Posts Tagged ‘reflux’

If you haven’t read my articles titled “Stomach and heartburn symptoms – aka GERD” or “Digestion – the importance of hydrochloric acid“, I recommend you start there. You may be tired of hearing about this by now, however I obviously find digestion extremely important. As with all things in life, I feel we should get the basics down first. And I believe the major nutritionally-related basics are: 1) proper digestion and absorption (assuming there is adequate nutrient intake from whole foods), 2) sufficient amounts of pure, clean water, and 3) maintenance of optimal blood sugar levels. If you can get those three things right, you’ll prevent a lot of health problems. So, this article deals with #1.

Obviously, acid-stopping medications stop your body’s production of (normal and necessary) hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach. Today I’ll talk about the consequences of those medications; which also relates to the consequences of low amounts of HCl, even if you’re not taking medication. And believe me, it is a very prevalent problem, and can easily go unnoticed because you will not always have overt digestive symptoms. Now I’ll discuss the main problems associated with  too little stomach acidity.

1) An inability to properly digest proteins will likely occur.
Proteins become denatured in your stomach which allows for their eventual complete digestion. However, the stomach must have a highly acidic pH in order to accomplish this. Lack of digestion of protein will present two main problems.
First, your body may be compromised in synthesizing neurotransmitters, hormones, antibodies, hair, skin, nails, muscle etc.. That is because all of those biochemicals and tissues require amino acids to be made. Amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein. Think of a chain with links; the whole chain would be called protein, and all the individual links called amino acids.
Second, your muscles will breakdown if you do not have adequate protein available. Muscles contain abundant amounts of protein, hence the density of protein in animal meats. So, your body will “rob Peter to pay Paul” if you are not supplying adequate amounts of protein. That is, your body will literally breakdown your muscles in order to get the necessary amino acids (protein) used in making the substances mentioned above. And you still may not make everything necessary through this route. Regardless, you will literally tear your body down. Now imagine you were strength training as well – not a good combination.

2) Proper acidity in the stomach acts as an antiseptic.
Essentially, the highly acidic environment kills pathogens. What happens if we don’t kill pathogens? Of course, we get infections of varying sorts. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, acid-blocking drugs cause an increased incidence of pneumonia. Now, there is controversy over this issue, as some studies did not find these same results. However, two researchers conducted an analysis of a number of studies and DID in fact a find an increased risk of infection with the use of acid-stopping drugs. By now though, there is probably another study refuting that and showing no effect from the drugs.

[As a quick aside – you can probably take almost any medical research study finding, then sit down on Google® for 15 minutes, and find another study that refutes those findings. That just seems to be how scientific research is. Also, it is often not possible to find out who funded a particular study. Anyway, read this on how scientific, science really is. But that story is really nothing compared to this popular story about a well-known drug company and it’s now banned deadly, drug. One more, then enough about the politics behind research.]

Regardless of whether you are susceptible enough to have these possible side-effects like pneumonia. Time and time again, I find that patients have sub-clinical symptoms that resemble gastrointestinal tract infections (and other seemingly unrelated symptoms) and can possibly be the cause of their acid-stopping medications. In particular, side-effects of some acid-stopping medications include the following: headache, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and rash. I would think of dysbiosis (or microbial imbalance in the gut) with every one of these symptoms. Additionally, About.com reports the symptoms of low stomach acid (not necessarily from drugs) as: “diarrhea, steatorrhea, macrocytic anemia, weight loss, protein-losing enteropathy, abdominal discomfort or bloating and reflux. Deficiencies in certain nutrients may result in limb weakness, memory or mood changes, numbness and tingling in the limbs or other symptoms”.

3) Reduced mineral absorption.
Most research refers to the inhibition of calcium absorption from acid-blocking drugs. Some studies report a higher incidence of hip fracture (because of low bone-mineral density); especially if these drugs are taken in high doses. Well, this clearly points out that acid-blocking drugs affect calcium utilization. You may not fracture your hip, but osteopenia and osteoporosis may certainly be a result. Also, I frequently find that abnormalities in calcium metabolism cause musculoskeletal conditions. Muscle cramps and bursitis are the most common that I see. Also, these problems can then cause or exacerbate other musculoskeletal conditions.

I hope you found this article informative. And I hope that if you or someone you know is taking one of these drugs, it had better be absolutely necessary; and other therapies to reduce the side-effects should be implemented. And please remember that you should never discontinue taking a drug prescribed by your physician without consulting with them first.

By the way, this is not a complete list of side-effects. But that’s good enough for now.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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GERD is an abbreviation for gastroesophageal reflux disease.  Mayo Clinic defines GERD as a “chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, bile flows back (refluxes) into your food pipe (esophagus). The backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD signs and symptoms”.  They also state “signs and symptoms of GERD include acid reflux and heartburn”.  And finally, “when these signs and symptoms occur more than twice each week or interfere with your daily life, doctors term this GERD”.

OK, first of all, I am completely opposed to the use of the word “disease” when referring this symptom.  According to dictionary.com the definition of “disease” is: “a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment.”  The key in this definition are the words “resulting from”.

Mayo Clinic says this about the causes of GERD: “GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux — the backup of stomach acid or bile into the esophagus.  When you swallow, the lower esophageal sphincter — a circular band of muscle around the bottom part of your esophagus — relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow down into your stomach.  Then it closes again.  However, if this valve relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus, causing frequent heartburn and disrupting your daily life.  This constant backwash of acid can irritate the lining of your esophagus, causing it to become inflamed (esophagitis). Over time, the inflammation can erode the esophagus, causing complications such as bleeding or breathing problems.”

