First, the right acid reflux diet can help if you suffer from heartburn. Waking up in the middle of night, choking and coughing can be a thing of the past. That burning sensation in your throat happens when the acidic liquid of the stomach splashes backwards in the wrong direction and into the esophagus, the long tube from your mouth to your stomach.
The medical term for this condition is "gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease" or GERD. The symptoms of acid reflux include:
Taking antacids or acid reducing medications to quell stomach acid is the most common form of treatment.
The number of people with an acid reflux, heartburn or GERD diagnosis is staggering. Approximately 40% or 120 million people suffer from chronic heartburn symptoms in the US, and the number continues to rise.
The cost of treating acid reflux is truly astonishing and highlights how pervasive gastrointestional disorders like acid reflux are in the collective human health condition. In 2010, the sales of over the counter antacids like Tums nationwide topped $1.2 billion dollars and that number has only increased in 2013.
The number of prescriptions written by physicians to treat acid reflux is even more staggering. Medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are prescribed in huge numbers. PPIs are a class of drug which reduce the production of stomach acid by blocking a certain enzyme that regulates stomach acid production. Common PPI drug brand names include Nexium, Prilosec, Zegerid, Prevacid, Protonix, and Aciphex.
Nexium (esomeprazole) was the top selling drug in the world in 2012, topping even the statin drug Crestor in sales, and the total prescription bill for proton pump indhibitor drugs was over $13 billion dollars in 2010.
Clearly, something is bothering the American stomach. The conventional acid reflux diet advice includes an avoidance of alcohol and tobacco, dietary fat, chocolate, caffeine, peppermint, onions, garlic, citrus juices, and tomato products. Patients are also told to avoid lying down after meals, to sleep with the head of the bed elevated, and other physical measures, such as taking antacids and prescription medications.
But this acid reflux diet advice, as most acid reflux sufferers know, doesn't help much. Worse, the PPI drugs prescribed for heartburn have unwanted side effects. This is because your stomach acid is one of the most important players in your immune system's defense against the bacteria that you ingest along with your food.
The low pH of your stomach acid is designed to kill off the toxic germs that might be in the food or beverages you consume. Taking PPI medications that constantly neutralize or block stomach acid production interferes with your body's normal immune defenses, and this interference can result in other more serious gut problems:
Heartburn continues to top the list as a widespread health issue because the true cause isn't identified and an acid reflux diet is not included in a basic acid reflux treatment.
Research by Spechler and Souza at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center indicates that acid reflux symptoms may be a result of an autoimmune response triggered by chronic gut inflammation.
This is an important point because autoimmune attacks (in which the body mistakes internal tissues as foreign and tries to destroy them) are intimately linked to the health of the stomach and intestional tract, what we commonly call the gut.
Gut inflammation linked to food allergies leads to a condition called "leaky gut syndrome" and it opens the door for the development of other inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
So we must look at what inflames the gut, and this goes right back to the food we eat. Yes, simply, the cause of heartburn and other autoimmune health issues are a direct function of what we are eating and the proper acid reflux diet can help immensely.
The foods that inflame the gut for many people include:
These foods should be avoided on any acid reflux diet, and grain and sugar are totally eliminated on a ketogenic diet. You can see why adopting a low carb, ketogenic diet is so effective for treating acid reflux. Heartburn goes away, and for most people, all it takes is removing flour and sugar based foods from the menu. I can attest that it really does work. I suffered from GERD for years, but after switching to a low carb, no grain acid reflux diet, I no longer have any symptoms. Unless I accidentally eat some kind of wheat gluten or other grain based food, I am heartburn free.
If you are suffering from heartburn right now, and haven't implemented an acid reflux diet yet, there is also an natural alternative health product called Protexid. This product is is extremely beneficial for heartburn suffers, and has no side effects, but the FDA has blocked the market access for this product. The results of a clinical trial on Tripiradol, the active ingredient in Protexid, were published in the Journal of Pineal Research, and indicated that those who received the supplement reported marked improvement in their acid indigestion symptoms.
Tripiradol works by strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES muscle band is what prevents acid from the stomach from backing up into the throat. People with gluten intolerance have elevated levels of a gas called nitric oxide (NO) in the gut. This gas has the effect of relaxing the LES, thereby allowing stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus. The natural substances in Protexid work to tighten this muscle, which helps to keep stomach acid where it belongs. I can attest to the fact that this product works very well. If I eat too many carbs or accidentally ingest some sort of wheat gluten during the day, my GERD symptoms return. But taking Protexid resolves the issue and I am able to sleep symptom free.
The only problem is that the current version of this product is ridiculously expensive. Dr. Micheal Eades posted on this product on his blog here, and he may be offering a less expensive version at some point.
Low Cost Alternative
I've been experimenting to get around the cost issues and have discovered that for myself, there is an alternative which works. One of the main ingredients of Protexid is melatonin. I've found that at least on the mild heartburn I get if I ingest hidden gluten, I can take 1 mg of melatonin before bed, it has the same heartburn quelling effect.
In his book Heartburn Cured, Norm Robillard discusses how a high carb diet contributes to heartburn. He shares his story and other stories of people who have changed their diets and become completely heartburn free. His view (and mine) is that the best acid reflux diet is one which eliminates grains, sugar and processed, high carb foods. this kind of acid reflux diet can help the stomach lining heal, and result in a reversal or lessening of symptoms.
Dr. Stephen Wangen, in his book Healthier Without Wheat: A New Understanding of Wheat Allergies, Celiac Disease, and Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance writes that heartburn, along with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, and other digestive problems are common symptoms associated with wheat gluten intolerance.
Chris Kresser over at the Healthy Skeptic has a great series of articles here on treating heartburn. I heartily agree with his suggestions.
And here are a few more resources I have found helpful on an acid reflux diet: