Episode 66: Burn, Baby, Burn: What To Do If You Have Acid Reflux

In this episode, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni are discussing heartburn and other symptoms of acid reflux. With the extra stress of the pandemic over the past year, you might be experiencing acid reflux and not even know it. Find out what factors can cause reflux or make it worse, why you want to avoid long term use of antacid medication, and what lab tests and effective natural treatments are available. 

Symptoms of Acid Reflux:

  • Burning pain in your chest
  • Regurgitation of food or liquid
  • Chronic cough
  • Wake up with sore throat regularly
  • Difficulty swallowing or feeling a lump in your throat

Sometimes acid reflux progresses to a more severe form of reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, where heartburn or other reflux symptoms are experienced two or more times a week.

What happens if you don’t treat it? 

Over time, chronic inflammation in your esophagus can cause:

  • Narrowing of your esophagus (esophageal stricture)
  • An open sore in your esophagus (esophageal ulcer)
  • Precancerous changes to your esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus)

Why does acid reflux happen?

When you swallow, your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach. If your LES relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus. 

Factors that can aggravate acid reflux:

  • Low stomach acid
  • Eating large meals or eating late at night
  • Pressure in your stomach from weight gain or pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Microbiome imbalance like H. pylori and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Hernia or connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
  • Medications like bisphosphonates for osteoporosis, NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen and motrin, antibiotics like tetracycline and clindamycin
  • Food triggers can include:
    • Alcohol, coffee, tea, carbonated drinks
    • Spicy foods, tomatoes and tomato sauces
    • Chocolate, citrus, garlic/onions
    • Fatty and fried foods
    • Peppermint

Testing to consider if you have acid reflux:

  • H. pylori breath, blood or stool test 
  • SIBO breath test
  • Endoscope with biopsy
  • HCl challenge 
  • Cortisol testing in saliva or urine
  • Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis

What can you do about acid reflux?

Typical medical treatments include antacids, histamine blockers, and proton pump inhibitors. While these are generally safe for short-term use, taken over the course of weeks they can interfere with nutrient absorption and have other side effects.

Tums contains calcium carbonate, as well as several artificial colours, mineral oil, sucrose and talc.

Antacid medication like Zantac (ranitidine) can cause multiple nutrient depletions, including vitamin B12 and D, calcium, iron, zinc and folic acid. 

Proton pump inhibitors like Nexium (esomeprazole) or Pantoloc (pantoprazole) can cause multiple nutrient depletions, including vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc, folic acid, magnesium

and probiotics. 

Recent studies regarding the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors have noted several adverse effects including: 

  • risk of fractures
  • Pneumonia
  • Clostridium difficile diarrhea
  • chronic kidney disease
  • dementia

Natural treatments for acid reflux include:

  • Avoid food triggers
  • Eat at least 3 hours before bed and sleep propped up if needed
  • Chew your food well and eat while sitting down, calm and relaxed
  • Avoid drinking water while eating
  • Support your stomach acid production and digestion with apple cider vinegar, bitter herbs or betaine HCl supplementation with meals
  • Nutritional and herbal supplements like D-limonene, DGL, slippery elm, marshmallow root, melatonin
  • Almonds have been shown to help tone your LES
  • Manual/visceral therapy by trained osteopath, physiotherapist, naturopathic doctor

This Week’s Mama Must Have: 

Dr. Toni was inspired by Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed in Episode 57 to make sugar free hot chocolate with chocolate Paleo protein powder by Designs for Health sweetened with stevia. 

Dr. Lisa loves her diffuser for essential oils like black spruce, wild orange, grapefruit, lavender to support her mood and focus.

Dr. Toni’s next HypnoBirthing info session for expecting parents looking for increased calm, confidence and comfort during labour and birth is March 29th. Join her at https://www.hypnobirthingcalgary.com/register

Dr. Lisa’s Wild Mama program starts in April! Learn more: SIGN UP for the free 30-min info session on Wednesday, March 31st at 10:30am!

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Stay safe and healthy everyone!