Are You Feeling The Burn?

I’ve had a lot of patients contact me for help with their symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux lately.  Since this is an incredibly common digestive issue, I thought this would be a great topic to discuss in more detail.

First of all, let’s clarify the difference between ‘heartburn’ and ‘GERD’.  Heartburn can be a symptom of GERD, and is not its own separate condition.  GERD stands for “gastroesophageal reflux disease” and refers to a digestive disorder whereby stomach acid moves back into the esophagus.  The stomach has a valve that is supposed to block this back flow; but, when this valve doesn’t close properly, acid is able to irritate the esophagus.

When someone develops GERD they will often experience heartburn, but people can develop a variety of other symptoms.  If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it could be a result of GERD:

– Heartburn or burning in the chest, abdomen, or throat.
– Abdominal pain
– Chest pain or tightness
– Voice hoarseness
– Sore throat
– Bad breath
– Burning mouth or tongue
– Bloating and belching
– Chronic cough
– Difficulty swallowing
– Regurgitation of food
– Sensation of a lump in your throat

The symptoms of GERD will typically occur after your meals, especially with larger portion sizes and certain food triggers.  People often experience GERD symptoms when they are sleeping, resulting in waking frequently, disturbed sleep, and coughing at night.

When patients try to manage their GERD symptoms on their own, they will often use over-the counter antacid medications.  When you visit your doctor with GERD symptoms, you will almost always be prescribed a Proton-Pump Inhibitor medication.  All of these medications are aimed at reducing your level of acidity and sometimes they can manage symptoms well.  However, I’ve noticed that these medications do not work well for many patients, and they are left with no other options from their doctor.  For patients who have managed their symptoms with long-term use of these medications, there’s also a concern about side effects and nutrient deficiencies due to these drugs.

One of my other concerns with these medications is that, even if they manage your symptoms well, they are likely not addressing the root cause for your symptoms.  There are many different causes for GERD, which is why we take the time to assess, identify, and treat these causes for each patient.  Below is a list of possible causes for GERD:

– Helicobacter pylori
– SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth)
– Hiatal hernia
– Alcohol
– Hyperchlorhydria (too much acid production)
– Hypochlorhydria (too little acid production)
– Obesity
– Pregnancy
– Smoking
– Some medications
– GERD trigger foods (more on this below).

In my experience, patients will often have several foods that are responsible for their GERD symptoms. Some of the most likely food triggers are the following:

– Alcohol
– Carbonated beverages
– Tomatoes or tomato sauce
– Citrus fruits or juices
– Garlic and onions
– Spicy foods
– Fried foods
– Chocolate
– Coffee

In some cases of GERD, we will also perform Food Sensitivity Testing and SIBO Testing.  There are many effective natural treatment options for GERD that can help you minimize or avoid the use of medications for this condition.  Contact our naturopathic clinic if you would like to discuss a natural approach for your GERD symptoms.

Yours in health,

Dr. Michael Morsillo, H.B.Sc., N.D.
Newmarket Naturopathic Doctor

16655 Yonge St., Newmarket, ON
905-898-1844 ext. 135