a 3 minute read – By Dr. Christopher Lepisto

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the common experience of heartburn, pain and belching when stomach acid sneaks its way uncomfortably up into the esophagus. GERD is a predominantly Western cultural phenomenon, with a full 27.8% of the US population affected and a concerning increase in younger men aged 30-39. Untreated, it can result in a hiatal hernia when the stomach begins to slide upward through the diaphragm and over time creates a pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. Curiously, it could be one of the great paradoxes identified by naturopathic medicine, that the cause is almost always a DEFICIENCY of stomach acid. This goes in the face of a conventional approach, which would have us use anti-reflux medications like Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix and Prevacid in order to suppress acid function. Teasing out the story behind GERD reveals a pattern of stress effects on the body.

Decreased acid production causing GERD does not initially make logical sense. Looking closer at the stomach reveals that the upper esophageal sphincter (valve between the stomach and esophagus) requires a hefty production of hydrochloric acid (HCl) in order to get the signal to properly close. When we eat food, the parietal cells of the stomach release HCl until we get down to a whopping 1.5-3.5pH (sulfuric acid is pH 2.75), signaling the valve to close. Suppressing stomach acid with anti-reflux meds will temporarily relieve the discomfort of GERD but does nothing to treat the underlying cause. To do so requires deeper investigation.

Stress (or more accurately, perceived stress) is the major contributor to GERD because all sources of stress (based on nutrient deficiencies, medication effects, food allergies, difficult emotions like anger, anxiety, fear, etc.) on the body will cause a decreased production of HCl in the stomach. This means that enough acid will be produced to cause symptoms, but not enough to ensure proper digestion. And therefore, using antacid medication of any kind ultimately works in the opposite direction of recovery, unless someone has a true stomach ulcer and requires such acid suppression.

Instead, I obtain a thorough review of the entire picture of someone’s health with GERD, only then creating a custom and tailored treatment plan to promote healthy digestion by addressing the causes of body stress, by encouraging natural enzyme production and by soothing and healing the irritated digestive tract. I may utilize proper nutrition, replacement of identified vitamin or mineral deficiencies, herbal therapies, supplemental enzymes or special stomach-adjusting techniques (known as visceral manipulation) performed in my office or in the comfort of your own home.

Give me a call and I’ll give you a hand towards nipping reflux in the bud, helping you feel better naturally with less pain and more food choices.

Dr Lepisto