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Dr. Angela Agrios, ND
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Los Angeles, CA (Pacific Palisades)

Acid Reflux
Naturopathic Medicine Treatment
Interview with Dr. Patti Kim, ND

Treat and Stop Acid Reflux with Natural Medicine
Low stomach acid is the cause of most Acid Reflux symptoms, according to Dr. Patti Kim, ND (Naturopathic Doctor). In this interview, Dr. Kim discusses: 

1) The symptoms of Acid Reflux, including burning, heat or pain sensation in chest and/or throat area, regurgitation, belching due to the sphincter being weakened, feeling full sooner than normal, chronic sore throats or laryngitis.

2) The conventional treatment for acid reflux, including calcium carbonate antacids such as Tums, Maalox, Mylanta; or proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium, Prevacid and Protonix.

3) That stress is a primary cause of lowering stomach acid.

4) That neutralizing stomach acid or stopping stomach acid production with artificial drugs can be harmful to the body because of the numerous side effects associated with the drugs, and that this type of conventional symptom treatment does not treat the root cause.

5) That stomach acids leak into the esophagus because of a weak sphincter (often due to stress).

6) Factors that influence acid reflux: poor nutrition, foods that cause inflammation, eating spicy foods and alcohol.

7) Natural Medicine treatment of acid reflux includes: stomach pH may be tested; goal is to raise stomach acid (or lower if too high) through dietary changes, exercise, herbs, nutritional supplements, digestive supplements and Homeopathic remedies.

8) Especially important is removal of processed foods and eating whole, organic foods.

9) Dr. Kim has a great success rate of stopping acid reflux: most of her patients are symptom free within a week.

Acid Reflux and Stomach Acid
Acid reflux is a flow of acid—or a leakage of acid—from the stomach into the esophagus, and it can cause symptoms like burning, pain, heat sensation in the chest or the throat. It can cause symptoms like feeling full sooner than usual, and even symptoms of sore throat or laryngitis. Most people tend to think that acid reflux is due to too much acid, and sometimes that is the case—but most of the time, it’s actually due to not enough acid in our stomachs. And one of the main ways that we reduce acid in our stomach is actually through stress, which almost everybody has.

So what happens is that stress will reduce the amount of acid that we have in our stomach, and then this causes the little sphincter—or doorway, that leads from the esophagus into the stomach—to become weakened, or relaxed. And then when this doorway becomes relaxed, what little acid that we have in our stomach actually leaks into the esophagus, and that leads to the symptoms like burning and pain.

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And then we tend to think that those symptoms mean that we have too much acid, and so this is usually treated conventionally with antacids that neutralize the acid, or prescription or over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors—and this actually stops the production of acid altogether. And the problem with these treatments is that not only do they cause harmful side effects, they don’t actually get to the root cause of the problem.

Acid Reflux Triggers
There are many factors that can influence acid reflux, and these include things like eating too fast, not chewing enough when we eat, or eating spicy foods, or eating late at night before we go to bed. Also, poor nutrition can play a role—foods that cause inflammation, like red meat, caffeine, alcohol, or even citrus, can add to the problem of acid reflux. Also, stress can play a big role in acid reflux by reducing the amount of acid that we have in our stomachs.

Acid Reflux Treatment - Alternative Medicine
When a patient comes to see me for acid reflux, I may test their stomach pH. But most of the time, I’ll treat based on the patient’s symptom profile. My goal is to reestablish balance in the digestive system, and this includes raising acid levels in the stomach if they’re too low, or lowering them if they’re too high. The treatments that I want to use include lifestyle education, including diet and exercise, herbal supplements, nutritional supplements, digestive supplements, and homeopathy.

Acid Reflux Treatment - Reduce Stress with Yoga or Exercise
Stress is a major contributing factor to acid reflux, and a great way to lower stress I through gentle exercise and movement meditation. Some examples of these are walking outside, hiking, qigong, and yoga. I like to tell my patients to use exercise as an opportunity to relax and be in their bodies, and not to feel so pressured and think of it as a job.

Acid Reflux Treatment - Reduce Meat and Porcessed Foods & Eat Organic
Dietary choices can also play a role in acid reflux. I advise my patients to eliminate foods that cause inflammation, like wheat, dairy, red meat, corn, sugar, potatoes, citrus, tomatoes, and processed foods. And in their place, I recommend whole, organic foods like the ones you find in the produce section. This is important because processed foods do not contain the nutrients that our bodies need to heal.

Acid Reflux Treatment - Herbs & Supplements
I will also prescribe herbs and supplements. Some examples of these are organic apple cider vinegar—this helps to raise stomach acid levels if they’re low. Digestive enzymes also help to break down food in the stomach if acid levels are low. Probiotics help normalize the digestive system and also enhance the immune system.

Acid Reflux Treatment - Herbs and B Vitamins
B-complex helps with stress management and also gives a little bit of energy. Fish oil is great for reducing inflammation and also feeds the brain. Some examples of herbs are DGL, which is a form of licorice; slippery elm; and marshmallow. All of these help to smooth the mucous membranes and heal the esophagus from excess acid.

Acid Reflux Treatment - Naturopathic Medicine Success
I’ve had great success treating acid reflux. Most of my patients who have followed my treatment plan have seen their symptoms resolve within a week. And that’s the beauty of naturopathic medicine: naturopathic medicine addresses the root cause of the problem, helping to ensure your symptoms don’t return.

Dr. Patti Kim, ND

Interview with Dr. Patti Kim, ND

Also See: Dr. Angela Agrios, ND Naturopathic Doctor Health Series