Scientists at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences checked GERD patients for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infections. Nearly 70% of these patients were found to have an H. pylori infection. The authors concluded that “assessing the role of H. pylori infection in GERD patients could be a target of future research, as in the present study the prevalence of H. pylori infection in GERD patients was found to be greater than in non-GERD patients.”
H. pylori is one of the most common bacterial pathogens and more than 50% of world’s population is infected by this bacterium. Also, H. pylori infection rates increase with age (this might explain the prevalence of GERD symptoms in older people).
H. pylori is known to suppress stomach acid secretion. This is how it survives in an otherwise hostile environment. The amazing evolutionary mechanism of H. pylori, while fascinating to many, can cause a lot of trouble to your body.
How GERD Medications Increase the Risks of H. pylori Infections?
H. pylori needs a temporary decrease in stomach acid to establish itself. In an experiment, it was observed that the bacterium is unable to establish infection unless there’s a decrease in acidity of the stomach.
This means that antacids that decrease stomach acidity provide the exact conditions that are favorable for an H. pylori infection or can worsen an existing H. pylori infection. Research indicates that long term use of acid-suppressing medicine increases the risk of gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and gastric and esophageal cancer.
Now here’s another downer. Malabsorption of carbohydrates leads to its fermentation, which releases hydrogen. And hydrogen acts as an important nutrient for H. pylori. Also high amounts of fructose (in wheat, in particular) cause excessive production of hydrogen, leading to high growth of H. pylori.
Another major problem with acid-suppressing medicines is that they deplete vital nutrients from the body, giving rise to a host of varied health complications. For instance, Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) were shown to deplete magnesium, which may lead to muscle cramps, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats) and seizures. Many antacids also deplete calcium leading to osteoporosis and increased risks of fractures.
How Do You Treat Heartburn and GERD?
Based on the explanation above, we can say that treatment of GERD involves reducing an overgrowth of bacteria and limiting the consumption of carbohydrates. A study has shown a low carbohydrate diet provides relief from symptoms of GERD.
HCl supplements can also help in building stomach acidity. Too much of this supplement can, however, destroy the stomach lining and can lead to health complications.
A wholesome, healthy diet is the secret to good health and treating GERD is not so different. Nutritionist Sally Fallon, the Founder-President of Weston A. Price Foundation, advises on eating “real foods,” or food that was cooked and served by our grand moms. For example, traditional broths that are made from the bones of chicken, fish and beef not only taste good, but also provide valuable nutrients to the body. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and other trace minerals as well as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine are some of the nutrients present in bone broths.
A healthy diet, consisting of nutrient-dense, easy-to-digest foods that will heal the intestinal tract and support the growth of a healthy normal gut flora is the key to treat GERD. Such a diet can support digestion as well as keeping our gut safe from infections.
Dietary supplements can also help in treating the symptoms of acid reflux. Bitters, apple cider vinegar and probiotics can help in treating heartburn naturally. Probiotics are foods containing live useful bacteria. Sally Fallon advises probiotics like goat milk kefir or yogurt to destroy Candida yeast and other harmful bacteria that have overgrown in the gut. Homemade fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha can also provide you with high quality probiotic organisms to help with digestion and other metabolic processes. Probiotic supplements provide a wide variety of helpful microorganisms to restore your gut flora to its natural state.