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Acid reflux is one of the most common health problems, affecting around 10 to 20 percent of the population. What makes it hard to treat is that it can be caused by various underlying issues. Although the symptoms are the same, the cause can be totally different, and consequently the treatment should be different. What makes things even worse is that too many times the treatment is very generic, aiming to lower the symptoms, and not treat the cause.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is another way of saying that the stomach acid escapes the acid in the esophagus. The sphincter that separates the esophagus and the stomach should keep the acid inside the stomach, where it won’t cause any problems. This sphincter acts as a valve, and it only opens when we burp, and when we regurgitate.
In a perfect world, we acid should not pass through the sphincter. For GERD sufferers, though, the “lower esophageal sphincter” opens up and allows acid to climb in the esophagus. Two reasons are hiatal hernia, and intra-abdominal pressure. Hiatal hernia cannot be treated, but there are some chiropractic maneuvers, and some exercises that can help. Intra-abdominal pressure is not a condition, it is rather a symptom.
The most common treatments for GERD, (gastroesophageal reflux disease), are acid neutralizers, (antacid), H2 receptor blockers, or proton pump inhibitors. The use of stomach acid neutralizers or blockers, however, is not safe. Latest medical findings show that lowering the acidity in our stomach exposes us to numerous dangers. Most of these potential problems are associated with a higher risk to infections. The infection risk is increased because a lower acidity in stomach gives bad bacteria more chances to live and outnumber the good microbes in your body. Read on about the possible causes of acid reflux, and which the safer alternative treatments are.
What Are the Causes of Acid Reflux?
There are many causes of acid reflux, however, the most common are:
- Hiatal hernia
- Microbial infection, (H. pylori)
Hiatal hernia is a very common cause of GERD, and it is a condition where the stomach bulges up into the chest cavity, outside of the diaphragm, where it is its normal position. Helicobacter Pylori is clearly associated with GERD, but the mechanism is not fully understood yet. There is, however, ample evidence that an eradication of H. Pylori is not beneficial for the overall health of an individual. As a result, antibiotics are not the proper treatment, although along with PPI are the most commonly prescribed treatment. The most recent theories, based on scientific evidence, propose the idea that an overgrowth of the H. pylori population will lower the acidity in your stomach, (yes, H, pylori has the ability to supress acid secretion). Low acid levels in your stomach will result in understimulation of the pancreas, which will release less enzymes into the small intestine. With less enzymes produced, some of the carbohydrates will remain undigested, and they will become food for microorganisms. This will result in an overgrowth of microbe in your small intestine, where they shouldn’t be. (SIBO) The excess bacteria, fed by incompletely digested carbs, will produce a lot of gas, which will increase the intra-abdominal pressure. The additional pressure will cause the lower esophageal sphincter to open up, allowing the acid to escape in the esophagus. Here is a a study to find out if there was any correlation between IBS and GERD.
This medical study suggests that H. pylori related gastritis and reflux esophagitis progress negatively under treatment with omeprazole. Acid reflux is many times present in obese patients, though obesity might not be the actual cause. Obesity many times is caused by a improperly balanced microflora, or obesity can contribute to hiatal hernia onset. This means it’s wiser to not treat obesity as a separate cause of GERD, but rather in conjunction with the other two causes.
Here are some symptoms that could mean you have acid reflux:
- Chest pain
- Bitter taste
- Sore throat
- Extra saliva
- Post meal pain
- Trouble swallowing
- Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
- Weight loss for no reason
Acid reflux can also be more subtle, and it could be extremely difficult to diagnose. This is called silent reflux, and it is estimated that over 50 million Americans are affected. Dr. Oz talks about silent reflux here. Here is another video about acid reflux.
There are many things that trigger and worsen acid reflux, but we listed the most important ones. Understanding the triggers is important, because it helps you avoid them. Here is a list:
- Eating large meals
- Eating certain foods, such as citrus, tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods
- Being overweight or obese
- Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over at the waist
- Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
- Snacking close to bedtime
- Being pregnant
- Taking certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications, aspirin, or ibuprofen
Hiatal Hernia Treatment
Since hiatal hernia is one of the most common causes of acid reflux, the first question coming in mind is: “Do I have it?”, and “How can I fix it?”. Unfortunately, surgery can only fix temporary, and the recovery time does not recommend it as a viable treatment. However, there are a few things you can do to fix it.
Hiatal Hernia Exercise Treatment
There is an easy exercise recommended by Dr. Williams, that can help you reposition your stomach in its place, and the exercise can also help you maintain it that way. You can watch the video below, it describes in detail what you need to do to fix it.
Here is the link to the article written by Dr. Williams.
Hiatal Hernia Chiropractic Treatment
One of the most effective, and convenient treatments is a chiropractic intervention. This works wonders, and it helps reposition the stomach properly, but it is more expensive than the exercises at home. And when you take in consideration that it can easily reoccur, and sometimes a good chiropractor that knows how to treat hiatal hernia is at thousands of miles away from you, the convenience disappears.
Here is a video on YouTube that shows you Dr. Gregory Johnson treating a patient for hiatal hernia.
Hiatal hernia can be temporary fixed with one of the two methods, the exercise, or the chiropractic manipulation. However, this is only temporary, and with a weak diaphragm, and an enlarged hiatus, most likely the problem will come back. A great help is to work out the abdominal muscles. This will help the abdominal muscles to keep the stomach down in the abdominal cavity, and will strengthen the diaphragm.
