In functional medicine, practitioners consider the health of your digestive system to be as crucial as the health of your brain. In fact, many chronic conditions start with poor digestion, sending out clues in the form of indigestion and heartburn. For many people, ignoring these signs over time can lead to a more severe condition, such as acid reflux, or even worse, cancer.
Acid reflux isn’t just painful—it’s one of the most common diseases affecting people today.
Scientists estimate that more than 15 million Americans suffer from acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, in which acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus, causing discomfort, inflammation and sometimes scarring.
That means millions of people are at risk of their acid reflux developing into a more serious and even life threatening condition. Over time, regurgitation of acidic stomach contents can wear away the esophagus, eroding the delicate tissue, and causing inflammation and scarring. It can sometimes even lead to erosion of tooth enamel and, in extreme cases, to esophageal cancer. In fact, one in ten people with GERD go on to develop dangerous changes in the esophagus (known as Barrett’s esophagus) that can increase their chances of esophageal cancer.
Although improper diet is often mentioned as the root cause for GERD, other explanations include problems with the lower esophagus or with the composition of stomach acids.
But, according to Nick O’Connor, author of a new program called Rapid Reflux Relief, there’s a completely different suspect and it’s living in your stomach. It’s called H. Pylori—and it turns out that it creates a hostile environment inside the gut that results in an acid reflux backlash.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria that causes infection in the stomach. It is found in about two-thirds of the world’s population. It may be spread by unclean food and water, but researchers aren’t sure. It causes Peptic ulcers and can also cause stomach cancer.
What happens inside the stomach after H. pylori enters your body is it attacks the lining of your stomach, which usually protects you from the acid your body uses to digest food. Once the bacteria have done enough damage, acid can get through the lining, which leads to ulcers. These may bleed, cause infections, or keep food from moving through your digestive tract.
To help prevent an H. pylori infection, you should:
- Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating
- Eat properly prepared food
- Drink water from a clean, safe source
- Pylori isn’t something new to the medical profession. This is a bacterium that The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed to be cancer-causing. It goes hand-in-hand with most incidence of stomach ulcers, stomach cancer, and, of course acid, reflux disease. However, getting rid of H. Pylori naturally involves several stages:
Eat a nutritious diet. Whole, unprocessed foods are recommended to provide the necessary nutrition to boost your immune system, boost and support the microbiome, and moderate acid levels. A healthy diet includes:
- High quality protein:
- low to moderate amounts of red meat (preferably grass fed)
- moderate amounts of skinless poultry
- low to moderate amounts of pork
- moderate to high amounts of fish
- Fresh vegetables and fruit (in a variety of rich colors)
Broccoli, in particular, contains high levels of chemicals called suphoranes which are effective in killing H. pylori.
- Beans and legumes such as lentils
- Complex carbohydrates found in:
- whole grain foods
- grains such as brown rice and quinoa
- beans and legumes
Drink plenty of water. Part of a healthy diet includes consuming lots of water. You should drink at least 6-8 glasses of water every day. Increase your water consumption if you spend time outdoors in the hot summer or participating in activities that cause you to sweat.
Avoid processed and packaged foods. Processed and packaged foods do not provide adequate nutrition. Processed and packaged foods include foods that have been altered beyond a form that is recognizable in nature or that have had non-food ingredients added to them.
Stay away from ready-to-eat meals. Again, these tend to be highly processed and contain preservatives and other chemicals that are not really food.
The idea is to keep your foods as natural as possible because at least some of the added ingredients and preservatives may suppress immune response.
Take probiotics. Probiotics are sources of the types of “good” bacteria and yeast normally found in the body’s microbiome. This includes species of lactobacillus, acidophilus, bifidobacteria, and the yeast saccharomyces boulardii. You can take these as a supplement (following the manufacturer’s instructions) or in foods.
Good food sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha (a fermented tea), tempeh, kimchi and other foods such as yogurt, miso soup, poi, asparagus, leeks, and onions. Include these foods at least 2-3 times a week in your diet.
2-3 times per week, you can also include pre-biotics which help support the healthy gut bacteria by providing food for the bacteria. Pre-biotic foods include whole grains, onions, bananas, garlic, honey, artichokes, and leeks.
Practice healthy hygiene habits. In order to minimize your risk of getting infected with H. pylori, make sure you carefully wash your hands and all utensils used for cooking and eating. Use warm, soapy water to wash. Don’t share utensils with anyone, and make certain anyone preparing foods for you is using proper hygiene. Wash all fruits and vegetables with warm, soapy water or a fruit and vegetable rinse product and rinse them well.
Source: DigestiveHealthInstitute, MedlinePlus