I hope your 2020 is off to a great start! One of the things I wanted to do more of in 2020 is learn. Whether it’s learning about my faith, health, cooking, etc. I just want to be someone who is always willing to learn new things.
Although I am not in a position, financially, to go back to school with the Nutritional Therapy Association – I didn’t want that to limit my learning.
So, I looked through a sample reading list for their Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program and I decided to pick up a book I thought was particularly relevant to me, “Why Stomach Acid is Good For You“, by Dr. Jonathan Wright.
My chronic illness journey started with GERD, LPR, and gastritis issues and I thought this book would be particularly helpful for me to read. So, I thought I’d share my notes and a short synopsis of what the book had to say.
The Reflux Epidemic
If you’ve ever struggled with heartburn or acid reflux, you’ve probably been under the impression that it’s a result of excess stomach acid….
…and why wouldn’t you believe that?
With the existence and availability of over-the-counter drugs like Tums, Prilosec, Pepsid, Nexium, and SO many more whose sole purpose is to reduce, neutralize, or shut down stomach acid production, what other conclusion would there be?
Dr. Jonathan Wright tells a different story with the science and first-hand patients he has seen in the Tahoma Clinic in Tukwila, Washington.
With 60 million people experiencing heartburn every month (and 25 million every day), there is something vastly wrong with the way we are living in America right now.
Are over-the-counters like Prilosec (one of the top 10 most prescribed drugs in America) supposed to be a helper or hindrance in this reflux epidemic?
How the Upper GI Tract Works
Those of us with reflux have been taught to fear stomach acid.
One of the things Dr. Wright stresses in this book is the importance of stomach acid and the role it plays in digestion.
Digestion starts with the mouth. When we chew, saliva moistens our food to more easily break it down. Once we swallow that food, it travels down our esophagus. At the end of our esophagus, there is a “flap” that opens to let food in our stomach and it tightens up to protect acid from jumping back up into our esophagus. This “flap” is called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (or the LES).
Once the LES opens and food passes into the stomach, stomach acid does its work.
Nutrients like peptide and amino acid components of proteins, minerals (iron, copper, zinc, and calcium) as well as B12, and folic acid all depend on adequate stomach acid for their digestion and absorption.
Stomach acid does this by optimizing the gastric pH and triggering Pepsin, a natural digestive enzyme. Without enough stomach acid, we can’t absorb the amount of nutrients in food that we need to thrive. As we all know, malnutrition is very bad and can lead to anemia, depression, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, and so much more. Wright, J. (2001). Why Stomach Acid is Good For You. Lanham, MD: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
When we’re not producing enough Pepsin, proteins that may “escape” digestion by Pepsin can make their way into the bloodstream. The body reacts with hostility to foreign proteins in the blood/tissues and the immune response goes off. T cells, B cells, and antibodies come to the rescue… to eliminate what it thinks is an infection and THIS is how we can develop food allergies. Wright, J. (2001). Why Stomach Acid is Good For You. Lanham, MD: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
Crazy stuff, huh?
So, basically, stomach acid is an essential part of digestion and us being able to absorb vital nutrients we need to survive and thrive.
So WHY on Earth do antacids and similar drugs exist to destroy a vital role in our digestion?
While there are certainly a number of cases where excess stomach acid can be the culprit of symptoms like reflux, Dr. Wright believes that the majority of reflux cases are actually caused by low stomach acid.
He supports this point by pointing to acid secretion with advancing age. According to a 1984 study, stomach acid declines with advancing age. (Adapted from K. Krentz et al., 1984)
It makes common sense when you think about the amount of discussion older folks have about their bathroom habits. It’s because their stomach acid levels are decreasing! But if EXCESS levels of stomach acid is what conventional medicine and antacid commercials are telling us is the cause behind reflux, why aren’t kids and teenagers experiencing it?
And why are patients with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) also shown to have staggering numbers that reveal low low stomach acid? Given the science and my own personal experience with these digestive disorders, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together.
But while knowing low stomach acid is likely the cause behind most reflux cases, it still doesn’t stop the intense suffering that comes along with it. Thankfully, Dr. Wright provides some insightful tips on how to treat issues like heartburn and reflux naturally.
Causes and Tips
Before trying any sort of protocol or supplement to relieve or treat gastritis and reflux symptoms, it is VITAL that you receive the help of a medical professional. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.
It’s important to work with a medical professional because it’s important to first establish your medical history and understand what is really going on with your digestion.
For example, the first test your doctor will probably want to run to determine your stomach acid levels is a Heidelberg Test.
This will allow you to test (and not just guess) what’s really going on with your stomach acid levels. This is important to know because one of the major causes of reflux is low stomach acid.
- LES malfunction
- Excess nicotine or caffeine
- Unrecognized food sensitivities and allergies
Here are some natural remedies and supplements that can help to relieve gastritis/reflux in individuals.
- HCl (artificial stomach acid)
- Digestive enzymes
- An elimination diet (to identify food sensitivities or allergens)
- Herbal bitters
- Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)
- Gastromend-HP (A blend of DGL, zinc-carnosine, and mastic gum)
- L-Glutamine (Here’s the blend I use.)
- Turmeric or Curcumin
- Fresh Ginger
- Probiotics (Here’s my FAVORITE probiotic that actually works.)
- Mastic gum
And in extreme cases, when those supplements and diet changes don’t do the trick, Dr. Wright recommends a surgery called a gastroplication (now you’d have to get a LINX reflux management system) or fundoplication.
There are more and less invasive options as far as surgery goes, but that is definitely more of a last-resort option when everything else isn’t working.
Reading this book was like searching for answers your entire life and finally hearing someone say something that makes 100% complete, logical sense.
I’m saddened to know this information isn’t made as publicly available in the conventional health world as it is in places like the Tahoma Clinic, where Dr. Wright works, but I am hopeful that with the rise of those struggling with reflux and chronic illness, it means a rise of individuals advocating for better healthcare.
If you struggle with GERD or reflux in any way, I’d highly recommend giving this book a read. I couldn’t even get into ALL of it because there was SO much information, but I promise it’s definitely worth your time.
What do you think? What has helped your GERD or reflux? Have you heard any of this before? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Looking for a functional doctor or a second opinion? Find one here.