If eating creates a burning sensation in your chest, or find yourself coughing and clearing your throat; these may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition commonly known as acid reflux occurs when the valve at the end of your esophagus becomes relaxed or weak and does not close properly when food enters your stomach. As a result, the acidic contents within the stomach may flow back up into your esophagus and mouth causing irritation and tissue damage over time, not to mention a sour (and disgusting) aftertaste in your mouth.
GERD is actually very common. The condition and its symptoms impact a huge number of people—up to 20% of the United States population. Typically, GERD most often affects individuals who:
Are over 40, overweight or obese
Have poor eating habits, like overeating or eating before bedtime
Overconsume “irritating” foods, like dairy, spicy foods or fried foods
Take certain medications
Experience prolonged stress
Have a history of asthma or a hiatal hernia
This exhaustive list encompasses almost everyone, right? Well, let’s not forget individuals who are pregnant may have too much pressure in the abdominal area, which also leads to GERD. In fact, some pregnant women may experience heartburn almost daily because of this increased pressure.
Symptoms of GERD
The most common symptom of GERD is “heartburn,” which is indigestion or a chest sensation after eating. This may be accompanied by:
Sore throat or hoarseness in voice
Regurgitation or vomiting
Frequent coughing or repeated clearing of the throat
Bad breath and poor dental health
Tiredness and poor sleeping habits
What About PPIs
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are widely prescribed drugs for GERD to help keep symptoms at bay. This class of medications is designed to block enzymes and reduce the secretion of acid in the stomach. However, individuals are often placed on PPIs for an extended time and can have long-term consequences due to low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria), which may include:
Inability to properly break down protein
Lowered vitamin B12 absorption
Decreased vitamin C synthesis
Impaired mineral absorption (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron)
Changes in your microbiome (good bacteria in your gut)
So, as an informed participant in your healthcare options, you should know that getting off these medications is not as simple as it sounds. In fact, PPIs can be one of the hardest medications to stop taking, testing your patience as well as that of your practitioner. These medications can be addictive, physiologically but also psychologically, as individuals often cling to them for a sense of security against the very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. If there is one thing you need to know, it is that the longer you take PPIs, the harder it is to get off the medication.
With that in mind, restoring normal function and reversing nutrient depletion after a person has been treated with PPIs for an extended period is often marked by successes and setbacks. Because compliance is paramount for getting off a PPI, it must be a gradual process guided by your practitioner, giving you the confidence, education, and clinical support required to succeed. Gradually reducing or tapering treatment has achieved better success compared to abrupt cessation, and a gradual approach may allow for adaptation within your stomach cells to help curb acid production comfortably. Quitting PPIs cold turkey is not a viable option, and it may take several months to see progress on that front.
A Better Solution
In the meantime, we offer a comprehensive repair and restoration program with targeted supplementation support using functional medicine principles. This program can help make a positive impact on reducing your GERD symptoms as well as enhance the absorption of the vital nutrients you require for sustenance and overall well-being. GERD and PPIs can be a complex issue. We have seen all types of cases in the practice and would be happy to talk to you more about this or your gut health in general. Learn more about our various GI programs here.
Together, we can rule out all the possible underlying causes while working to improve your diet and explore treatment approaches.