The Cape Gazette features an article by naturopathic doctor Kim Furtado about healing GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, with a different mindset than the traditional pharmaceutical approach. She says that commonly prescribed drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), sold under the brand names Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix and Aciphex, treat symptoms instead of the root problem, providing relief but never healing.
These drugs often create dependency leading to long-term use, which has been linked to many disturbing side effects such as gastric and colorectal cancer, gastrointestinal bacterial infections, community-acquired pneumonia, nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, central nervous system effects including memory loss and possibly dementia, and damage to the kidneys and liver. In fact, the manufacturers of these drugs are currently facing a growing number of lawsuits from patients who developed acute interstitial nephritis (AIN), chronic kidney disease, end stage renal disease, and kidney failure after using PPIs.
Both PPIs as well as H2 blockers, another form of acid-reducing medication on the market (Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac) provide relief from acid reflux by blocking the stomach’s ability to produce acid. However, Furtado claims that this is the opposite approach to what might bring true healing to GERD patients. Our stomachs are designed to be full of acid; the problem is that we aren’t meant to feel the acid, she says. So treating GERD should not be removing the acid, but treating the reason the patient is feeling the acid.
A person feels stomach acid when it moves up into the esophagus and this can become more than merely uncomfortable, it can be a dangerous condition, leading to tooth enamel decay, coughing, asthma, wheezing, gingivitis and halitosis and even Barrett’s Esophagus, which can develop into esophageal cancer.
Furtado explains that there are two key protective measures, a thick mucus layer and a pressure gradient, which usually protect a person from feeling stomach acid or experiencing the damaging effects of its presence in the wrong place. More acid, rather than less, actually helps with the natural production of this mucus, specifically HCL acid. Also “Low stomach acid levels actually cause the sphincter muscle on top of the stomach to relax, allowing what little stomach acid there is to reflux and cause heartburn,” said Furtado.
Furtado mentions that stress causes a decrease in HCL production as well as a reduction in the pressure gradient at the esophagus base. Minimizing stress can help the body to naturally protect against acid reflux. She also notes that with age, coffee consumption and poor diet stomach acid levels decline and increasing stomach acid to healthy levels can heal the body naturally, allowing its protective mechanisms to function as they should.
She lists some supplements that can aid in healing GERD symptoms such as Betaine HCL, Deglycerinated licorice, Digestive enzymes, and Marshmallow, slippery elm, plantain, aloe and other demulcent (soothing) herbs. However, before taking supplements she suggests working with a naturopathic doctor to evaluate for food allergies, or doing an elimination diet watching to see if symptoms improve when certain foods are removed from your diet. Foods to look out for include dairy products, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, caffeine, peppermint, fatty foods and alcohol. She also recommended for those with GERD symptoms with a hiatal hernia trying Chiropractic visceral manipulation.
The Cape Gazette