You’ve been asking for an all about acid reflux post, so here you go.
I decided to finally get this post ready for you after posting THIS graphic on Instagram from Dr. Mark Hyman –> How to Soothe the Gut from Acid Reflux.
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All About Acid Reflux
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Along with the graphic shared, I wanted to know what other and further questions you had. Let’s dive right in to them now….
What is Acid Reflux?
First, the basics. Acid reflux is a condition in which acidic gastric fluid flows backward into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn (i.e. acid flowing backwards instead of forwards as it should). For those of you who are visual, here is a great representation from Prevention Magazine.
Its most common symptom is heartburn, and though people use the terms acid reflux and GERD interchangeably, they are not technically the same things.
GERD is what acid reflux progresses to, if it becomes worsened. It stands for Gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Though we might not think of acid reflux as anything too serious, it absolutely can become serious if not dealt with. Having it can put you at risk for more serious problems, such as ulcers and esophageal cancer.
Like everything else, there is not a definitive set of symptoms, but here are some of the common ones:
- prolonged sore throat and/or hoarse voice
- bad taste in the mouth
- heartburn, pain in the upper abdomen (can be so severe that it’s mistaken for a heart attack)
- sensation of a lump in the throat
- difficulty swallowing
- disrupted sleep
- vomit that looks like coffee grounds and/or contains blood
What Causes Acid Reflux?
The two main causes of acid reflux include:
- hiatal hernia
- weakness / dysfunction of the valve called the lower esophageal sphincter
No, being pregnant is not a cause of acid reflux. If you’re pregnant, you might just be more prone to experiencing it due to extra pressure on the abdomen and stomach.
More root causes to consider include:
- Inflammation because it causes tissue damage and dysfunction in the esophagus.
- Carbohydrate malabsorption.
- Underdeveloped digestive system. (See below: Acid Reflux and Children)
- Magnesium deficiency.
Additional Ways to Soothe the Gut with Reflux
In addition to the graphic above from Dr. Mark Hyman, here are some more ideas:
Eat slowly and sparingly
Foods that can help:
- fermented vegetables
- apple cider vinegar
- bone broth
- green leafy vegetables
- wild caught fish
- pumpkin and other squash
- healthy fats
- raw cheese
- chamomile, papaya, ginger tea
Avoid certain foods
Should you stop eating these foods altogether? No! You should know by now that I’m not a fan of a long-term diet. But might you need to temporarily? Yes. Here are some that have been known to aggravate reflux:
- fatty foods
- mint (p.s. Remember in The Gutsy Girl’s Bible when I mentioned this caution for reflux and peppermint tea?!)
- spicy foods
Caution on carbonated beverages, since they tend to cause more burping
Don’t go to bed immediately after eating
Nicotine can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.
Caution with over-exerting yourself during exercise
I put this one last because I hate to have to even mention it. The truth, though, is that being overweight or pregnant can also trigger heartburn due to added pressure on the abdomen and stomach.
What is a PPI?
A PPI is a proton-pump inhibitor. Its intended use is to reduce the amount of acid made in the stomach. Commonly prescribed PPIs include rabeprazole (Aciphex), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), and pantoprazole (Protonix).
While I believe that some might need the PPI to control symptoms, I also know that when used long-term there can be consequences.
According to this,
Medications may cause new or worsened symptoms, depending on how your body reacts to them. If you’ve been relying on over-the-counter and/or prescriptions to ease pain and discomfort, you might be familiar with some of the notorious side effects associated with their use, which include headaches, muscle cramps, rapid heart rate and more digestive upset.
Additionally, and I believe this is the most important factor to consider – sometimes (many times) doctor’s will say the heartburn you are experiencing is from too much stomach acid, give you a PPI, and leave you on your merry way when the reality might be that you have too little stomach acid.
The PPI will only decrease the amount of stomach acid you have and in that situation you will also have more digestive upset.
Can you wean off PPI use?
If and when one is committed to doing the various diet and lifestyle changes, weaning off PPI’s can absolutely happen.
Do I think it can always happen, for everyone, no matter what? No.
And do I think you should start weaning on your own? Even more of a no.
Use caution, proceed slowly, and do this in conjunction with your doctor or other practitioner.
What if You’re Pregnant
First, I’ve never been pregnant, so I have no idea what reflux and pregnancy would be like. In this case, I am not the face of you, my Gutsy friend!
That said, acid reflux during pregnancy is very common. If I were pregnant and experiencing it, I would do all the additional soothing ways as mentioned above plus wear loose-fitting clothing (duh!), and chew even more on my Chimes Ginger candies (I swear by these for an upset stomach).
SIBO + Acid Reflux
Since so many of you here have SIBO, I was asked, “….but what do you do if you have SIBO + reflux? Some of the foods and supplements are high FODMAP.”
The answer is that, “Yes, yes that would be correct.”
The way I would approach it (and have approached it myself when dealing with multiple / different things) is like this…..what is the most important issue you’re working on right now? What is the most severe pain in your life? Focus on that. Typically, healing overall begins to happen; if not, you’ll make the necessary changes.
For example, when I had severe SIBO and a low-functioning thyroid, I focused all my energy on the SIBO – in doing so, my thyroid also improved.
You must listen to your body, though. Make decisions for where you’ll focus, move forward, and adjust when needed.
Someone asked, “Is it necessary to sleep with head elevated?” According to a Harvard article,
Ideally, your head should be 6 to 8 inches higher than your feet. You can achieve this by using “extra-tall” bed risers on the legs supporting the head of your bed. If your sleeping partner objects to this change, try using a foam wedge support for your upper body. Don’t try to create a wedge by stacking pillows. They won’t provide the uniform support you need.
My answer would be – first sleep however you wish to sleep. If that doesn’t work, do as they recommend with your head elevated or another tried-and-true method.
Acid Reflux and Children
I do know something about this, as Samarah had pretty bad reflux as a baby. At the time, she was in foster care so we didn’t have a choice but to put her on omeprazole as the doctor recommended.
As it was mentioned above, this can happen in children with an underdeveloped digestive system. Samarah was born just shy of 27 weeks, so that was definitely our answer. I didn’t only do the omeprazole, though. I also did Colic Calm and bone broth. She didn’t stay on the omeprazole forever; weaned off fairly quickly.
If your child is older, in addition to the causes above, other reasons can include:
- previous esophageal surgery
- having a severe developmental delay or neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy
A few other things I wanted to mention and share with you:
- Did you know you can make homemade Ginger tea that’s actually super incredible?! My aunt taught it to me. Warm up water then drop in 2-3 of the Chimes Ginger candies. Sip and enjoy.
- There has been a lot of chatter around digestive enzymes. I’ve written about them in depth HERE.
- DGL tablets
Okay, and there you have it! Now, leave in the comments below any more questions you have and/or any personal experiences to share with the community.
Article sources: HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
You will heal. I will help.