What is reflux?
Hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) is produced in our stomach. This acid helps to break down and digest food, especially protein! Our stomach acid also kills off nasty bugs to prevent detrimental problems in the lower digestion such as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). If you do not produce enough stomach acid, you start to have digestive symptoms (if the food can’t be digested it sits in your stomach for a long time fermenting and sometimes driving food and acid up into the oesophagus, rather than moving through your system). You will ultimately end up with nutritional deficiencies. The burning sensation leaves many people wrongly thinking that they are producing too much stomach acid when in most cases it is actually the opposite! That’s right, the most common reason people experience reflux is due to low stomach acid.
Signs and symptoms can include:
- Bringing up food
- Bad breath
- Reducing desire to eat
- Hoarse voice
- Nutrient deficiencies such as B12 and protein
- Memory and mood issues relating to deficiencies
Common causes of reflux
- Eating too many sugars and carbohydrates
- Eating on the run
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Medications (eg heartburn medications and the pill)
- Low intake of protein and zinc in the diet
- Food sensitivities
- Helicobacter pylori
- Pregnancy hormones
- Structural issues such as hiatus hernia
What can you do about reflux?
- Identify the foods and behaviours that drive it for you and reduce those behaviours.
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking
- Minimise junk foods and eat real foods including protein and vegies
- Learn to sit down in a relaxed way when you eat to allow your body to make appropriate digestive acids and enzymes
If you are still struggling, ensure you get the appropriate diagnosis from your doctor and get help from a nutritional medicine practitioner who can help you resolve many of these issues.
The medications made to treat reflux do this by reducing your stomach acid. This is useful for symptoms however long-term it will only cause more digestive issues so it is best to only use them in situations when there is no other choice. Having acid regularly going up into the oesophagus can damage the oesophagus and cause oesophageal cancer so it is really important to learn the best way to reduce and manage your reflux (this is different for everyone). Suddenly stopping acid blocking medications is not a good idea, especially without another management plan.
Fiona Kane, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and Holistic Counsellor
Informed Health Nutritional Wellbeing Centre