Daily Digestive Enzymes Help Reverse Damage Caused by GERD
8 minute read
A large number of people experience daily heartburn and acid reflux. For some of these people, the problem is more serious than just an occasional occurrence. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD occurs in 20% of adults daily or weekly.
With the association to acid reflux, people think GERD symptoms are caused by excess acid production. The truth is that the culprit is actually reduced acid production caused by bacterial overgrowth. The solution is one that not many expect and is more effective than any over the counter medications commonly taken.
What is GERD?
The symptoms of GERD come from acid flowing backwards from the stomach to the esophagus. The delicate tissues in this area are easily damaged by the corrosive acid, which is why we feel pain. Given the close proximity of the esophagus to the heart, the term heartburn was born. In reality, GERD has nothing to do with the heart at all. Over time, this repeated exposure to acid can cause serious damage and diseases, including cancer.
If the delicate tissues of the esophagus become scarred as a result of acid exposure, narrowing of the tract occurs. Not only can swallowing become painful and difficult but other complications can arise. Long term symptoms left untreated can cause chronic coughing, esophageal cancer, and Barrett's esophagus.
If you know what to look out for, you can potentially catch GERD before it is too late and get treatment. The most common symptoms of GERD to look out for include:
♦ Bitter taste in your mouth
♦ Dry mouth
♦ Bad breath
♦ Regurgitation of acidic foods
♦ Bloating after meals
♦ Excess gas
♦ Hiccups that are difficult to stop
♦ Chronic throat irritation
♦ Difficulty swallowing
♦ Unexpected weight loss
The typical medications prescribed or sought out for GERD are antacids, H2 blockers, and PPIs (proton pump inhibitors). The purpose of antacids is to nullify the excess acid in the stomach, acting immediately.
H2 blockers are designed to last longer and work by stopping the production of your natural stomach acid (hydrochloric acid). Lastly, PPIs work in a similar fashion, only they target the enzyme that triggers acid production.
These three commonly used treatments all have one thing in common; the assumption that our symptoms are caused by excess acid. While they may provide relief from the symptoms, the underlying cause of GERD is being ignored.
Ignoring the true causes leads to permanent damage to the digestive tract, increasing your chances of developing serious diseases. If medications are not adequately addressing the situation, this leaves us all wondering, what exactly can be done?
The Three R's
Bacterial overgrowth occurs when our natural bacterial community is out of balance. Illness, stress, poor diet, and reliance on antibiotics cause our beneficial flora numbers to decrease. When this happens, pathogenic strains are able to take over.
This bacterial overgrowth causes the reduction in stomach acid, which triggers GERD symptoms. Successful treatment goes beyond the conventional methods previously discussed and lies within the three R's; reduce, replace and restore.
Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth: Bacterial overgrowth suppresses stomach acid production; bacteria thrive on undigested carbohydrates. A low carb diet can therefore help by not leaving excess materials for bacteria to process.
Additionally, the addition of digestive enzymes to the diet can help speed up the digestion of carbohydrates, which means by the time food reaches the intestine, there is nothing left for bacteria. Without the extra food, harmful bacteria are not able to flourish.
Replace stomach acid: Enzymes are necessary for proper and efficient digestion. With age and illness, our natural stores of enzymes become depleted and digestion falters. If stomach acid levels are low, increasing enzyme intake can help pick up the slack.
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down food and the process starts in the mouth with saliva. If the majority of your food is digested before it reaches the stomach, there are fewer requirements for a lot of acid.
Restore beneficial bacteria: The overgrowth of bacteria has been identified as the culprit behind GERD. With enzyme supplements the digestion process has been given some much needed support, providing your body the opportunity to address the problem.
Adding probiotic supplements to your diet increases the number of beneficial flora in your gut, thus restoring the balance. Gradually, the pathogenic strains will be cut down to a manageable number and your gut will again be healthy. With bacterial balance restored, GERD symptoms will fade away.
Enzymes and GERD
Enzymes work on your food from the stomach all the way through your digestive tract, breaking food down into smaller particles. Enzymes are also responsible for enhancing the emptying of the stomach. The more efficiently and quickly your stomach empties, the quicker waste can be removed.
When waste builds up as with constipation, pathogenic bacteria are given the opportunity to feed and colonize in your gut. The additional enzymes protect your gut from ever getting the chance to become overrun with these strains.
Heartburn is one of the more common symptoms for GERD sufferers. The pain is caused by the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Most people will reach for their antacids to relieve the pain. These are effective to an extent by tightening the valve between the stomach and the esophagus.
Enzyme supplements can also be useful as they deactivate some of the pepsin in our body. Pepsin is a stomach enzyme that helps with digestion but is responsible for that upward surge of contents into the esophagus. Including a blend of digestive enzymes to your diet, either before or during a meal, has been shown to help prevent heartburn.
The Bottom Line
There are a number of reasons why people have digestive issues because the process itself is a complicated one. Enzymes are required every step of the way from food being eaten all the way through to expulsion. Our pancreas is responsible for producing most of the enzymes that we require, but over time, sources get depleted.
Certain diets, such as high protein diets, require extra enzymes for breakdown and in general, people do not consume as many natural enzyme sources as they should. The result is an exhausted pancreas and lowered enzyme potential.
As we have seen, low enzyme levels in the body can contribute or worsen GERD symptoms, as well as other digestive problems. Once we understand that our natural sources can become depleted with age, diet, and illness, we can choose to take supplements.
Daily enzyme supplements will provide support to our pancreas and keep digestive processes running smoothly. Even if you are not experiencing digestive troubles, it won’t hurt to start an enzyme regimen because your pancreas can only do so much, and the more support it gets, the better.
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