The acid that is secreted by the parietal cells in the human stomach play a couple of very important roles. First off, it helps to break down proteins so that nutrients are more available in the intestines and easily absorbed. Stomach acid is important for calcium absorption, among other nutrients.
Stomach acid is also an important part of the immune system of the digestive tract. Acid kills many of the organisms that we are commonly exposed to and helps to prevent infection.
Over the counter and prescription medications used to treat heartburn or GERD focus on reducing stomach acid production. As I mentioned in the previous post, stomach acid is not the cause of heartburn – it is caused by a loose lower esophageal sphincter.
Consistent with the physiological importance of stomach acid, recent medical research indicates that medications that lower stomach acidity are associated with an increased risk of infection (gastrointestinal and pneumonia!) and osteoporosis. Another of the known adverse effects of these medications is hair loss – treated naturopathically with specific nutrients.
The natural treatment of GERD involves identification and avoidance of aggravating foods and herbal and nutritional recommendations that soothe and protect the esophagus while improving gastrointestinal function. Discontinuance of acid lowering medication and WITHOUT GERD symptoms is a real possibility for many patients.