GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, happens when the sphincter at the esophagus base that connects the mouth to the stomach no longer closes tightly and allows stomach acid and food to backflow into the esophagus, creating a host of uncomfortable symptoms. The esophagus becomes inflamed and irritated because it is not meant to be exposed to stomach acid.
Who Can Get GERD?
GERD is a common issue in the general population. I regularly post on a Parkinson's Disease forum and, interestingly, GERD is 4.1 times more likely to occur in people with Parkinson's Disease! (1)
Age is another common factor in people with GERD, but there are many more causes, which I will discuss below.
One popular school of thought is that GERD may be caused by too much stomach acid. Another popular counter-theory is that it is caused by too little stomach acid.
In any case, what happens is that stomach acid back-flows into the esophagus, the tube that connects the stomach to the mouth. Stomach acid is not supposed to get into the esophagus, but the esophagus becomes inflamed and irritated when it does. If left unchecked at the extreme, GERD can result in esophageal cancer.
Common Symptoms of GERD
The main symptoms typically seen in patients with GERD are:
noises in the throat
In severe cases, symptoms include:
gurgling noises caused by regurgitation of food or acid
stomach is hard to the touch
Remedies for Excess Stomach Acid
For the school of thought that GERD can be caused by excess stomach acid, antacids are often recommended.
They include proton pump inhibitors (PPI) like Prilosec, Nexium & Prevacid, antacids such as baking soda or Tums, and histamine antagonists such as Cimetidine/Tagamet and Zantac, which work as histamine receptor antagonists.
Remedies for Insufficient Stomach Acid
For those that feel that GERD is caused by too little stomach acid, treatment may consist of supplementing with Betaine HCI, which also contains Pepsin.
Betaine HcL with Pepsin
Pepsin acts to break down proteins, assist in the digestion process, and naturally occurs in the stomach lining.
Betaine HCI is one of the body's first lines of defense to kill pathogens in food and help break down food proteins and improve absorption. Having enough hydrochloric acid is very important for overall health.
In actuality, GERD is often caused because the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus is not closing tightly enough to prevent acid reflux or prevent stomach acid from entering the esophagus.
The sphincter can be repaired or replaced via surgery if it will no longer close tight enough to prevent acid reflux and may be required in severe conditions. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is how it is referred to.
The sphincter is a bundle of muscles, and weak muscles will not get the job done right and allow the sphincter to close tightly as it should to prevent acid and food from reentering at the bottom of the esophagus.
The addition of Betaine HCI with Pepsin is thought to possibly strengthen this muscle group.
Another school of thought is that supplementing with Betaine HCI (hydrochloric acid) with Pepsin can strengthen the sphincter and stop the acid reflux. The sphincter is purported to tighten in response to being exposed to more stomach acid via Betaine HCI.
I tried this supplement years ago with great success. More recently, GERD has returned and so I have again started on a Betaine HCI regimen with Pepsin. I will update this post as my experiment progresses.
Here is a link describing how increasing stomach acid may tighten the sphincter.
Since my current experiment taking Betaine HCl with Pepsin is still in progress, I will report back as soon as I find out if the supplement is as effective as the last time I used it years ago effectively to relieve GERD and related symptoms.
Homeopathic Remedies for GERD
Although hydrochloric acid is produced naturally for the stomach, some people do not do well with the addition of Betaine HCI and in those cases, there are other remedies such as Homeopathy, which is generally very well tolerated.
Homeopathic preparations for GERD include: Natrum Phosphorica, Iris Versicolor, Robinia, Nux Vomica, Phosphorus, Lycopodium, and Carbo Veg.
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