GERD (gastroesophegeal reflux disease) afflicts many people in our country and is a hot topic of healthcare with many products on the market both pharmacological and over the counter to treat the disease. There are also many folk remedies and differences in philosophies on the best way to treat it depending on who you talk to: a naturopath, chiropractor, or medical doctor. However, there are certain symptoms that go along with GERD that go unnoticed by many allopathic doctors such as sore throat, tonsillitis, laryngitis, sinus infections, bronchitis, asthma, bad breath or tooth decay that can be traced back to the source of the problem, the stomach and improper digestion.
I first want to help you understand what GERD is. Before it was GERD it was heartburn and before that it was indigestion. It is all saying the same thing you are not digesting the food you are eating. When you eat food it goes from your mouth down the esophagus to the stomach where the bolus of food mixes with a very acidic mixture of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes to start denaturing proteins and chemically breaking the food that you ate into smaller parts so as it moves down to the intestine it will be ready for further processing and absorption.
Many people believe that GERD or heartburn is actually caused by the body producing too much acid in the stomach and that acid now starts to work its way up your esophagus causing the burning. In reality it is not the acid that your body is producing that causes the heartburn, but actually a lack of acid being produced by the body so you don’t have enough acid in your stomach to break the food down completely. That mixture of the milder acid and the food now starts a process of semi-digestion that causes putreficaiton of the bolus of food in your stomach, which gives off an acidic gas that moves up your esophagus, irritating the lining of the esophagus and causing heartburn. It is not the liquid acid your body produces that moves up the esophagus; that would be some amazing liquid, defying the laws of physics and gravity.
Now that you understand what shout out loud, smack you in the face GERD is, lets talk about silent GERD. Silent GERD is a term I use to explain how indigestion will affect tissues of the upper part of the larynx, bronchioles, and sinus cavities, mouth and teeth. It is silent GERD because you don’t have the heartburn pain that is most commonly associated with GERD. What you have is acidic vapors moving up the esophagus and into your throat where tissues that are not as strong as your esophagus like the tonsils or the mucous membranes of your sinus cavities become affected. This is now the weakest link in the chain so you wake up with a sore throat, sinus congestion, or a cough. Naturally you think you have been exposed to some foreign invader attacking your body when really it was your own body letting you down and not digesting the food you ate the day before properly.
The next big question that you need to ask is why are you having reflux, loud or silent? Like I stated above you are having reflux because you are not digesting the food in your stomach properly because of a lack of hydrochloric acid (HCL). Here are a couple reasons why your HCL production could be down. First off you may have a food allergy you are not aware of. When your body releases histamine due to an allergen it also releases extra fluid from the cells to help dilute the toxin so your body can flush it out of your system faster. Think about the person with seasonal allergies and the weepy eyes and runny nose, the body is trying to push those toxins out, The same thing is happening in your digestive tract when you have a food allergy and your body dilutes the acid in your stomach and reflux occurs. Wheat/gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, nightshades, yeast and soy are very common allergens found in the standard American diet (SAD).
The second most common problem is your body is low in B vitamins, which are essential in the production of HCL, and you loose the ability to produce the acid that you need. B vitamins, specifically B1, are used up primarily in the digestion of simple carbohydrates, aka sugar. An overconsumption of sugar or highly refined carbohydrates will have a great affect on your bodies physiology and specifically its ability to regulate your acid base balances and the production of acid for digestion. When you feel the sugar craving come on its to late, you have to be proactive in eating more protein, and more complex nutrient dense foods throughout the day so as not to let your blood sugar crash causing your sugar cravings to go up.
To treat the reflux if you already have it, instead of using Tums or Prilosec or other acid reducing medications which are just putting a wet blanket on the fire and not helping you to digest your food any better, you need to actually add more acid into the stomach. The traditional remedy for reflux was adding raw apple cider vinegar to the diet. 2tsp mixed in water 2x/day can work miracles. However sometimes that is not strong enough and supplementation of betaine hydrochloride becomes necessary, as well as occasionally adding digestive enzymes along with the acid in tough cases. It is still most important to figure out which foods are causing the most havoc in your system.
Proper body chemistry and pH balance starts in your stomach and your digestive tract. To be healthy you must maintain healthy digestion and if you have symptoms of sore throats, sinus infections, asthma, breathing problems, dental problems and tooth decay the reason for this and the solution to make it better will all be linked to your digestive system.
Dr. Phil Cameron DC is the owner of the Bozeman Wellness Center. He is a Chiropractic Physician and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He treats every patient as an individual and strives to help each patient Live Healthy, Live Naturally, and Live Optimally. Visit www.bozemanwellnesscenter.com for more information.