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Rethinking Acid Reflux: A Deeper Dive into Gut Health

Whether you’ve been officially diagnosed with IBS, IBD, or another autoimmune disease, or you’re just dealing with daily stomach or throat discomfort, you’re not alone. Acid reflux is one of the most common issues I encounter in my IBS and autoimmune population of clients, and there’s a lot of confusion about what really causes it and how it's treated.



The Usual Approach to Acid Reflux


When clients report symptoms like severe heartburn, bloating, or even just a vague discomfort in the chest after eating, I often suspect acid reflux. Conventional wisdom in gastroenterology typically pins these symptoms on excess stomach acid. The go-to solutions? Over-the-counter meds like H2 blockers (think famotidine) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole. Both are designed to curb acid production in the stomach, providing symptomatic relief.



The Downside of Common Treatments


Here's the kicker: these drugs aren’t meant for long-term use. Continuous use can lead to a slew of other problems, including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and nutrient malabsorption due to impaired digestion, particularly of proteins. This can cascade into further health issues, like chronic stomach pain and fluctuating bowel habits.



A Different Perspective


Instead of just damping down symptoms with medication, I focus on uncovering the root cause of acid reflux. Surprisingly, many cases of acid reflux are not due to excessive acid production but rather the opposite. Many people suffer from an underproduction of stomach acid, which can lead to food lingering in the stomach too long, creating pressure that can push acid up into the esophagus.



Functional Medicine Approach


From a functional medicine standpoint, we look at factors like:


  • Stomach acid levels: Ensuring adequate stomach acid helps break down food properly, preventing issues like SIBO and malnutrition.

  • Lifestyle factors: Stress and hurried eating can impair acid production. Simple lifestyle adjustments, like allowing more time to eat in a relaxed environment, can significantly improve symptoms.

  • Potential infections: Conditions like H. pylori, a bacteria that can overgrow in the stomach and cause symptoms similar to acid reflux, need to be addressed to restore gut health.



Moving Forward Naturally


Understanding that underproduction of stomach acid might be at the core allows us to use different strategies, such as dietary changes, stress management, and sometimes supplements that support natural acid production, rather than suppressing it. This approach aims to enhance digestion naturally and sustainably.



Wrap-Up


If you’re struggling with acid reflux and haven't found relief, or if you're curious about a more holistic approach to your symptoms, reconsidering how we view and address these symptoms is crucial. It's not only about managing an overproduction of stomach acid but also enhancing your body's natural digestive processes and addressing underlying issues that conventional treatments might overlook.




Navigating the complexities of acid reflux can be a game-changer for your overall well-being. If you have any questions or need guidance, feel free to reach out.

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