3 Steps to Improve Reflux Naturally
Since you have already read my article on how low stomach acid, or hypochlorhydria, causes the symptoms of reflux (heartburn, sore throat, coughing, etc), we will now discuss how to improve digestion and increase stomach acid naturally. If you have not read the article, you may want to catch up, so you understand the physiology behind this new “radical” treatment approach.
How Reflux and Heartburn Develops
Now that we know you have acid outside the stomach, we need to work on keeping the acid where it belongs: inside the stomach.
In the low stomach acid scenario, I am suggesting that we can correct acid reflux symptoms by increasing the stomach acid thus allowing it to properly go down into the intestines instead of up into the esophagus.
We keep stomach acid inside the stomach by increasing acid levels, restoring the mucous lining, and improving the quality of food entering the stomach.
Increasing Acid Levels
I understand that this idea sounds bizarre and outrageous, but if you understand the physiology, it begins to make sense. So, here’s the thought process on healing and restoring digestion.
Since the stomach is not making enough acid to digest the food, we need to supplement the stomach with more acid in order to decrease the pH, making it stronger. You can do this with a product called Betaine HCl. It may not surprise you to find out that HCl stands for Hydrochloride. The HCl interacts with water and turns into hydrochloric acid, the same substance your stomach uses to breakdown food. Adding acid when eating your meal improves the speed of the chemical breakdown of food and lowers the stomach to the correct pH or level of acidity. When this occurs, the pylorus opens, accepting the stomach contents with wide open arms. Once stomach acid is moving down appropriately (instead of up), acid reflux symptoms improve.
A note of caution, not everyone’s stomachs are prepared to increase the stomach acid, so if you add Betaine HCl and develop burning, you need to immediately stop and consult a functional medicine physician. You need to repair before you can increase acidity.
Restoring Mucous Lining
The stomach is a very acidic environment. In fact, if you stuck your finger in the acid, you wouldn’t like the sensation. So, how does the stomach create an acidic environment without digesting itself? Great question! It protects itself from its own acid by creating a mucous lining above the cells. This prevents the acid from touching the surface of the stomach. When the mucous lining wears thin, you can irritate the lining of the stomach and develop gastritis (inflammation) or ulcers. When this happens, it is a good idea to neutralize the acid with stomach acid reducers while restoring the mucous lining. There are several supplements that may be used to repair the lining:
Licorice (deglycyrrhized), Aloe Vera, Marshmallow root extract, and Slippery elm bark to name a few.
Once the lining is restored, the mucous layer can be produced, and the stomach tissue is relieved now that it’s not being scorched by the acid.
Improving Food Quality
Food quality and nutrient composition greatly affects the functions of the stomach. It affects both the stomach acid intensity and mucous layer quality. Food sensitivities and allergies can cause immune system activation into the stomach and esophagus. Eosinophilic esophagitis has been on the rise in the past decade due to food sensitivities and allergies. Discovering food irritants with an elimination diet or a structured meal plan can help uncover hidden food irritants.
As the lining of your stomach strengthens with the improved nutrition, your stomach will be able to handle more difficult meals in the future. After all, you probably weren’t born with acid reflux. It developed over decades of improper eating habits.