Research & Education

Is it Really Acid Reflux?

Let's take a closer look at the use (or overuse) of proton pump inhibitors and the dilemma they create by not addressing the real root of the problem. Proton pump inhibitors are often prescribed for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  GERD whose symptoms include chest pain chronic cough sleep disturbances and hoarseness is characterized by too much stomach acid production causing it to reflux into the esophagus. Treatment with proton pump inhibitors is used by many in order to suppress acid secretion in the stomach.

But proton pump inhibitors may not be the solution. Why?  Well we typically do not produce more hormones insulin and enzymes as we age. The truth is that most body processes decrease as we age. Most people suffering with symptoms of acid reflux or GERD may actually be experiencing hypochlorhydria or too little acid which is when the stomach is unable to produce adequate amounts of hydrochloric acid (HCL).

People with low stomach acid levels commonly have symptoms of gas bloating flatulence 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 the insufficient HCL production. The small intestine does not want whole proteins; instead it needs the amino acids from the broken down proteins. This faulty digestive process is associated with low not high hydrochloric acid. These acids backflow into the esophagus causing the pain we know as acid reflux.

The barrier that prevents HCL from traveling from your stomach up into your esophagus is called the esophageal sphincter. The cause of this sphincter dysfunction is inadequate levels of HCL. Since normal acid levels help prevent infection in your gut as well as enhance absorption of vitamins and minerals supplementation with betaine HCL will help to support these normal acid levels.

Additional supplements may be needed to improve digestive function such as probiotics and glutamine. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a soothing herb which helps relax the esophageal sphincter and protects the gastric mucosa and mucous membranes lining the digestive tract.

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori is a major cause of gastritis. The nutrients mastic gum methylmethionesulfonium zinc carnosine and vitamin C address both eradication of H. pylori and the healing and protection of inflamed mucosal tissue.

Natural treatments offer a more effective approach than what is provided by proton pump inhibitors. In addition proton pump inhibitors can induce several nutrient deficiencies including calcium potassium and magnesium. They also may cause serious neuromuscular and cardiovascular problems and increase the chance of hip fracture in people over 50 years of age. 

by Michael Jurgelewicz DC DACBN DCBCN




The Annals of Internal Medicine November 17 2009 Volume 15.

Long-term Proton Pump Inhibitor Therapy and Risk of Hip Fracture.Yang Y MD Lewis JD Epstein S Metz DC. JAMA. 2006; 296(24):2947-2953.

Too Hard to Stomach: The risks associated with antacids might outweigh the potential benefits they offer. Joseph Esposito DC. Chiropractic Economics: Issue 18- November 13 2012. p. 17-19.