What exactly is Acid Reflux?
Even though heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably, heartburn is actually one of the symptoms of having acid reflux.
Let’s briefly break down how it works:
The sphincter between your stomach and esophagus does not have full control, sometimes allowing acid from the stomach to make its way up into the esophagus, leading to the feeling of heartburn. (For a more detailed anatomy breakdown of the digestive tract, head over here).
GERD causes acid reflux which causes symptoms such as heartburn and ulcers.
For the sake of this article, we will discuss acid reflux in relation to heartburn as described above.
So, how does your esophagus’ sphincter relate to the gut? Well, we will get to that. We promise.
Case Study of One on Gut Health and Acid Reflux Symptoms
Have you ever felt so hopeless that you’re convinced NOTHING will be able to change that perspective? Well, let me (Taylor) tell you a bit about a time in my life when that was exactly how I felt.
The summer going into my sophomore year of college, I was absolutely miserable. I had signed on for second-semester chemistry for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks and was working almost constantly the rest of my spare time.
Don’t get me wrong I absolutely ADORE my job, but a hectic schedule like that had me eating not so healthy things, because it seemed so much easier and I had that “you only live once” mentality going on, but I digress.
What I didn’t know was that:
- I was creating an extremely acidic environment in my stomach
- I was feeding the yeast in my gut exactly what it needed to thrive, essentially killing any potentially good bacteria that could help regulate my digestion, immune system, and pH
- I was creating the perfect environment for a bacterial infection of H. pylori
This perfect storm gave me the most debilitating acid reflux and subsequently heartburn. It literally felt as though holes were being burned into my esophagus and it hurt to breathe.
These symptoms had me running to the doctor, where they discovered the H. pylori. They placed me on a 14 day round of amoxicillin, clarithromycin, and a proton pump inhibitor.
I thought all would be well after those 14 days, but I was wrong.
Only a few days after I finished my antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors, the acid reflux came back with a vengeance. It wasn’t quite as bad as before, but it still had me clinging to tums for relief.
I began to look to my diet (a little late, am I right?)
I changed my diet to more alkaline foods hoping that this would bring my stomach and gut pH back to normal, I am a scientist after all. This change helped reduce the acid reflux, but never truly rid me of the heartburn nuisance.
The secret I wasn’t clued in on quite yet, was that one round of antibiotics can wipe the good gut bacteria out for over a year. This is the moment that I felt hopeless and I decided that I would just have to live with it for the rest of my life.
For almost nine months, I “lived with it.” But then my sister came to me with a few gut health products (probiotics and prebiotics) and said, “take these, don’t fight me on this.” I was a skeptic, I mean, what does gut health have to do with heartburn? I was convinced nothing would help, nothing would fix it. Fast forward two months and I was acid reflux and heartburn free…um, WHAT?
So, how did beginning the journey to heal my gut help me get rid of my acid reflux? How could a couple of bottles completely change my outlook on health?
Well, here’s how:
- I began to kill off the detrimental candida yeast that was overgrowing in my gut, because of all the “real estate” up for grabs since killing off my good bacteria with the antibiotics (read more about dysbiosis here)
- I started flushing the yeast from my gut, making room for the good bacteria to grow and thrive
- I was then restocking the good bacteria in my gut
- I was reducing the inflammation in my body through the magic of the good, healthy gut bugs I was providing myself
- I was providing my body with magnesium which is actually essential for the sphincter of the stomach to release (and close properly)
How to Use Your Guts to Battle Acid Reflux (And Win)
Beyond what I did and my own little case study of one. Here is the science behind how common treatments such as proton pump inhibitors do not actually get to the root of the problem (since the gut controls the pH of the stomach) and why probiotics can actually be more effective in treating chronic heartburn than any brand of antacids out there.
Proton pump inhibitors and antacids only help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux through temporarily reducing the acid in the stomach and blocking the production of acid in the stomach.
Proton pump inhibitors have actually been shown to wreak havoc on the microbiome through altering the balance of bacteria in the gut. (If you are new to gut health, learn here why the microbiome is your most important body part.)
Additionally, antibiotics have been linked heavily to gastrointestinal dysbiosis and disorders. I mean, as you can only imagine why. Antibiotics cause damage to the good bacteria in the gut as well as the bad.
So, if one should not use antacids, proton pump inhibitors, or antibiotics to reduce acid reflux symptoms, what is effective?
If you have been with us any length of time, you will know we swear by the use of not only probiotics, but prebiotics to heal the gut lining, bolster the immune system, and rid ourselves of pesky ailments such as constipation, yeast overgrowth, and yes, even acid reflux and heartburn.
But, if you are new, head over to our articles on prebiotics and probiotics to learn more.
The key to truly beating acid reflux is to not only assess your diet but to supplement properly in order to allow the bacteria in your gut to do their work to the best of their ability.
Supplements for acid reflux should include:
- Magnesium for sphincter control as well as consistent bowel movements (this is the brand we use and recommend)
- Digestive enzymes to kill off bad bacteria and create room for good bacteria
- Probiotics to capitalize on the new space in the gut lining (this is the brand we use and recommend – it is digestive enzymes and probiotics in one!)
- Prebiotics to feed the good bacteria and allow the probiotics to thrive (this is what we are currently using and loving as it also helps with blood sugar and hormone balance – it’s an all-around body win)
As always, this takes time but coupled with other lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, you can get rid of acid reflux for good!
We know that creating lasting change can seem daunting at first. Learning about gut health and how to heal the gut lining is not always as simple as eating more veggies. So, as always, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.
If you want to schedule a one on one consultation, we would be honored to help you reach your health goals. Just follow this link. We cannot wait to meet you!
Until later, love your guts, love others, and do good.