Medicine to Move You

Medicine to Move You

Acid Reflux Misunderstood by Most

Fire in The Hole!  That’s one way we describe heartburn/acid reflux.  Whether you call it heartburn, acid reflux, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), or dyspepsia, one thing is for sure, it usually begins with a warm, burning sensation that rises up the esophagus.  Some people report experiencing an acidic taste, frequent burping and/or a hoarse, raspy voice.

Acid reflux is big business for the pharmaceutical industry considering that nearly 7% of the US population reaches for prescription and over-the-counter medications to relieve their symptoms.  Insurance companies have even realized the billion dollar expense associated with treating acid reflux symptoms and have dramatically reduced their coverage of prescriptive medications forcing patients to purchase these medication ‘band-aids’ over-the-counter and out of their own pockets.


Most physicians treat acid reflux the only way we were taught in medical school.  This is basically the same way the last several generations of doctors were taught…if someone has acid reflux, it must mean that they have TOO MUCH stomach acid.  That’s probably what you have been told but there is another whole side of this hot story.  In the world of functional medicine, acid reflux is many times a sign of TOO LITTLE stomach acid!  When acid levels are too low, the condition is called hypochlorhydria (hypo = low, chlorhydria=hydrochloric acid).  How crazy is it that acid could come up into your esophagus and throat because there is TOO LITTLE of it?

Well, here comes the science facts… (1) the body produces its own hydrochloric acid (and it takes a bunch of energy to make it) (2) as we age, our bodies slow down overall and we tend to produce ‘less’ of everything- hormones, muscle, STOMACH ACID, etc.  (3) the majority of people who suffer from acid reflux are over the age of 50.  So, how could it be that as we age, we make less stomach acid but have so many people suffering from ‘too much acid’ problems like GERD?  The simple answer:  it doesn’t.  We make less hydrochloric acid as we age.  This low acid state makes the valve between the stomach and esophagus open up too quick (for reasons too long for this post, but trust me), the acid shoots up because the trap door is open and you experience your heartburn.  Said simpler with an analogy, the acid (air conditioned air) is escaping because someone left the door open, not because the  your acid (air conditioned air) all of sudden got so strong that it flew the door open and escaped out.


To really throw you off, the most popular medications used for acid reflux called proton pump inhibitors (PPI) actually lower the low acid levels even more.  This might help temporarily because the drug really dropped the stomach acid level, but the problem now is that there is too little acid left to digest the food, to kill the bacteria on the food, to activate your digestive enzymes, and do the many other vital functions of proper amounts of stomach acid.

Said more medically, by taking a PPI, we’re stopping the body from beginning the appropriate digestion of food.  If this happens, food enters the small intestine in a less broken down form than it should.  The small intestine is not prepared for food in this form and is not always able to fully utilize these undigested foods (btw, animal protein tends to be a big culprit).  It gets worse as it goes downstream.  The undigested food in the small intestine can trigger constipation, intestinal pain, severe bloating, and also can feed unhealthy bacteria and yeast leading to intestinal infections.  What a mess and all could have been remedied with the right diagnosis!


If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, visit our Education Beyond Medication online medical community, to watch the following Dr. Saxena Speaks! educational videos which also relate to this topic:

Acid Reflux:  It Keeps Coming Up!
Heal Your Gut, Heal Your Body
Digestive Rehabilitation

Comments read comments(7)
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Aidan Lewis

posted August 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Dr. Saxena, you are so right. It is amazing how many people actually have hypochlorhydria and don’t even know it. Hypochlorhydria can also result in issues with proper nutrient absorption. The results being, weakness, anemia, and an inability to maintain muscle mass. Thanks again for bringing more attention to this problem. Especially, to the masses of heartburn sufferers out there.

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Julia @

posted August 29, 2011 at 7:06 am

Interesting article. All the while I thought that GERD is triggered by too much acid in the stomach. It’s nice to know that having too little of HCl can likewise cause the attack. Just for an added information, this valve that is relaxing due to the small amount of HCl is called lower esophageal sphincter.

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Home Remedies for Acidity

posted September 7, 2011 at 5:36 am

Dr Saxena, you hit the nail on the head for why there is still so much misinformation about heartburn/acid reflux in the second paragraph of your post.

It basically isn’t in the interest of the powerful companies that produce the various drugs to let people know that actually they may not need what they are producing.

I thank you for a well considered post that will enlighten anyone reading it.

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marissa diggs

posted December 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I have some acid at night it gets around my heart and I always burp all day everyday and also i get and sharp pain in my chest and i need to know what should i do and is there anything I could take I really need help please could someone give me some advice.

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posted November 28, 2013 at 1:17 am

Changing your diet will be a big help. It’s one of the reasons you get heartburn and also a big chance of having acid reflux, too.

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home remedy for heartburn

posted January 22, 2014 at 3:23 am

This is a topic that’s near to my heart… Many thanks!
Exactly where are your contact details though?

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posted February 5, 2014 at 4:41 am

These are actually great ideas in on the topic of blogging.
You have touched some good things here. Any way keep up wrinting.

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