Is Kefir the Answer for Acid Reflux?
One of the first things I noticed when we started drinking kefir was the help my husband received with eliminating his acid reflux. It was quite surprising to me since he popped antacids like they were candy. But fast forward sixteen years and I've had so many, many people tell me they've gotten off their prescription drugs for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and every one of them told me kefir was what accomplished the task.
A man named John came up to me after one of my classes and said, “I take a glass of kefir every day before I go to work—without fail. I don’t sweeten it. I just drink it straight. I wanted to thank you because it allowed me to get off all my medication for acid reflux. I feel like a new man after years of struggle with this.” Then he smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Kefir is powerful medicine for acid reflux, and you should tell everybody who will listen.” I am heeding those words because I have heard time and time again how much kefir helps people who are struggling with acid reflux.
Kefir And Reflux
Inflammation And GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter malfunctions, allowing the contents of the stomach to flow up into the esophagus. Some speculate that an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the stomach causes undigested food to ferment. In turn, this fermentation causes gas to build up, eventually forcing the contents of the stomach up into the esophagus. This is what creates the symptoms of burning and pain commonly associated with acid reflux. Inflammation is one of the main culprits of GERD. Excess acid in the esophagus causes inflammation resulting in pain and irritation of the esophageal lining.
One 2014 study looking at the effect of probiotics on GERD involved 589 infants: the number of episodes of regurgitation, the number of minutes of inconsolable crying, and the number of bowel movements. The infants who received the probiotics had less crying time, fewer episodes of regurgitation, and significantly less constipation than the control group. 1
Antacids Cause More Harm Than Good
Lactobacillus is an important probiotic as it converts lactose and other sugars to lactic acid. The production of lactic acid makes the gut acid, which inhibits the growth of bad bacteria and other pathogens. When the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria gets out of balance many health problems can start occurring. Taking antacids may temporarily stop stomach acid production thus relieving heartburn, but this can allow the ratio of good bacteria to harmful bacteria to be disrupted creating more problems with GERD along with a host of other problems.
Cultured foods, especially kefir, have anti-inflammatory properties and can ease the symptoms of inflammation. If you are experiencing these symptoms, one of the first things you should do is add kefir to your diet to restore balance in your gut. Kefir is packed with the Lactobacillus bacterium plus 50 other probiotics. These probiotics change your gut flora and reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
I Stopped Eating Cultured Foods ~ Here’s What Happened!
If you read one of my previous posts, I Stopped Eating Cultured Foods ~ Here’s What Happened! you know that one of the first things that happened after a few weeks of no cultured foods was I got the worst heartburn! It was awful and it started coming on and off every few days. I was really surprised that this would happen. My body really needs its daily kefir and anytime your body gives you a symptom, it's a warning sign. You should heed the call and pay attention to these cries for help that your body sends you. Once I went back to having kefir every day (1-2 cups daily), my symptoms vanished and no more acid reflux.
Can H. Pylori Protect Against Acid Reflux?
Another insight about reflux deals with the pathogenic bacterium H. pylori. Until recently, H. pylori has been put forth as a “bad” bacterium, but now an interesting twist in its story has been discovered: H. pylori protects against acid reflux. As I have said throughout my website, we are seeking balance, so it doesn’t surprise me that H. pylori can be helpful if it is kept in check.
Martin J. Blaser, M.D., elaborates on the research around H. pylori in his book Missing Microbes. He says that, when present in large numbers, this bacterium can cause ulcers and even stomach cancer in some people. But H. pylori also helps regulate stomach acidity, which plays a large part in the symptoms of GERD. When an ulcer occurs, the standard treatment is using antibiotics to eradicate H. pylori, which heals the ulcers but also raises the acidity of the stomach. Blaser and his colleagues found that the patients without H. pylori were eight times more likely to have acid reflux. 2 So the treatment that eliminated H. pylori worsened acid reflux and even esophageal cancer.
What To Do?
So what to do? Balance your gut with prebiotic and probiotic foods - especially kefir. Keep H. pylori in check by adding lots of beneficial microbes that allow all your bacteria to work for you. If you have lots of good microbes, the ones that might get out of hand will stay in balance. It’s not as hard as it seems, and you will find that a lot of problems will simply vanish when you change what you eat. Kefir and cultured foods plus whole, real, natural sources of nutrition will allow your body to do what it was designed to do: heal itself.
Kefir has eliminated acid reflux in many people I have met, including myself and my husband, and the studies that continue to surface give me great hope that soon cultured foods and probiotics will be seen as a viable treatment for this ailment.
Taking digestive enzymes can also be a great thing to add to your diet for acid reflux symptoms if taken properly before meals to help the body break down foods. One enzyme named lipase is powerful in helping burn hard-to-digest fats which can produce acid reflux symptoms.
As we age we don't have as many of these enzymes and often we need more help so that we can not only digest and receive nutrients from our foods but also help to keep the gut functioning properly and keep acid reflux at bay. You can get digestive enzymes at any health food store and look for ones with lipase. Here is a brand that I take and has all the digestive enzymes you need to digest protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Prebiotics are essentially the food that the healthy bacteria in our gut consumes. They are non-digestible fiber that helps keep you regular and your gut happy. They can also be very helpful in keeping digestive disorders like heartburn in check.
Most heartburn medications focus on neutralizing the stomach acid in the esophagus. This helps to control the painful burning but it does not treat the root cause of it. In fact, neutralizing the acid can actually hurt the digestion of the food further down the digestive tract. That’s why some fixing your gut function can be a better way to treat heartburn, which is exactly what prebiotics do. Increasing your digestive health can help to get rid of the cause of heartburn. When prebiotics feeds the good bacteria, along with kefir they are also helping those good bacteria to fight the bad bacteria in your gut. That, in turn, leads to better digestion and less chance for acid reflux.
Having probiotic foods like kefir and prebiotics such as Prebio Plus will help to restore the balance in the gut and also keep acid reflux at bay.
Listen To My Podcast
Most heartburn medications focus on neutralizing the stomach acid in the esophagus. This helps to control the painful burning but it does not treat the root cause of it and can also make it worse in the long run. Fixing your gut function can be a better way to treat heartburn and bring about balance to the body. Listen to hear more.
- F. Indrio et al., “Prophylactic Use of a Probiotic in the Prevention of Colic, Regurgitation, and Functional Constipation: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” JAMA Pediatrics 168, no. 3 (March 2014): 228–233
- M.J. Blaser, Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues, New York, Henry Holt Publishing (2014): 123–9.
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