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Heartburn and Acid Reflux Syndrome

By admin | In Nutrition | on December 20, 2011

This may or may not be a picture taken at an Intrepid party...

Chris Kresser posted about common misconceptions about heartburn and severe acid reflux syndrome (otherwise known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD). The myths surrounding these causes and treatment are perpetuated by the multi billion dollar pharmaceutical companies that profit from average joes looking for a solution.

More than 60 million prescriptions for GERD were filled in 2004. Americans spent $13 billion on acid stopping medications in 2006. Nexium, the most popular, brought in $5.1 billion alone – making it the second highest selling drug behind Lipitor.

Unfortunately most of the medication out there, be it over the counter or prescribed, only treat the symptom and not the cause. They provide momentary relief while the underlying cause goes unsolved but as long as you keep refilling their meds, that’s no concern of theirs. First off, the misconception that too much stomach acid is the cause of GERD cases is unfortunately incorrect. Almost everyone diagnosed with this syndrome has low stomach acid. The problem occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens when it’s not supposed to:

The LES normally opens wide to permit swallowed food and liquids to pass easily into the stomach. Except for belching, this is the only time the LES should open.

If the LES is working properly, it doesn’t matter how much acid we have in our stomachs. It’s not going to make it back up into the esophagus. But if the LES is malfunctioning, as it is in GERD, acid from the stomach gets back into the esophagus and damages its delicate lining.

Here’s the key point. It doesn’t matter how much acid there is in the stomach. Even a small amount can cause serious damage. Unlike the stomach, the lining of the esophagus has no protection against acid.

What causes the LES to open? Increased intra-abdominal pressure brought on by “bacterial overgrowth and maldigestion of carbohydrates.” Research also shows that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may also be caused by bacterial overgrowth.

So, the more undigested carbohydrate you have in your gut, the more hydrogen gas bacteria will produce. The more hydrogen gas is produced, the more bacterial overgrowth will occur. And the more bacteria you have in your gut, the more gas will be produced by fermentation of undigested carbohydrate. This becomes a nasty vicious cycle.

What can you do to treat heartburn and GERD?

  1. Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid: Limit your carb intake to good paleo/primal carbohydrate sources such as greens, veggies, roots/tubers (sweet potatoes), and fruit. Avoid sugars, particularly fructose, which can contribute to bacterial overgrowth.
  2. Replace stomach acid, enzymes and nutrients that aid digestion and are necessary for health: often times, bitter herbs, or “bitters,” can dramatically aid in digestion.
  3. Restore beneficial bacteria and a healthy mucosal lining in the gut: sauerkraut, keffir & greek yogurt, bone broth, and other sources of good bateria that aid in digestion.
For more info or to geek out on the topic, check out Kresser’s entire collection of articles on the subject: Part I, II, III, IVa, and IVb.

WOD 12.09.11

Deadlift 1×5 or Wendler

21-15-9
Overhead Squats
Pull Ups
Box Jumps

7 Comments to "Heartburn and Acid Reflux Syndrome"

  • Tom says:

    December 20, 2011 at 6:50 AM -

    Holy CRAP!! All the food in that picture looks so much better than the, um a well CRAP, that they’ve been eating here. I miss my CFI Homies quite a bit….

  • Tom says:

    December 20, 2011 at 6:51 AM -

    What I meant to say was “that they’ve been feeding me here.”

  • avelyne says:

    December 20, 2011 at 8:51 AM -

    We miss you too Tom!

  • Amanda says:

    December 20, 2011 at 10:34 AM -

    Miss you Tom!!!

  • Anna says:

    December 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM -

    Not pictured: 7 (almost) paleo varieties of chili! Give us some credit!

    Miss you foolery!!!

  • Xuan says:

    December 20, 2011 at 1:46 PM -

    BOOOOOOOTYYYYYYYYYY!

  • Michael H says:

    December 20, 2011 at 2:38 PM -

    Oh that table is full of goodness!

    Tom hope all is well out there!

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