Five Ways to Stop Acid Reflux During the Holidays and Beyond

stop acid refluxAmong the people who suffer from indigestion and acid reflux, also known as Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD),  many pop an acid-blocker to stop acid reflux symptoms oblivious of or without consideration of the side effects.

As a nutritionist and functional medicine doctor, I am always inclined to recommend healthy and natural ways to stop acid reflux instead of drugs, due to their side effects.  Some of the side effects are not mere discomforts.  Just this month, an article in the Current Opinion in Gastroenterology journal (November 2010) discussed the link of a class of acid-blocking drugs, called proton pump inhibitors (PPI), with the following:

  • bone fractures
  • Clostridium difficile colitis
  • H. pylori derived stomach ulcers
  • small bowel bacterial overgrowth
  • spontaneous bacterial peritonitis
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • carcinoid tumors

Acid reflux can not only be an inconvenience, but can also erode the lining of the esophagus, or “food pipe”, from the mouth to the stomach.  More serious problems can result if this is allowed to continue unabated, such as esophageal cancer.  Because of these reasons, natural methods to stop acid reflux should be considered.

Rest assured, there are several remedies to stop acid reflux healthfully and naturally, without the dangers of PPI drugs.  Here are five powerful and effective ways to stop acid reflux:

  1. Fighting Fire With Fire – Acid reflux is often the result of your body producing too little stomach acid (known as Hydrochloric acid or HCL).  I provided a detailed explanation of why this occurs in a previous blog on low stomach acid.  If you have been taking PPI drugs and want to stop, follow the step-by-step instructions to stop acid reflux at the bottom of this post.
  2. Get Good Bugs – Many people with acid reflux do not have the right balance of “good” verses “bad” bacteria in their gut.  The bacteria in our gut, also known as microflora, need to remain in the right balance for proper health.  With diets high in refined sugars, frequent antibiotic use, and everyday stress, imbalances in microflora can occur.  This is very common.   Probiotics are good bacteria that you can take supplementally to balance the good bacteria in your gut.  This can greatly decrease or even stop acid reflux.  A detailed discussion of how this occurs can be read in my blog on the treatment of GI problems.
  3. Eat To Live, Not Live to Eat – During the holiday season, many people regularly snack on treats high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.  The overindulgence of these foods has a harmful effect on the gut microflora.  This can lead to acid reflux.  On the other hand, eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, lentils and beans can help keep our microflora in balance.  Having holiday treats after you have filled up on healthy foods will help keep you from overindulging in treats.  You’ll feel better, have better control over cravings, and still be able to enjoy holiday treats!
  4. Stay in Motion – All of us know that we should exercise 4 or 5 times a week, but many of us find excuses not to.  Exercise not only affects the skeletal muscles, but also the muscles surrounding the internal organs.  In fact, the esophagus is a highly muscular internal organ. Vigorous resistance or weight training exercise can effectively strengthen all the muscles of the body by contracting and stretching the skeletal muscles, and also those muscles of the internal organs to some extent due to the movements one encounters during full-body weight training.
  5. Stay in Balance – The stress associated with holiday gatherings and events can take a toll on our body in many areas, including digestion.  For this reason it’s important to find ways to bring our body back into balance.  Exercise, play, laughter and a good attitude can be very helpful.   In many cases, chiropractic adjustments can be helpful to stop acid reflux.  The nerves from the spine in the mid-back associated with the upper part of the gut can be irritated from imbalanced spinal motion and impair the function of the esophagus and stomach.  Chiropractic adjustments can help alleviate those irritations.

Step-by-step Instructions  to Stop Acid Reflux:

  1. Stop PPI drugs.  Wait for about 5 days.  You can expect to get a rebound hypersecretion of stomach acid, which is another side effect of PPI drugs.  During these 5 days to relieve symptoms of rebound hypersecretion, use Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) or Mastic gum.  You can get supplements containing these at your local health food store.  You can also sprinkle about ½ teaspoon cinnamon in 2 ounces water and drink it before and after meals to rapidly decrease any acidic symptoms.
  2. After 5 days stop the DGL or Mastic gum and see if you still have acid reflux.  If not, you’re done with having acid reflux!  Congratulations!
  3. If you still have acid reflux, do the following: continue using DGL or Mastic gum over the next month.  You can also use the cinnamon if desired.
  4. After 1 month of using DGL or Mastic gum, stop. If you don’t have acid reflux symptoms anymore, congratulations!  If you still do, proceed to the next step.
  5. Begin taking a supplemental capsule of Betaine Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) with Pepsin right at the beginning of each meal.  You can get this at your local health food store.  Make sure you take it at the beginning of your meal.  Do this for 1 month.
  6. After 1 month stop using Betaine HCL with Pepsin at the beginning of meals.  If you do not get acid reflux anymore, congratulations!

Successfully getting rid of acid reflux is an indication that your stomach is producing the right amount of HCL on it’s own!  If you still have acid reflux symptoms, it’s likely your stomach is still not producing adequate stomach acid.  In this case, you’ll likely need to use the Betaine HCL with Pepsin for a few months until your stomach produces adequate HCL on it’s own.  You’ll know when it’s begun producing enough by itself when you begin to get a slight burning sensation when using the supplemental HCL.

By implementing these 5 techniques, you’ll stop acid reflux, feel better and enjoy the holidays more.