Many patients complain of acid reflux or heartburn and get prescribed proton pump inhibitors to reduce their body’s natural acid production. Unfortunately, these antacid medications may not be solving the problem.
Proton pump inhibitors are commonly prescribed for gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD) where contents of the stomach pass into the esophagus. Patients complain of chest pain, chronic cough, sleep disturbances, and hoarseness. GERD is caused by too much acid production by the stomach causing it to reflux into the esophagus. Therefore, treatment with proton pump inhibitors is to suppress acid secretion from the parietal cells of the stomach.
Are proton pump inhibitors an effective solution to these patients’ symptoms?
We must first think back to basic logic about human physiology and how our bodies work. Does the body normally produce more hormones as we age? No. Does the body produce more insulin as we age? No. How about immune function? No. Digestive enzymes? No.
The reality is that most of bodies’ processes are reduced as we age. The majority of people suffering with acid reflux or GERD are most likely are suffering from too little acid called hypochlorhydria, which is the opposite of the current theory of reflux being caused by too much acid.
People who have low stomach acid levels commonly have symptoms of chronic gas, flatulence, bloating, and constipation or diarrhea. This low acid environment slows digestion. The protein in their food sits in the stomach and putrefies instead of digesting. The sphincter between the stomach and small intestine delays opening because the protein is not properly broken down into peptides due to inadequate amounts of hydrochloric acid. The small intestine does not want whole proteins, it needs the amino acids from the broken down proteins. This faulty digestive process is associated with low acid, not high hydrochloric acid. These acids trickle up the open door into the esophagus causing the pain called acid reflux.
The barrier that prevents acids from traveling from your stomach up into your esophagus is called the esophageal sphincter. The cause of this sphincter dysfunction is inadequate levels of hydrochloric acid. Normal acid levels help prevent infection in your gut and enhance absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. Supplementation with betaine HCL will enhance the normal acid levels of the stomach.
Additional supplements may be needed to improve your digestive function are probiotics and glutamine. Natural treatments offer a more effective level of care than what is provided by proton pump inhibitors. Proton pump inhibitors are ineffective in infants and can induce several nutrient deficiencies in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. In addition, they can cause serious neuromuscular and cardiovascular problems and increase the chance of hip fracture in people over 50 years of age.
Hypochlorhydria can be identified on a comprehensive metabolic blood profile by a functional medicine doctor. Are you ready to make a change to get healthy? Are you ready to start a personalized treatment plan that works without the use of pharmaceutical drugs? To learn more about our functional medicine program or to schedule an appointment, please call (304) 263-4927 today. Dr. Terry Chambers is a Board certified chiropractor and acupuncturist, licensed in WV, and trained to perform functional medicine.