Affecting up to 30% of the population in North America, and with the greatest rise affecting those between 30-39 years of age, GERD is becoming one of the most common health concerns negatively affecting quality of life.1 Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux or heartburn can affect all ages and if left untreated, can cause serious complications such as inflammation, bleeding and scarring.
Conventional treatment of GERD often include histamine (H2) acid blocking drugs or proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). However, the long-term use of these medications isn’t without potential consequence such as:
– the development of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)2
– increased risk of C. difficile infection3
– increased risk of pneumonia in stroke patients4
– fractures in osteoporosis5
– chronic kidney disease6
– impaired semen quality7
In addition, recent recalls of popular heartburn drugs have pushed many to look beyond conventional treatments for relief and cure. Naturopathic Medicine presents several options to address the root cause and can provide safe and effective natural treatments. Here are some factors a Naturopathic Doctor would consider in treating a case of GERD.
Although the approach of conventional medicine is to suppress acid production to alleviate symptoms, long-term hypochlorhydria, or low stomach acid, can counter-productively weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, negatively affect digestion, and increasethe risk of GERD. Hypochlorhydria can be easily tested at home and once corrected, can make a drastic difference in supporting digestive health and preventing GERD.
Food sensitivities, unlike food allergies, are associated with a myriad of symptoms including indigestion, heartburn, headaches, fatigue and brain fog. Our ability to tolerate different food differs from person to person, so a good way to uncover food sensitivities would be to do a IgG food sensitivity test, available through a Naturopathic doctor.
In our fast-paced lives, it is common to eat “on-the-go” or while working and completing other tasks. This tends to stimulate our Sympathetic nervous system and blunts the Para-sympathetic response. Proper digestive requires our Para-sympathetic nervous system to be active and functioning well. Giving our full attention to eating, chewing your food thoroughly, eating smaller portions and creating an environment conducive to proper digestion is vital in preventing GERD. Techniques to manage stress such as meditation and acupuncture are also helpful tools to support the nervous system.
While your Naturopathic doctor works at addressing your root cause of GERD, there are several natural and safe options to provide temporary relief. The use of a Calcium/Magnesium liquid can coat the esophagus while herbs such as chamomile, marshmallow root and slippery elm can be soothing. Even using digestive enzymes to help your system break down foods can be helpful. Ask your Naturopathic doctor what options may be best for you.
As you can see, fully addressing and preventing recurrence of GERD requires more than popping an antacid or relying on a medication that may carry long-term consequences to your health. Safer and effective options are available to provide you the relief you need and to ensure a healthier digestive tract for your whole life.
~ Dr. Patti
1. Yamasaki, T, Hemond C, Lisa, M, Ganocy S, Fans R. The Changing Epidemiology of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Are Patients Getting Younger? J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018 Oct; 24(4): 559–569.
2. Pérez-Fontan M, Machado Lopes D, García Enríquez A, et al. Inhibition of Gastric Acid Secretion by H2 Receptor Antagonists Associates a Definite Risk of Enteric Peritonitis and Infectious Mortality in Patients Treated with Peritoneal Dialysis. PLoS One. 2016;11(2):e0148806.
3. MacLaren R, Kassel L, Kiser T, Fish D. Proton pump inhibitors and histamine-2 receptor antagonists in the intensive care setting: focus on therapeutic and adverse events. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2015;14(2):269–280.
4. Ho S, Hsieh M, Yang S, et al. Risk of Stroke-Associated Pneumonia With Acid-Suppressive Drugs: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015;94(29):e1227.
5. Freedberg D, Haynes K, Denburg M, et al. Use of proton pump inhibitors is associated with fractures in young adults: a population-based study. Osteoporos Int. 2015;26(10):2501–2507.
6. Lazarus B, Chen Y, Wilson F, et al. Proton Pump Inhibitor Use and the Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(2):238–246.
7. Banihani S. Histamine-2 Receptor Antagonists and Semen Quality. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2016;118(1):9-13.