Nothing ruins a great meal more than a bought of heartburn. It’s that awful burning sensation you feel in your stomach, chest or throat that makes you want to reach for an entire bottle of Tums. For nearly 30% of the population, this happens on a regular basis as they suffer from a chronic condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD.
In my practice, I see a lot of patients who complain about heartburn. As a Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor, my job is to not just accept their symptoms, but to actually figure out what is causing their suffering? While the answers can vary from one person to the next, here are the 5 most likely causes;
1. Dietary causes and food sensitivities
When it comes to acid reflux there are some foods, which are universally problematic such as:
Tomato based foods
A diet high in refined carbohydrates
Other less commonly known foods can be uncovered through either an elimination diet or running a food allergy blood test.
2. Lifestyle Factors
Having a large belly increases pressure on your stomach and pushes the contents up.
Eating right before lying down will cause regurgitation of the stomach contents up.
Hiatal Hernia: a weakness in part of the diaphragm muscle that results in a portion of the
stomach structure protruding up into the chest.
4. Bad Bacteria
If you have been on a lot of antibiotics, hormones or have a lot of sugar in your diet, you may unfriendly bacteria in your stomach.
H-pylori a specific bacterial infection affecting 25% percent of acid reflux sufferers. Either a blood test or a breath test can be run to detect the presence of these bacteria. Treatment targeted at eliminating this infection provides great relief for acid reflux sufferers.
5. Low Stomach Acid
Yes, you read that correctly. Contrary to what you would think, significant percentage of people who suffer from acid reflux actually have too little stomach acid.
Although it is certainly the most common approach, acid-reducing medication is not the key to solving this problem. It may provide immediate symptom relief, but in the long-run blocking acid production will cause problems. Stomach acid is absolutely necessary to properly digest food, keep the bad bacteria from growing and is required to absorb nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamin B12. So before you reach for a bottle of pills, remember that the key to solving this problem isn’t taking medication, its actually finding the cause. If you suffer from GERD, a functional medicine approach is the best way to treat your underlying problem.