Heartburn and GERD are caused by too little stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and intestines. There are three steps to treat heartburn and GERD without drugs and keep them from returning.
- Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid
- Replace stomach acid, enzymes, and nutrients which aid in digestion
- Restore good bacteria and healthy mucous lining in the gut
1. Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid
A low-carb diet reduces bacterial overgrowth. A very low carbohydrate diet was just as effective as acid suppressing drugs keeping acid out of the esophagus. Obesity increases pressure in the abdomen and causes dysfunction in the lower esophagus, so a low-carb diet is also effective for promoting weight loss. Once you have recovered to normal digestive function, a diet low to moderate in carbohydrates should be enough to prevent a recurrence of symptoms.
Fructose and artificial sweeteners have been shown to increase bacterial overgrowth. Sweeteners should be completely eliminated and fructose should be reduced. Fiber binds with nutrients and remove them from the system before they are absorbed. H. pylori is normal in the digestive tract with protective and health-promoting roles.
2. Replace stomach acid, enzymes, and nutrients which aid in digestion
Hypochlorydria occurs in over 90% of patients, so replacing stomach acid with HCl supplements is almost always successful. Take capsules that contain pepsin or acid-stable protease because it is likely that if the stomach is not producing enough HCl, it is not producing enough protein digesting enzymes. If there are no problems after 2-3 days, increase the dose to two capsules before a meal.
Another way to increase acid production is by taking bitter herbs, which stimulate and improve digestion. Bitter herbs include dandelion, fennel, ginger, hops, and peppermint. Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, sauerkraut, and pickles also relieve the symptoms of heartburn and GERD, although they do not increase nutrient absorption that HCl supplements do. Replace the nutrients not absorbed by taking supplements of B12, folic acid, calcium, iron, and zinc.
3. Restore good bacteria and healthy mucous lining in the gut
Probiotics are effective in reducing bacterial overgrowth and changing fermentation patterns in the small bowel. They also treat Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other digestive conditions. Fermented milk products like kefir and yogurt offer more benefits than good bacteria alone, including minerals, vitamins, fats, and antimicrobial agents. If dairy doesn’t work for you, try making water kefir, fermenting sugar water or juice into carbonated lacto-fermented beverage. Another option is eating non-dairy sauerkraut and pickles and/or drinking kombucha. Not all probiotics are the same, and some can make things worse.
Homemade bone broth soups are effective at restoring a healthy mucous lining in the stomach because it is rich in collagen and gelatin, which benefit people with ulcers. Licorice is proven to treat gastric ulcers as well as Tagamet or Zantac with fewer side effects and no acid suppression. It promotes mucous secretion, stabilizes cell membranes, and stimulate new cell growth, which lead to a healthy gut lining.
In some cases, the entirely natural approach is not enough, and may require a surgical procedure called “gastroplication” which repairs the esophageal valve. Drugs don’t address the underlying cause of the problems and could make them worse. Acid stopping drugs promote bacterial overgrowth, weaken infection resistance, reduce nutrient absorption, and increase development of other digestive disorders. They should not be taken for more than six weeks. Drug companies make more than $7 billion a year selling acid suppressing medications. Patients need to learn how to treat heartburn and GERD without these drugs.
Kresser, Chris. “Get rid of heartburn and GERD forever in three simple steps.” Chris Kresser: Let’s take back your health, 21 Apr 2013. Web. 30 Oct 2014.