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How to Treat GERD

April 23, 2003 | 34,373 views
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By Tom Cowan, MD

Medicines for stomach and upper digestive system problems are currently the largest selling medicines in the country, an amount totaling billions of dollars per year. Luckily for you and many others, this is a problem that is often rapidly amenable to dietary intervention.

Treating GERD brings up a quandary that one often encounters in the world of medicine. That is, in many cases two diametrically opposed theories may be proposed, both of them often sounding perfectly valid and, of course, both of them having their vehement proponents. Think of the low-fat versus low-carb arguments that are raging through the dietary circles of this country as an example of how two competing theories for weight loss may, at first, sound equally valid. In many cases only the actual testing of each theory will show which is the right approach.

Regarding GERD, there are also two theories that at first both sound good. Since everyone accepts the fact that it is stomach acid that causes the problem of burning, the question is why is there too much acid in the stomach? One answer could be that the person is eating too much food that "tells" the body to secrete acid. Since protein foods are what cause the stomach cells to produce acid, the therapy is simple: stop eating so much protein. Then the stimulus to produce acid will be lessened, less acid will be produced and eventually the symptoms will abate.

The competing theory states that producing acid is a natural function of the stomach in response to the eating of food--any food. In fact, the acid helps the stomach and pancreatic enzymes assume their proper form, so without stomach acid the whole digestive system is thrown off. Stomach acid is beneficial in other ways in that stomach acid kills the invading microorganisms that we inevitably ingest with our food. Stomach acid thus protects us from infections, both acute and chronic, in our GI tract.

Furthermore, the very group of people who lacks stomach acid, that is the elderly, is the group that most often suffers from GERD. So in this case, the solution is not to inhibit production by eating less protein, but rather to increase protein (and fat) consumption so as to give the acid something to do, which is to digest the protein.

Which Reasoning is Correct?

A recent study examined this very question. Much to their amazement, researchers reported that in spite of continuing to smoke, drink coffee, and other GERD-unfriendly habits, in each case the symptoms of GERD were completely eliminated within one week of adopting a very low-carbohydrate diet (about 20 grams per day). The patients were able to stop all antacids and prescription stomach medicines and this improvement continued even after they liberalized their carbohydrate intake to a more tolerable 70 grams per day.

The researchers were unable to definitively say why this had occurred but they postulated that the lower-carb intake influenced the activity of various hormones that open and close the value between the esophagus and the stomach.

By the way, this therapy is particularly appropriate for a diabetic, for it stabilizes the blood sugar.

To address the question of the long term effects of taking antacid drugs, the main problem is simply that our stomach acid is not only necessary for protein digestion, but it protects us against a variety of gastrointestinal infections. Long term blocking of this acid is a very poor strategy indeed.

I have used this low-carbohydrate approach for the treatment of GERD for many years and with many patients. I can report that it is one of the most effective interventions that I use. It is not unusual for people to report relief even within a few days. There is no longer any doubt in my mind as to which of the above theories is correct.

The Weston A. Price Foundation

What Are GMOs?

From April 19th through April 25th we launch GMO Awareness Week. We set aside an entire week dedicated to providing you with information on GMOs and labeling initiatives.

GMOs are a product of genetic engineering, meaning their genetic makeup has been altered to induce a variety of “unique” traits to crops, such as making them drought-resistant or giving them “more nutrients.” GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I've stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.

Help Support GMO Labeling

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and have labeled it a probable carcinogen.

Public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back. That's why I was the first to push for GMO labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically "lost the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.

The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from the grassroots.

Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers, and corporate giants.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

Together, Let's Help OCA Get The Funding They Deserve

Let’s Help OCA get the funding it deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and consumption. That's why I'm proud to announce I will be matching donations up to $250,000 this week.

Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.

Donate Today!


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

It is good to know that a "low-carb" diet is useful for GERD. Of course, I would modify that approach to a low- or no-grain diet as many people actually need a high-carb diet, but very few people benefit from large amounts of grain.

My new book, The No-Grain Diet, details this concept extensively.

You can also read my recent interview in Men’s Magazine on GERD for further information on this important topic.

Although H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Nexium provide impressive relief for this problem, the drugs are indeed true prescriptions for disaster, and they seriously impair your digestion.

Nexium is the worst offender, as you will learn in the article below.

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