In order to avoid the relapse, you should not:
- Eat large meals
- Eat heavy meals and lye on your back
- Snack or eat close to bedtime
- Take muscle relaxers
Helicobacter Pylori Infection Treatment
A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School, Massachusets Institute of thechnology, and Boston University, have discovered in 2009 how bacteria moves through the stomach mucus, and cause humans stomach ulcers.
A lot of the acid reflux cases are linked to helicobacter pylori infections, and the usual allopatic medicine approach is to try to eradicate it with antibiotics. There are two problems with this approach; firstly, there is some evidence that h. pylori might be beneficial if kept in control; secondly, antibiotics will kill all the bacteria, without discrimination, leading to bigger problems in the long run. However, if H. pylori is the the underlying cause for acid reflux, antibiotic treatment is effective, according to this study.
A milder approach is a natural, selective antibiotic, combined with probiotics. Obviously, this is a slower treatment, but it will pay off in the long run.
Hyperbiotics is a well designed probiotic supplement. It is obvious that whoever was in charge of developing the product wanted to make it one of the best. Here are a few of the reasons:
- The encapsulation is the innovative Bio-Tract, to improve viability of the microorganisms.
- The strains in the blend are selected with care, combining not only diversity, but also a specific blend that you won’t find in other products.
- Some of the strains in this blend are the most effective and inexpensive for tackling Candida infections.
One of the most successful and less invasive treatments is the probiotics. Probiotic supplements are developed to target pathogens, and specifically H. Pylori. They won’t wipe off the entire microflora in the process, and they have a lot other benefits. One of the commercial strains to fight H. Pylori infections is Lactobacillus Johnsonii, formerly known as Lactobacillus acidophilus. Not all Lactobacillus Johnsonii strains are effective in killing H. pylori, although they produce the same amount of lactic acid. Some other effective fighters against helicobacter are L. acidophilus LB, L. casei, L. johnsonii La1, and L. lactis. Weissella confusa and Bacillus subtilis are also very effective, though they secrete different bacteriocins than the former group. Saccharomyces boulardii is also a great probiotic very effective for treating various bacterial pathogens, including H. Pylori. More information here.
Florastor is a yeast based probiotic supplement, with the main ingredient saccharomyces boulardii lyo. The product contains lyophilized Saccharomyces boulardii, hence the name. The lyophilisation makes the yeast last longer, and less susceptible to temperature changes. The shelf life of Florastor is better in consequence.
Flostator is great to prevent stomach and intestinal problems assosiated with antibiotics. Florastor can be taken with antibiotics, maintaining efficiency, unlike bacteria based probiotic supplements.
There is also evidence that Saccharomyces boulardii is an effective probiotic against H Pylori.
Other Natural Home Remedies for H Pylori
There are some other natural, effective treatments against H Pylori infections. Dr. Carnahan, a family doctor, who is also certified in Integrative Medicine, recommends trying natural methods before using the allopathic treatments, which are effective, but come with a taxing price on the patient’s microbiota. She prescribes her patients treatments based on Zinc Carnosine and mastic gum. Other remedies are mastic gum and berberine. Here is a list with some natural remedies for H. pylori:
- Mastic gum, 350 mg, three times daily
According to this study, mastic gum is extremely efficient.
- Zinc-Carnosine, 75 mg, one or two times per day can be a very effective treatment.
Here is the abstract of a research study on Zinc-Carnosine effect on H. Pylori
- Berberine, 250-1000 mg twice daily
Berberine is a compound found in goldenseal, and it is very effective to kill bacteria.
- Bismuth citrate
- Deglycyrrhised liquorice root
Pyloricil is a good combination of Zinc Carnosine, Mastic gum, Berberine, Bismuth Citrate.
Pyloricil is a combo of some of Dr. Carnahan’s recommended supplements against a H. Pylori infection. It has the convenience of combining most of the supplements in a single capsule, so you don’t need to take too many pills at once. The product as is, is extremely efficient, even though doesn’t contain the whole list.
Furthermore, during the course of your treatment, and even after the symptoms have disappeared, fololow these rules to prevent outbreaks:
- Eat smaller meals, (count callories)
- Don’t snack, just eat four or five small meals per day
- If you eat certain foods, such as garlic, onions, fatty foods, or meat, take probiotics, or eat fermented vegetables, to help you with digestion
- Try to lose some weight, we have an article on how to lose weight with probiotics
- During the treatment STOP drinking the following: alcohol, coffee, tea, and sweet sodas, diet or not.
- Cut down as much as you can on refined carbs, (white flour, white bread, white rice, pastry, candy, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals, sugar.)
- Stop smoking, if you can.
- Eat your last meal at least one and a half ours before bedtime, ideally 2 hours.
- Avoid muscle relaxers, aspirin, or ibuprofen
My personal recipe for acid reflux is the following:
- A good probiotic twice per day, mornings and evenings before meals
- I drink a small cup of fermented vegetable brine with heavy meals, or even with foods containing a lot of prebiotic fiber. You have to drink the brine very slowly, sip by sip, during the course of 5 minutes. Drink a lot of water too, there is way too much salt in that brine.
- I drink this probiotic/prebiotic cocktail as my last meal, two hours before going to bed: A cup of plain yogurt or kefir, two teaspoons of unmodified potato starch, and salt to taste.