A guest post from functional medicine doctor and SPS Thrive partner, Dr. Brett Baxter.
Many people struggle with acid reflux, but few people understand why. Acid reducers, like Pepcid-AC, Axid and Zantac are very commonly prescribed to patient with dyspepsia, AKA “acid reflux.” Symptoms include: burning in throat, fullness after meals, bloating, gas, etc.
I’ve found that many patients I talk to also don’t realize that acid reducers were intended for short term duration – less than two weeks. Chronic suppression of stomach acid due to long-term use of the reducers leaves you susceptible to infections, increased food sensitivities or intolerances, and nutritional deficiencies.
Functional medicine uses a combination of history and lab testing to identify what is really causing your acid reflux. And the really good news is that it is possible to have a healthier gut without the use of antacids!
Here are the three of the most common reasons we see that drive acid reflux.
- Bacterial overgrowth in the stomach or intestines – H. pylori or other bacterial overgrowths are often a cause of acid reflux and can be tested for in the stool or by using a breath test. Once the culprit is identified, we can eliminate the bacteria and the symptoms will dissipate. Typical symptoms of bacterial overgrowth include: stomach pain, burning, or aching 1-4 hours after eating, excessive belching, bloating, gas immediately following a meal, offensive breath, difficult bowel movements, sense of fullness during and after meals, difficulty digesting proteins and meats and undigested food found in stools
- Food sensitivities– Without a blood test, food sensitives are difficult to identify due to patients eating a wide variety of foods and the potential food reactions can occur anytime within three days of consumption. At our office we can run a food sensitive panel (blood test) and identify what foods are really causing the patient problems. With one quick and easy blood sample, specialized labs can test your blood against 96-186 different food antigens and really provide a black and white picture of what is truly causing you issues. Some of the most common foods correlated with dyspepsia are grains, histamine producing vegetables, dairy, and eggs.
- Low levels of Hydrochloric acid (HCl) – hydrochloric acid is essential for protection against pathogenic microbes and the breakdown of food within the stomach. We see great improvement, almost immediately, when we increase a patient’s HCl who had the following symptoms prior to treatment: excessive belching, burping, or bloating, gas immediately following a meal, offensive breath, difficult bowel movements, sense of fullness during and after meals, difficulty digesting proteins and meats and undigested food found in stools.
Acid reflux is more than just a nuisance. It can be a painful, even life-altering problem. But, it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you’re experiencing it, talk to a functional medicine doctor. Find out if one of these three reasons could be the problem you’re dealing with. From there, you can find a path to a long-term solution so you can be free from it!