Doctors have been shocked by the sixfold increase since the 1970s of gastroesophageal reflux — also called GERD or acid reflux disease.
A number of possible explanations exist, such as the dramatic increase in consumption of carbonated drinks and the widespread use of anti-inflammatory medications and acid-lowering medications.
A recent study suggests another cause — imbalance of bacteria (dysbiosis) in the stomach and lower esophagus.
Normally, there are special groups of bacteria in the lower esophagus and stomach that play a role in protecting these delicate tissues. The concentration of these bacteria is far less than is found in the lower intestine and colon.
The researchers took biopsies and cultures from the lower esophagus of 34 patients divided into those with GERD and those with a healthy esophagus.
The healthy subjects had mostly streptococcus bacteria, while those with GERD and severe degrees of inflammation of the esophagus had mostly gram-negative anaerobes.
What we are seeing is that the particular mix of bacteria makes a lot of difference in terms of one’s risk of a number of gastrointestinal diseases, including esophageal reflux disorders.
I have explained before that stomach acid plays a major role in preventing the wrong kind of microbes from inhabiting the gut. With so many people taking medications to lower stomach acid, we may be making the incidence of gut disorders worse rather than better.
It is also known that increasing stomach acid levels can correct most cases of GERD.
I had a friend, an elderly gentleman, who suffered terribly from so-called acid reflux disease. Naturally, his doctors put him on acid-reducing medications. But instead of getting better, he got worse and began to have a great deal of bloating, problems with bowel movements, and a loss of appetite.
Incredibly, his doctors then increased his medication, but that made all his symptoms even worse — including the reflux for which he was taking it in the first place.
I told him that at his age (he was in his 90s) he had very little stomach acid, and with the medication suppressing it further he was unable to digest his food, which caused the bloating, constipation and loss of appetite.
I suggested he take digestive enzymes, stop the acid-lowering medications, and see if he got better. A short time later he reported that all of his problems improved dramatically.
I have seen this many times. The stomach ages just like everything else, which means a loss of digestive enzymes, lower stomach acid, and impaired motility of the bowels — all of which can cause dysbiosis.
When more inflammatory bacteria exist than anti-inflammatory bacteria, these disorders arise.
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