First off, Mayo Clinic (and WebMD) make no reference to GERD “resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment”, as stated in the definition of “disease”.  So why then, is this condition labeled a disease?  Well…I’ll avoid the politics of why it may be more advantageous for certain special interest groups to label a condition a “disease”.  However, when related to a nutritional deficiency, (which I commonly find to be the cause), I suppose it’s appropriate to label it a “disease”.  Mayo Clinic and WebMD do not mention nutritional deficiencies as the cause, therefore I can’t figure out why they are still calling it a disease.  I also don’t know “who” first declared it a “disease”.

Second, it makes little sense to me that Mayo Clinic says “GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux”.  Think about that, is GERD caused by frequent acid reflux?  I would say “NO”!  GERD is frequent acid reflux, as they mention in the definition.  To me that’s like saying, your cancer is caused by cancer.  So the question remains: What causes (frequent) acid reflux?

WebMD states that the following can be causes of acid reflux:
1) Foods such as chocolate, onions, peppermint, coffee, high-sugar foods, and possibly high-fat foods.  “Alcohol, tobacco (nicotine), and some medicines can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter.”  Other possibilities are spicy, citrus, and tomato foods.
2) Hormonal changes during pregnancy that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.
3) A weak lower esophageal sphincter; no cause for that was mentioned.
4) Hiatal Hernia: when part of the stomach protrudes upward into the diaphragm.  The esophagus travels through a hiatus in the diaphragm to reach the stomach.  The “hernia” relates to the protrusion of the stomach into the esophageal hiatus.
5) Slow digestion – that is, if food stays in the stomach too long before emptying into the intestines.
6) Overfull stomach- from eating very large meals.

WebMD states the following for conventional treatments: lifestyle changes (presumably food choices); over-the-counter or prescription acid blocking drugs such as: Tums®, Pepsid®, Prilosec®, Nexium®, and Tagament®; and surgery.

Here is my approach to treating patients with stomach and heartburn symptoms.  I do NOT treat GERD (or symptoms).  I treat people.

1) Avoiding foods may be necessary, but I often (not always) do not see them as the cause of the problem.  If they were the cause, then probably most (or all) people eating those foods would develop heartburn symptoms and GERD.  Additionally, eating smaller meals, and combining foods properly can help (i.e.: no starches with proteins, high fats, or high acid foods).  But, as you know, for most people, I’m against eating starches all together – so that fixes the food combining problem.  Also, it might worth it to avoid combining fruit with anything if you suffer from heartburn or GERD symptoms.

2) Eating just before going to bed is a bad habit for a number of reasons, and I especially don’t recommend it if you have heartburn or GERD.  Also, you should not lie down within at least 2 hours after eating.

3) GET READY FOR THIS ONE – Very often, the cause of heartburn is a LACK of enough (hydrochloric) stomach acid, not too much.  The reason is because when you don’t have enough necessary hydrochloric acid, the food in your stomach will ferment.  It is then excessive acids of fermentation that cause the burning sensation, not excessive amounts of necessary hydrochloric acid.  So some conventional ideas and treatment are totally off base when treating these symptoms with antacids.  Don’t get me wrong, the medication will certainly bring quick relief, because it will neutralize the acids of fermentation also.  However, it will bring a whole host of additional problems, which I’ll be writing about soon.  Some people may in fact be making too much stomach acid, but they are very few and far between – at least from what I (and my colleagues) see in patients.  So what’s the solution – perhaps actually taking a supplement with hydrochloric acid in it.  And then, I make sure to get at the root of the problem for the low stomach acid to begin with.

4) You may to need to be checked for an overgrowth of yeast, fungus, parasites, bacteria, and viruses in your digestive tract that may compromise digestion in general and contribute to heartburn symptoms and GERD.

5) When the heartburn symptoms or GERD stem from a hiatal hernia, I can often relieve the symptoms doing simple structural adjustments.  You see, one of the hip flexor muscles (the (ilio)psoas) has a direct attachment to the diaphragm (not shown in the picture).  Often, if one them is inhibited or “weak”, the other will be over-facilitated and “tight”.  As a result, the diaphragm becomes compromised and can result in a hiatal hernia, where the stomach protrudes into the esophageal hiatus and may cause the burning sensation.  Therefore, treatment would be aimed at correcting the muscle dysfunction and adjusting cervical, thoracic, lumbar, pelvic, and/or extremity joints in order to get the hip flexors and diaphragm functioning properly.

One last thing – aberrant emotional complexes almost ALWAYS affect the stomach and digestion in general.  So you may want to consider Neuro Emotional Technique® or Emotional Freedom Techniques®.

Heartburn symptoms and GERD which cause people a lot of distress is usually very simple to correct; and it’s something I see in my patients on a regular basis.  Be very, very afraid of acid-blocking medications (unless you truly have too much hydrochloric acid in your stomach which can cause ulcers), because of the harmful problems they cause.  Again, I’ll discuss that in another article.

I’d like to make it clear that I am not saying all heartburn symptoms and GERD are a result of the problems I find.  However, it would be worth your while to have those potential problems investigated instead of taking medication.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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