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Underlying Causes of Acid Reflux and Indigestion

Authored by: Paige Welsh, Clinical Nutritionist and Naturopathic Practitioner

What Is Acid Reflux/Indigestion?


It is estimated that up to 40% of individuals in the United States complain of acid reflux/indigestion weekly or even daily! Acid reflux/indigestion tends to occur when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly, which allows acid to pass through into the esophagus and up into the throat. Some of the most common talked about causes of acid reflux/indigestion are unhealthy eating, inflammation, large meals, high acidic foods, hiatal hernias, and pregnancy. These are definite causes for acid reflux/indigestion. However, there is an array of other lesser-known root cause issues that if addressed properly, can take away all of your digestive complaints!

Most individuals will turn to over-the-counter medications or tums, but this is not addressing the real root cause of what is going on. This can set a person up for unwanted side effects such as nutritional deficiencies, headaches, rapid heart rate, and muscle cramps.


Common Symptoms of Acid Reflux/Indigestion:


  • Burning in chest/throat
  • Bitter or acidic taste in the mouth
  • Coughing after eating
  • Bloating, belching, and/or gas after meals
  • Regurgitation after eating
  • Bad breath
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling full quickly


Lesser-Known Causes of Acid Reflux/Indigestion:


  • Food Sensitivities: Gluten, wheat, milk, dairy, grains, corn syrup, sugar, and alcohol all cause a lot of inflammation, and can trigger or make acid reflux/indigestion worse.
  • Too Little Stomach Acid: It is a common belief that everyone with acid reflux/indigestion has too much stomach acid. You need the right amount of stomach acid to keep the lower esophageal sphincter closed. So if you have too little stomach acid, the sphincter remains partly open allowing acid to enter the esophagus and throat. Some of the most common causes of too little stomach acid are stress, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, gall bladder imbalance, and certain medications.
  • Gall Bladder: Located on the right side of your body, just below your rib cage is your gall bladder. Your gall bladder stores bile and its job is to contract and squeeze bile out each time you eat to help you break down your food, especially fats. If your gall bladder is not contracting properly or the bile in your gall bladder is too thick, you will not produce as much stomach acid and can get acid reflux/indigestion. Some of the most common causes of gall bladder imbalance include diet, stress, toxins, medications, infections, and gall stones.
  • Bile Issues: When your body is not making enough bile or that bile thickens, you can get acid reflux/indigestion symptoms.
  • Liver: Also located on the right side of your body, protected by the rib cage is your liver. Your liver and gall bladder work hand-in-hand since the liver is what produces bile. When your liver is imbalanced due to things such as diet, stress, toxins, medications or infections, your liver will not make enough bile, which can cause digestive issues.
  • SIBO/SIFO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth / Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth): SIBO/SIFO can greatly affect digestion. If bacteria or fungus start to overpopulate in the small intestine (rather than in the colon where they should be), a lot of digestive issues may occur, including acid reflux/indigestion.
  • Stress: The root cause of most modern health conditions! Stress will deplete your body of critical digestive enzymes and other important digestive nutrients, slow down bile production and bile flow, and affect blood flow to the digestive tract. Removing stress is important. However, supporting your body and nervous system for when stressful times occur can be life-changing for your digestion.

Other Ways to Help Acid Reflux/Indigestion

Finding the root cause of what may be triggering your acid reflux/indigestion is the key to healing your digestive system and improving your overall health. In our clinic, we do specific testing to figure out what a person’s root cause issue is, and how to go about helping them. Getting testing done is always best, but we do have some options in the retail store that may be helpful as well. Some of the most common retail store items that may help are aloe juice, apple cider vinegar, baking soda (mixed with water), digestive enzymes, Acid Ease by Enzymatic Therapy, and DGL.

Foods to Help with Acid Reflux/Indigestion

Since I am a clinical nutritionist and like to preach “food as medicine,” I want to leave you with some foods that may help acid reflux/indigestion, and can aid in healing your digestive tract! Some of the best foods for digestion include bone broth, fermented vegetables, and yogurts/kefir, asparagus, artichokes, bitter greens such as arugula and dandelion, cucumbers, beets, asparagus, wild-caught fish, and roasted or cooked pumpkin/squashes/root vegetables.

If you have any questions for me or are interested in coming to our clinic for testing, please give the clinic a call at 262-251-2929 for a complimentary, 15-minute phone call with myself or one of the other practitioners.

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