Antacids are big business for the Pharmaceutical companies. Most adults have used antacids for heartburn at least once in their lifetime. Some people take them every day. We assume that heartburn is caused by an overproduction of stomach acid. This common misconception has been strongly re-enforced by our conventional medical profession. However, contrary to popular belief, most cases of heartburn are not caused by excess production of stomach acid. Studies show that we actually produce about half as much stomach acid by the time we’re in our forties as we did in our teens. Despite this decline, the incidence of acid reflux increases considerably with age.

As with most health problems, conventional medicine treats the heartburn symptoms of acid reflux without addressing its cause. Conventional treatments are even more flawed because the symptom relief that they provide comes at the cost of more significant health issues, such as anemia, osteoporosis, bacterial infections, weight gain, autoimmune disorders, depression, muscle pain, pneumonia, and pancreatic and stomach cancer, just to name a few. Antacids include a disclaimer on their package that consumers should not use them for longer than 14 days. As you can see there is good reason for this.

It’s a fact, that you must have acid in your stomach and in adequate amounts to digest protein, kill harmful bacteria in our food, and help absorb certain nutrients. Antacids neutralize stomach acid causing digestive problems. However, hydrochloric acid in your stomach does more than help digest food. It also acts as a protective barrier from bad bacteria. Every day we ingest food and other organisms that have the potential to may us sick. Antacids completely throw off the balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract giving the bad bacteria the upper hand. If stomach acid levels aren’t high enough even the absorption of nutrients such as calcium, iron, B12, and zinc are impaired.

A better explanation of acid reflux is based on the function of the lower esophageal sphincter which is the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus. As long as this valve is functioning properly, it will prevent stomach acid from refluxing into the esophagus. However, if its function is impaired, stomach acid can easily move up into the esophagus causing that classic burning feeling. In other words, if the valve closes properly it doesn’t really matter how much acid your stomach produces.

Based on the symptom mentality of conventional medicine and the misconception that heartburn and acid reflux are caused by excessive levels of stomach acid, the most common treatment for these problems is to either reduce stomach acid levels or inhibit its production altogether. However, the best way treat acid reflux is to improve the function of the lower esophageal sphincter. Honey works to soothe the tissue and actually rebuild the damaged tissue of both the esophagus and sphincter. I recommend that you avoid chocolate, caffeine, mints, whole milk, sugar, alcohol, onions, and tomatoes that can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter. Try to avoid these, especially 3-4 hours before bedtime. Also try not to over eat. Don’t smoke because the nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter as well as stimulates the production of stomach acid. With the agreement of your physician, avoid medications that can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter. This includes bronchodilators such as theophylline, albuterol and ephedrine, and NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. It also includes calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, diazepam, valium, nitrates and demerol.

The following recommendations may also be helpful in reducing symptoms:
  • Drink more water. Dehydration can lead to acid reflux by causing the lower esophageal sphincter to relax.
  • Elevate the head of your bed by 4 to 8 inches. This will keep gravity working in your favor and make it less likely for stomach acid to drain into the esophagus.
  • Do not lie down immediately after eating.
  • Avoid late evening snacks.

  • Avoid tight clothing and bending over after eating.
Eat small, frequent portions of food and snack if needed.
Lose weight if overweight. Obesity leads to increased reflux.
  • Avoid acidic and spicy foods which can cause damage to both the esophagus and sphincter.

The following foods irritate an inflamed lower esophagus and may need to be limited or avoided:

  • citrus fruits and juices (grapefruit, orange, pineapple,)
  • coffee (regular and decaffeinated)

  • caffeinated soft drinks
  • tea