Is GERD Caused by Gut Bacteria?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GERD and acid reflux, is the most common digestive complaint in the United States, with some 10-20% of Americans experiencing weekly symptoms. While heartburn is the main symptom associated with acid reflux, could the root cause actually be underlying gut bacteria issues? The short answer: yes. Let’s take a more in-depth look:
How gut bacteria can cause heartburn
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition when microorganisms that are ordinarily meant to be in the large intestine make their way to the uppermost part of the small intestine.
Burning upper abdominal pain that can feel like acid reflux is one of the most common symptoms of SIBO. This is the result of the bacteria in the small intestine producing high levels of gas that can cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to open, similar to acid reflux. Therefore, GERD-related heartburn may actually be the result of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
Complicating matters, because of the similar symptoms, SIBO is commonly misdiagnosed as GERD, for which acid suppressing drugs like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are prescribed. And PPIs have been shown to actually cause SIBO, perpetuating a vicious cycle of symptoms.
Will reduced stomach acid mean reduced acid reflux?
No. Given the link between stomach acid and acid reflux, most people assume that the best solution is to reduce the volume of acid present in the stomach. On the contrary, though, Norman Robillard, Ph.D explains in his book Fast Tract Digestion that stomach acid is essential for regulating bacteria growth in the small intestine. In fact, inhibiting bacterial growth is one of the main functions of stomach acid.
Are you still with us? In a nutshell: too little stomach acid = bacterial overgrowth, and bacterial overgrowth = acid reflux symptoms. Ultimately, stomach acid is essential for gut health and the fight against both SIBO and acid reflux.
Treat the Root Cause with Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics
Instead of reducing hydrochloric acid (Hcl) in the stomach, it is shown that the better way to improve GERD and acid reflux is to address the bacteria with a 1-2 punch of supplementing with Hcl and probiotics.
Gut Garden’s Digestive Enzymes, containing Betaine Hcl, can support the effective management of stomach bacteria production in the small intestine, as well as the consequential acid reflux and GERD symptoms. Increasing stomach acid with the Betaine Hcl will help regulate the bacteria that is causing the LES to open.
Supplementing with probiotics is also a good idea when trying to treat GERD and acid reflux. Probiotics are good bacteria that keep bad bacteria from growing. In fact, a recent review found that 79% of studies on the subject concluded positive benefits of probiotics on symptoms of GERD.
When you heal your gut, the heartburn symptoms should become far less frequent and uncomfortable. Therefore, if you want to stop heartburn rooted by GERD, it's imperative that you treat the underlying issue first. Remember, heartburn is just a symptom, not a cause.