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Stop the Burn

Acid Reflux: Causes and Cures

By Dr. Leo Galland, M.D., and Jonathan Galland

CBN.com What is stomach acid for? You need stomach acid for digestion of protein and absorption of minerals like calcium and iron. Stomach acid is also essential for preventing the growth of bacteria and yeast in your stomach.

Drugs that reduce stomach acid are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the United States. Although these drugs can be effective at relieving symptoms like heartburn and abdominal pain, they may have serious long-term side effects. In addition, heartburn is almost never caused by an excess of stomach acid. The problem occurs when the stomach acid ends up in the wrong place, coming up into the esophagus instead of remaining in the stomach.

Regular use of acid-suppressing drugs is associated with increased risk of hip fractures, probably because of impaired calcium absorption. Taking acid-suppressors may increase the risk of acquiring a food-borne intestinal infection or experiencing the overgrowth of bacteria in the stomach and small intestine. Overgrowth of bacteria in the stomach probably explains some other risks generally associated with regular use of acid suppressors, including vitamin B12 deficiency, stomach cancer, and pneumonia.

Understanding GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) causes inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis). With GERD the contents of the stomach flow backward up the esophagus and may reach all the way to the mouth. Symptoms include heartburn, regurgitation of food, sore throat, hoarse voice, and cough.

Although acid suppressors are commonly prescribed, GERD is not caused by excess production of acid. It is caused by failure of the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach (the LES or lower esophageal spincter valve). This valve is usually closed and opens only for swallowing, so that it keeps the stomach contents out of the esophagus. Because acid is among the most irritating components of stomach juice, reducing the acid may reduce the irritation. But acid suppression doesn’t prevent reflux; it merely converts acid reflux into non-acid reflux.

Nutritional Alternatives

The cause of reflux is the inappropriate opening of the LES and the usual cause of that is excessive fullness or distension of the stomach. The following may help reduce GERD:

    • Eat relatively small meals, frequently. This decreases stomach distension.
    • Avoid very high fat foods. They directly weaken the LES.
    • Avoid cigarette smoking and limit coffee, chocolate, and alcohol. These directly weaken the LES.
    • Don’t eat for 3 hours before lying down. When you’re upright, gravity works with you.
    • Lose weight. Being overweight increases your risk of GERD.
    • Don’t eat just before strenuous exercise. Strenuous exercise increases the tendency to GERD.
    • Avoid foods that you know cause symptoms, until you’re better. So-called “acid” foods, like oranges and tomatoes, do not cause GERD, but they may irritate an already inflamed esophagus.

There are two natural products that we use at home when heartburn strikes. The first is a digestive enzyme, Absorbaid, which helps speed digestion, allowing the stomach to feel less full. The second is Calcium Citrate, which can help soothe the burning feeling associated with heartburn.

For a free one-day meal plan and recipes, visit  www.fatresistancediet.com.

Copyright © 2007-2008 Renaissance Workshops Ltd.  Used by permission.


Dr. Leo Galland is a board-certified internist who received his education at Harvard University and the New York University School of Medicine. He has held faculty positions at New York University, Rockefeller University, the State University of New York, and the University of Connecticut.  Interviews with Dr. Galland and articles about his work have been featured in Newsweek, Reader's Digest, Self, Bazaar, Men's Fitness, The New York Times,  The Washington Post, and many other publications. He has written three highly acclaimed popular books, The Fat Resistance Diet, Power Healing, and Superimmunity for Kids.

Jonathan Galland is a health writer for newspapers, magazines, and major news Web sites. He is frequently interviewed as a weight loss and health expert on the radio and has appeared on Martha Stewart Living Radio. His work has been featured on the cover of Fitness, Glamour, and Women's World and in publications such as The Washington Post, Body and Soul, Self, and The Wall Street Journal. Jonathan is co-author of The Fat Resistance Diet, with his father Leo Galland, M.D. Their book has been translated and published in Italy as La Dieta Galland and in Japan as Dr. Galland’s Metabolic Diet.

This article is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice or counseling, the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, the creation of a physician-patient relationship, or an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any third party product or service by the sender or the sender's affiliates, agents, employees, or service providers. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.

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