• Dr. Caroline Ricker

Burning Desire to Get Rid of Acid Reflux? We bet you're doing all the wrong things!

It’s 2:00 am and you’re trying to sleep. You went to bed at 11:00 pm feeling exhausted, but just moments after you laid down it started. The burning feeling moving up your chest, the coughing, that gross taste in the back of your mouth. It seems like no matter what position you lay in, nothing helps it get better. You roll over, crunch through a handful of Tums and hope that it will be enough to let you sleep.

If any of this sounds like you than you might be suffering from GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), but can we talk about why you might not be receiving the relief you’re looking for?

Traditional treatments for GERD are very often targeted at relieving the symptoms of the disorder, like burning, belching, acid in the throat etc., without actually trying to find the cause of the reflux. These drugs are often aimed at reducing stomach acid so that there is less acidity to go up into the esophagus.

Sounds simple, except we need to think about the consequences of reducing our stomach acid. The reason that we have this in our tummies in the first place is to help us to digest food. If we reduce the amount of acid that we have in the stomach, then we reduce our body’s ability to properly digest our food which can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as other digestive symptoms from sending poorly digested food down through our intestines.

There are other side effects to these drugs that go along with the decreased acid and mal-absorption such as bone loss (osteoporosis) that can lead to hip or other fractures, pneumonia and stomach infection. These meds have also been known to cause gas, bloating, constipation and muscle spasms. Gross.

There is one other MAJOR reason that taking a drug to reduce stomach acid is an issue. Studies show that up to 95% of cases of acid reflux or heartburn are actually due to LOW stomach acid, not higher acid contents.

Say what?!

You might be wondering how in the heck having lower acid in your stomach could possibly lead to you having acid reflux. I’m with you, it sounds completely backwards. Which is why modern medicine has got it so wrong with their treatments. The fact is that having lower acid content in our stomach causes a cascade of miscommunications that leads to acid up the esophagus.

Got you curious? Here’s how it works.

There are a few different reasons that low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) can lead to heart burn.

So first let’s talk sphincters. At the top of your stomach, you have a sphincter called the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) that is generally supposed to close down once food is in the stomach to prevent the contents from regurgitating back up into the esophagus. This sphincter may not properly close for two main reasons. The first being what is known as a hiatal hernia. To avoid an anatomy lesson, this basically means that your stomach is coming up through your diaphragm causing the contents to be pushed up through the LES. The second cause is the low stomach acid. The LES is designed to remain closed when the acidic contents of the stomach reach a certain level. If this level is never reached due to low stomach acid then the LES may not close appropriately.

The second reason that lower stomach acid leads to heartburn is due to bacterial imbalance. Studies show that when you have too little acid in your stomach it can quickly get taken over (as well as the small intestine) by bacteria coming up from the colon. This bacteria while healthy in the colon, causes overgrowth issues and imbalance that lead to a number of the digestive symptoms listed above, heartburn being one of them.

The last thing to look at is the enzymes. Along with our stomach acid, we also have digestive enzymes in the stomach to help break down food. Generally when the stomach has a lower production of acid, it is a problem with the health of the stomach also causing a reduction in the enzymes. Not having these enzymes leads to further indigestion and stomach/bowel problems.

How do I know if my stomach acid is low?

Here are some other signs that you might be dealing with lower stomach acid: stomach bloating, nausea taking supplements, burping, upset stomach, burning, gas, diarrhea, weak finger nails, iron deficiency or anemia, intestinal infections, undigested food in the stool.

There are a number of other medications that also lead to low stomach acid/heartburn including (but probably not limited to) NSAIDS (pain killers), asthma meds, beta blockers, birth control, diazepam, antibiotics and nicotine.

The best thing to do is to find a doctor near you who can help you test your systems to see what is necessary to get your stomach back on track and have you digesting properly. Once this happens, we see symptoms of GERD/heartburn disappear quite quickly. It is important to address consistent GERD sooner rather than later since there can be nasty consequences to having acid constantly getting into the esophagus. Addressing the issues fast will have you sleeping better in no time!!

More questions? Contact us! We’d love to hear what else you’re wondering!

Whole Health & Wellness

10807 Big Bend Road

St. Louis, MO 63122

P: (314) 269-3847


Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.