GERD, which is short for “Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease” is also known by other common names: “Acid Reflux” or “Reflux.” GERD affects an estimated 1 in 4 Americans, according to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Why Do We Produce Stomach Acid?
Our stomach needs to secrete stomach acid so that our body can use the food we ingest. This is done via digestive enzymes. Digestion for certain foods, such as starch and sugar, begins in the mouth. When we eat, our stomach needs enzymes to perform this process, which include enzymes called proteases. Protease enzymes are needed for digesting proteins, which are found in many types of foods, including vegetables, grains and certain types of starch.
All enzymes require a specific pH (acid/alkaline environment) in order to work optimally. Our protease enzymes require a very acidic, or low pH environment. HCL, also known as Hydrocholoric Acid, is secreted to provide the right environment for our protein digesting enzymes to work. It’s important to note that hydrochloric acid itself does not digest protein, only protease enzymes do. The acid merely creates an optimal working environment needed for these enzymes to operate.
Digestive Capability and Aging
According to Nobel Prize Finalist, Ronald K. Schneider, as we age our ability to synthesize all enzymes, which includes our protein digesting enzymes, decreases by roughly 8-10% percent for every decade past puberty. For example, if we assume puberty ends at 20 in an individual, then when she reaches the age of 60, she will have roughly 40% less digestive capability than when she was 20. This means we are unable to breakdown and assimilate our food, which means we become more nutrient deficient as we age due to insufficient enzymes. Another complication of incompletely broken down foods in our digestive tract is that they end up in the blood lending to the creation of harmful plaque, uric acid crystals and can cause our cells to stick together. Also, incompletely digested foods that end up in the blood can end up feeding an environment that is opportunistic to parasites such as harmful bacteria and yeast. We feel this in a number of ways, such as with bloating, gas, fatigue, joint pain, poor circulation, all stemming from enzyme deficiencies as a key root of the problem.
So Why Do We Overproduce Acid?
Because our ability to make enzymes decreases with age, we can experience a stomach acid conundrum from enzyme deficiency. We are still eating the same types and amounts of enzyme deficient foods that we did when we were younger; this rapidly expires our finite supply of enzymes. This forces our stomach to produce higher amounts of stomach acid, in order to recycle the smaller amounts of protein digesting enzymes that we are still able to produce. Our body responds to protease enzyme deficiency by secreting larger amounts of acid to keep our digestion working to the best of its ability. When we have sufficient amounts of protease enzymes, our stomach doesn’t have to produce large amounts of acid.
How Heartburn connects to “GERD”
Heartburn is typically associated with insufficient stomach acid, and appears when we are incompletely digesting our foods, mainly proteins, which are allowed to ferment in our stomach. The fermentation process releases gas, which is forced up into our esophagus. There are additional nutrient deficiencies with heartburn, but enzymes are needed to completely digest fermenting foods in order to correct the problem.
Acid Containing Foods Do Not Cause Reflex!
A commonly held erroneous belief is that when we eat acid containing foods, such as citrus fruits, which contain ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), that this will trigger Reflux. This is not true, because when acid containing foods are digested, they leave behind an alkaline ash due to their mineral content, not acid ash, provided we are eating a whole food. The triggers of reflux have to do with insufficient stomach acid needed to digest proteins in foods. Citrus fruits can play a role in Reflux but for different reasons. When a citrus fruit is eaten within hours of a previous meal that was poorly or incompletely digested, the already strained digestive system has become overloaded. This is because the fruit has strained the digestive burden by adding to a pile of incompletely digested food (containing protein) that is sitting in our stomachs or upper small intestine. The is an excellent example as to why so many different types of foods can appear to trigger reflux, and why this can vary widely from person to person, but the underlying fix is still the same.
Conventional Approaches Fail to Address the Cause
The conventional approach to Reflux requires the use of over the counter (OTC) antacids such as TUMS, or prescribed proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, Prevacid and Zurcal, or stomach Histamine antagonists such as Tagamet, Zantac and Pepcid. These serve to shut down stomach acid to take away the symptoms of indigestion.
When we force the shut down of stomach acid, we set ourselves up for serious long- term complications, in addition to poor digestion. Stomach acid provides an initial barrier that kills pathogens that we ingest, such as harmful bacteria, which we ingest on a daily basis. Low stomach acid also sets us up for stomach ulcers, which are partially caused by the H. Pylori bacteria, which can survive in low stomach acid environment.
We need stomach acid to completely digest our proteins, and proteins are used not only to build important tissues such as muscle, but also used to run thousands of processes in the body such as making antibodies required for a healthy immune system. Poor protein digestion due to low quantities of stomach acid contributes to frailty and/or insufficient muscle mass for a person’s size. When we fail to completely digest protein, it can end up in our blood, which congests our cells, and can see this under a microscope. This in turn leads to a low oxygen environment, which can leave us fatigued. Stomach acid is also required to ionize, or put into a usable form, all of our metal-based minerals such as zinc, boron, iron, manganese and many more required for good bone, brain, and organ health. Medications that suppress stomach acid can result in a person suffering from poor bone quality and bone loss, as well as many other deficiencies and health problems.
What’s the Fix?
It is clear that reflux is related to enzyme deficiency. Often, when people are unsuccessful with enzyme supplementation, this is related to the quality of the enzymes being used. We also need to look at the entire patient, not just the reflux issues. Enzymes must be able to be activated in a wide range of pHs, but especially an acidic pH.
When quality enzymes are introduced, we typically see the problems associated problems clear up in 6-9 days. Most people start seeing a change in 2-3 days. In our office, we have a series of tests that determine how effectively you are breaking down, absorbing, and eliminating what you eat. By working with blood analysis, you can see if there are debris in your blood that are not only a symptom of overall digestive issues, but how our enzyme protocol can help clean this up and reduce the strain on your digestive system. This can help your digestion, and stomach acids, operate the way they did when you were younger.
American College of Gastroenterology
Dr Mehmet Oz – silent reflex epidemic
Breakthrough (medical) procedure provides relief for Acid Reflux