Reflux is NOT Caused by Too Much Stomach Acid
GERD: Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disorder
Many of us have experienced reflux, yet most of us don’t really understand what it is. We assume that it’s a result of too much stomach acid, maybe triggered by acidic foods. That’s true for some people, but for most it’s quite the opposite.
It’s almost never because of too much acid!
GERD is usually just a result of acid in the wrong place, and it’s often actually triggered by insufficient acid!
Think about it. Most of us have a messed-up balance of bacteria in our gut, usually because of low levels of healthy gut bacteria. This is especially true for people with Candida overgrowth.
Something most people don’t know is that bacteria actually help to make a more acidic environment in the gut. Without sufficient gut bacteria, we will naturally not have the robust amounts of acid needed to digest our food.
How does this apply to GERD?
Well, we need a robust supply of stomach acid for a few reasons, including:
To kill pathogens that we might ingest
To digest protein and fiber
To close the esophageal sphincter (the valve between the esophagus and the stomach)
What does a robust supply of stomach acid have to do with closing the esophageal sphincter?
This valve is relaxed and open when we’re not digesting food. But when we eat a meal, stomach acid increases. The increased stomach acid triggers the esophageal sphincter to close, so that stomach acid doesn’t accidentally travel up the esophagus. It only opens to let food in, then it closes back up. This is how it works when we have robust amounts of stomach acid.
When we don’t have enough stomach acid to trigger the esophageal sphincter to close as we digest, something happens that’s not supposed to happen. The stomach is working to digest food, churning and applying bile and enzymes and the little stomach acid that it does have. Things are moving around in there and splash up into the bottom of the esophagus. That’s GERD.
Causes of reflux
- Combination of not enough stomach acid and magnesium deficiency
So, we’ve got the low stomach acid explanation above. Now think about this: Magnesium helps muscles to relax. If we are deficient in magnesium, the pyloric valve (the valve at the bottom of the stomach) might tense up and not allow food to travel out of the stomach. So, if we’ve got insufficient stomach acid and low magnesium, we’ve got an open esophageal sphincter and a closed pyloric valve. That’s exactly the opposite of how things should be and will cause reflux.
Stress can cause the esophageal sphincter to relax and the pyloric valve to tense up, pushing acid up the esophagus. Relaxation techniques can help with that.
- H. Pylori
H. Pylori is a common bad bacteria that can infect the intestines and sometimes causes an ulcer and reflux. Testing and treating for H. Pylori often takes care of reflux symptoms.
- Food sensitivities
Food sensitivities (commonly to dairy and wheat) can cause inflammation in the gut along with reflux.
- Bacteria overgrowth, low bacteria, or imbalanced gut bacteria
Basically, if your gut is messed up, that can cause reflux.
I’ll discuss next week what can be done about these common causes of reflux.
A dairy sensitivity usually causes post nasal drip and also reflux.
It’s time for you to be your own health detective here.
If you have post nasal drip and reflux, consider that dairy sensitivity might be causing them. (Keep in mind that there may be multiple causes too)
You might want to try completely giving up dairy cold-turkey for the next 2 weeks. See what happens. And keep in mind that one bite of cheese or one drip of milk can trigger a sensitivity.
For the test to be reliable, you must completely abstain from dairy. You might be surprised at the results!