Natural Treatment for Heartburn & Acid Reflux

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Naturopathic Treatment for Acid Reflux and Heartburn

Acid reflux and heartburn is often treated with acid suppressing drugs like Nexium that don’t address the underlying causes of the condition. Because they don’t address the underlying causes, they are often prescribed for long periods of time to suppress symptoms. To make this worse, when used for extended periods of time, they carry some harsh side effects and the very nature of how they work make it very hard to come off them.

What you need to know is that reflux and heartburn is not due to an overproduction of stomach acid. The movement of stomach acid into the oesophagus leading to pain and discomfort is not due to too much stomach acid. In fact, most people with reflux and heartburn have sufficient amounts or too low amounts of stomach acid.

Reflux is actually due to increased intra-abdominal pressure from the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut, as well as a decreased function of the sphincter in the oesophagus that is supposed to stop stomach acid from back flowing.

Within the gut there is both “bad” and “good” bacteria. The good keep the bad in check. When the bad overrun the good, they release inflammatory molecules that cause inflammation in the gut and therefore disrupt normal digestive processes (i.e. breakdown and absorption of food/nutrients).

This leads to digestive symptoms because poorly digested and absorbed food gets excessively fermented in the gut and the by-product of fermentation is excessive gas. Increased production of gas leads to increased pressure in the gut, which then results in the oesophageal sphincter to open in the wrong way, leading to stomach acid back flowing into the oesophagus. This causes pain and discomfort as the oesophagus is not built to handle so much stomach acid.  

Furthermore, on top of increased intra-abdominal pressure, there are a variety of diet and lifestyle factors that can affect the normal functioning of the oesophageal sphincter.

As you can see, it is not an issue with stomach acid, it is an issue with the gut bacteria and the function of the oesophageal sphincter. Taking an acid suppressing drug will help alleviate symptoms because it removes stomach acid, so even if there is an increase in abdominal pressure, there is no acid to reflux into the oesophagus.

Taking acid suppressing drugs is not harmless and they carry some really harsh side effects. This is because stomach acid is so important for our health, therefore suppressing it can have some negative health effects.

 

Stomach acid is vital for our immune system and digestion. Stomach acid digests food in the stomach and triggers the release of digestive enzymes in the small intestine once food moves from the stomach to the small intestine. Therefore, suppressing it can actually make reflux worse. This is because it further decreases the digestion of food, leading to increased fermentation of undigested food and therefore increased gas production.

It is also our first line of defence where it kills bad bacteria in our food to prevent them from going to our small intestine and causing gut infections and overgrowth of bad bacteria, which can severely impact our overall wellbeing. If bacterial overgrowth in the gut is the underlying cause of reflux to begin with, then suppressing stomach acid and increasing the risk of further overgrowth and infections will exacerbate the issue.

Lastly, stomach aid is vital for the absorption of many nutrients like protein, B12, iron, calcium and much more. Therefore, when a person takes an acid suppressing drug for a long time, they are at increased risk of food and nutrient malabsorption, which can lead to severe nutrient deficiencies that cause other health issues in the body. Such as anaemia, depression, anxiety and osteoporosis. Ant-acid drugs are associated with many health issues and this is a likely reason for that.

Based on this information, instead of using antacid drugs, it is necessary to treat underlying causes of reflux/heartburn, which is the imbalance of bacteria in the gut and the functioning of the oesophageal sphincter. Therefore, a more natural treatment for acid reflux and heartburn is to improve gut health, which can be done by implementing evidence based, practical and sustainable diet and lifestyle interventions, as well as herbal and nutritional supplementation.

Even if you have been on antacid drugs for a while, once you address these underlying causes, it is possible to wean off the medications and help the body regain normal stomach acid production after it has been suppressed. If you suffer from reflux and/or heartburn, call Oak Health today or book an appointment online so you can really see how effective a natural approach can be, leading to long term solutions.   

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