sour taste in your mouth, asthma, and chest pains associated with GERD. Common names of these medications you may have heard of are Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix, and Nexium. They act by lowering the hydrochloric acid and pepsin production in the stomach.


As mentioned previously, for the short term, it might be an okay idea to lower stomach acid, if you’re really uncomfortable and you don’t know what to do at the moment. For the long-term though, it doesn’t make sense. That’s because stomach acid has a number of very important jobs in the body. We don’t want to suppress it.


The chronic use of acid-suppressing drugs doesn’t help your overall health as they’ve been linked to a wide range of health issues. These include lowered immune function, reduced bone mineral absorption, bone fractures, and difficulty digesting our food properly. They affect kidney function and cause bacterial, viral, and yeast imbalances in the intestinal tract. 


Stomach acid is the body’s natural way to keep the growth of bacteria in check. The official name of stomach acid is hydrochloric acid. The production of stomach acid requires a lot of energy from your body in order to produce the amount necessary to maintain acidity or the pH balance in your stomach. As we age, our stomach acid levels will diminish. It’s up to us to help bolster, invigorate and get them back up to when we were 25 years old.


There are some important jobs for stomach acid


  • Protecting against a foreign invaders 


As the acid level is decreased in the stomach, it increases the risk of infection and bacterial overgrowth. That’s because stomach acid is our number one defense of the body against bacteria that can come in from drinking water or any food that we ingest. One study showed that 35% of patients who take Prilosec, an acid-blocking medication, had bacterial overgrowth inside their digestive system compared with the control group only had 10%, who are not on an acid blocker.


  • Digesting our food

Our stomach acid allows for the proper breakdown and absorption of nutrients. When we are not getting this proper breakdown, it puts more of a strain on the other organs in the digestive tract to help break the food down. The digestive system is a wondrous thing – it’s able to take the food we eat and break it down into the nutrients our bodies need to function. However, when we don’t have proper food digestion, it puts more of a strain on the other organs in the digestive tract. The food sits in our stomachs for longer, fermenting and causing gas and bloating. In addition, it can lead to constipation and other digestive issues.


  • Absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Essential food particles are broken down to extract the vitamins and minerals that we need to feed the rest of the body. This is the issue with increased fracture risk, taking an acid blocker can sometimes stop us from being able to absorb the vitamins and minerals from our food. Acid blockers taken for over a year have been shown to increase fracture risk by 44% in women over 50. This particularly happens when they hit the spine, the wrist, and the forearm, all those places where women get breaks. Other long-term effects of a prolonged use of acid blockers include deficiencies in vitamin B12, zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium.


Here’s the problem: acid-blocking medications are difficult to get off of.  After we have suppressed stomach acid for a long time, it’s hard to get off the medications because we often experience something called rebound acid hypersecretion. This happens when we take the medications away and the body starts producing stomach acid again. Then people feel like their heartburn is coming back, It can occur up to 12 weeks after discontinuing one of these.


We have to put some other digestive supports in place to help someone successfully wean off acid-blocking medications and support digestive function so the condition is still not there. This is where a natural approach comes in. Acid reflux is not caused by too much stomach acid, instead, it’s caused by too little. The acid that is there flows inappropriately out of the stomach, into the esophagus causing pain.


What happens in GERD


It is a condition where acid inappropriately backwashes out of our stomach into our esophagus. GERD is an area where natural medicine shines because there are many ways to heal gastritis, GERD, peptic, ulcers and esophogitis without any negative side effects.


Here’s, what’s happening in your body:


  1. After food passes through your esophagus into your stomach acid is released.
  2. It then triggers a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter to close. 
  3. The lower esophageal sphincter prevents food or acid from moving back up into the esophagus.
  4. If there’s too little stomach acid, it will not trigger the lower esophageal sphincter. Therefore it stays open.

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter is open and untrigerred. This allows acid from your stomach to flow backwards into your esophagus. Stomach acid belongs in your stomach, undoubtedly. Esophageal cells were not designed to handle stomach acid. HCl backwashing into the esophagus can be very painful and damaging to that fragile tissue.


Natural treatments? Yes, please.


Simply put long-term therapy on acid-blocking medications is not an option. These medications should only be used short-term while other more natural things are being considered behind the scenes to treat the underlying dysfunction. Often many people can get relieved simply by modifying their diet and their lifestyle.


As we have been made aware, acid reflux doesn’t stem from an overproduction of acid. In fact, it’s because of the lack of stomach acid that prevents the constriction of the lower esophageal sphincter.


  • Modifications.

We want to reduce high caloric meals. Avoid eating after 7:00 PM, especially those foods that come in a bag, a box or a can are processed. They lack enzymes and they require more energy for our system to break them down. Move away from aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications too as these are all damaging to the stomach lining.


  • Repair

We need to repair and soothe the esophageal lining. Natural medicine has many substances such as DGL (deglycyrrhizanated licorice), slippery elm and fresh red cabbage juice that are particularly healing to the stomach and esophagus.


  • Restore

The next thing we want to do is we want to restore the stomach acid secretions and digestive health to their original state. We use plant-based digestive, enzymes, antioxidants, natural anti-inflammatories, and probiotics.


All of these are important as we work to strengthen the digestive system. In the 20 years, I’ve been in practice, I have helped thousands of people overcome gastric reflux. Most of the time with dietary changes and supplementation and lifestyle changes, it just goes away. They don’t have to think about it again. Better yet they don’t have to be dependent on medication.


While acid reflux is a common problem, it doesn’t stem from having too much hydrochloric acid in the stomach. In fact, it’s the other way around- low levels of hydrochloric acid are often to blame for this condition. This means that taking an acid blocker for long-term relief is not going to help and may actually cause more problems. Thankfully, natural medicine can help with the long-term healing using lifestyle changes and guided supplementation. If you’re struggling with acid reflux, we encourage you to schedule a free discovery call with our team so we can help you get on the path to better health.


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If you’re looking for a more natural way to manage your health, please contact us for a discovery call to see if our approach would be appropriate for your situation.


DISCLAIMER:  The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional 

Dr. Andrea Purcell

A trusted and well-respected Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Purcell has been in private practice for over twenty years. Dr. Purcell is a published author and has a women’s specialty practice for hormone balancing, weight loss, mystery illness, and gastro-intestinal concerns. Dr. Purcell assists her patients by identifying the underlying cause of disease and removing obstacles that impede the body's natural ability to heal. Drugs and surgery are used as a last resort. She believes that increasing health on the inside shines through to the outside.