What to do about GERD?
A friend recently asked me what she could do about “Indigestion.” I found very helpful information on this subject in my Naturopathy class. There are plenty of other ways to deal with this, so here is one more way to look at this digestive disorder. The term “Indigestion” is used to describe a feeling of fullness. Many factors can be blamed for indigestion, including not only increased production of acid but also degreased acid and other digestive and enzymatic factors.
The pH range for the stomach to operate optimally is 1.5 to 2.5. Hydrochloric acid would be the primary stomach acid. The use of antacids will commonly raise the pH level to above 3.5. This will hamper the action of pepsin, an enzyme necessary for protein digestion. Which will have exasperating effects on the stomach. Consequently, the symptoms will be reduced by antacid use, hydrochloric acid and pepsin are indispensable in the digestive process. If they are not allowed to flourish, protein digestion and mineral division will not occur. Change in pH could produce a change in gut microbial flora, including the overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori. Therefore use antacids very wisely and only sparingly.
The problem could actually be, as believed by many nutrition oriented physicians, not too much hydrochloric acid, but rather a lack of it. It would make a lot of sense to enhance digestion rather than inhibit digestion by use of antacids.
Reflux esophagitis, (a.k.a. GERD, indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux disease) usually occurs by overeating causing gastric juices to flow up the esophagus. Other common causes: obesity, cigarette smoking, chocolate consumption, fried foods, soft drinks, alcohol, coffee. They either increase pressure, causing gastric juices to flow upward, or decrease the character of the esophageal sphincter. First and foremost would be to take preventative steps by simply removing the cause.
Chronic indigestion could probably be treated by putting 4-inch bricks under the bedposts to elevate the head and reduce the back flow of gastric juices.
Hypochlorhydria, or decreased gastric acid release, where achlorhydria refers to a complete absence of gastric acid release, have been associated with a good many diseases like Asthma, Chronic Autoimmune Disorder, Celiac Disease, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, Addison’s Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Eczema, Gallbladder Disease, Graves Disease, Hepatitis, Chronic Hives, Lupus Erythematosis, Myasthenia Gravis, Osteoporosis, Pernicious Anemia, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Rosacea, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Thyrotoxicosis, Hyper-and Hypothyroidism, Vitiligo. (1)
The best way to diagnose lack of gastric acid is the Heidelberg test. Another way of establishing gastric acid insufficiency is via Hydrochloric Acid Supplementation. This works by taking a tablet of 10 grains or 600-mg of hydrochloric acid at the next meal. Should this dose not aggravate any symptoms one should at every meal of the same size increase the amount of tablets. One at the first meal, two at the next, three and so forth. A number of tablets need to be taken throughout the meal.
The dose should be increased, one tablet at a time, not to exceed seven, until one feels some warmth in the stomach. This feeling means that one has taken too many tablets for that meal and one needs to take one less for this size of meal the next time. The larger dose should be tried at the next meal, to make sure that it was the hydrochloric acid that caused the warmth.
After the largest dose for a specific meal was established without feeling any warmth in the stomach, this dose should be maintained at all meals of similar size. Less of course should be taken with smaller meals.
As your stomach regains the ability to produce the hydrochloric acid needed for optimal digestion one will feel that warm feeling again and will have to cut down the dose level.
(1) Murray M. ND., Pizzorno J. N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised 2nd Edition, (1998), Three Rivers Press, New York, NY