Did you know that acid reflux affects approximately 50% of Americans? That’s half!

It’s a pain, literally, with its hallmark being that heartburn feeling—a burning sensation that radiates from the stomach upwards towards the abdomen, chest or throat, an acid feeling in the throat, or a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. It can be dangerous too- untreated acid reflux drastically increases your risk of esophagitis (inflammation in the esophagus), Barrett’s esophagus (precancerous changes to the esophagus) and esophageal cancer.

Acid reflux can be sneaky. Some people never have the typical digestive symptoms and go undiagnosed for a long time. Other symptoms of acid reflux include: chronic cough, sore throat, hoarseness, throat clearing, laryngitis, asthma and chest pain (non-cardiac).

What’s the real cause of acid reflux?

This may come as a surprise—the cause of acid reflux is not too much acid. The cause of acid reflux is actually a dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and too little stomach acid. Stay with me here as I get a little physiology geeky.

The LES is a valve that separates the stomach and the esophagus. In normal digestion, the LES opens to allow food to pass into the stomach, and closes to prevent backflow into the esophagus. With acid reflux this valve malfunctions, causing stomach acid and the stomach’s contents to backflow up to the esophagus.

About Stomach Acid

Through the media and pharmaceutical companies we’ve been led to believe that stomach acid is bad for us. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Stomach acid occurs naturally in the stomach (in a healthy person) and is essential for digestion and maintaining health. It functions to break down food, digest proteins, absorb vital nutrients, and kill harmful bacteria: all vital functions.

The production of too little stomach acid, known as Hypochlorhydria is extremely common. It’s easy to understand why—the main causes are aging, stress, and leaky gut. Symptoms of Hypochlorhydria include heartburn, a desire to eat when not hungry, feeling overly full after meals, gas, constipation and diarrhea.

In addition to too little stomach acid, most cases of acid reflux also have an underlying gut issue. Work with your acupuncturist or holistic health care provider to find the real cause and appropriate treatment for your acid reflux.

Eating carbs and sugars

Research has shown that a diet too high in carbs and sugar lead to bacterial overgrowth in the intestines that drives LES reflux.

Food sensitivities and allergies

Eating foods you are sensitive or allergic to inflames the gut and causes digestive symptoms. Most people who have food sensitivities do not know that they have them because symptoms are chronic and not necessarily digestion-related. Food sensitivities cause chronic low grade systemic inflammation which can lead to a wide variety of health issues including fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, headaches, joint pain, muscular pain, acne, rosacea and auto-immune diseases.

H. pylori

Studies have shown that 20% of people under 30 and 50% of those over 60 in the U.S. have H.pylori. H.pylori infections have a strong link with acid reflux, gastritis and ulcers. This bacteria degrades the lining of the stomach, depletes acid secretion in the stomach, and inhibits proper absorption of nutrients like calcium, iron, folic acid, B6 and B12.

Leaky Gut

In leaky gut syndrome (LGS), the walls of the intestines become semi-permeable, allowing large food particles to slip into the bloodstream. This creates a cascade of problems including a weakened immune system, digestive problems, malabsorption of nutrients, food sensitivities and allergies.


Candida is an overgrowth of yeast in the gut. It can come from use of antibiotics, imbalance in gut bacteria, overeating of carbs and sugars, medications like prednisone, birth control and other synthetic estrogens. Candida can cause inflammation in any part of the gut causing symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, or alternating diarrhea and constipation. When in the lower esophagus or stomach, candida may cause the heartburn and other symptoms of acid reflux.

Intestinal Dysbiosis

Imbalance of good and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut called intestinal dysbiosis can result in a multitude of digestive issues, including acid reflux. Dysbiosis may be caused by antibiotic use, physical and psychological stress and a high sugar, high carb diet.


You don’t need to travel to Mexico or a third world country to have parasites. Due to a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates, as well as other causes parasites are quite common in the U.S. and are one of the main causes of gut damage and inflammation. Overtime, untreated parasites can also break down the lining of the gut contributing to leaky gut syndrome, and the chain of health issues that leads to acid reflux.

4 Steps to Treating Acid Reflux Naturally

  1. Make changes to your diet
    Adopt a low carb, low sugar gluten free diet. Eliminate foods you are allergic or sensitive to.

  2. Correct any underlying gut issues
    Get tested for H. Pylori, Leaky Gut, Candida, Intestinal Dysbiosis and Parasites (by your holistic healthcare provider) and seek treatment.

  3. Replace low stomach acid & ‘good’ bacteria
    Take Betaine HCL* with Pepsin (at meals) and a soil-based probiotic daily**

  4. Restore healthy gut lining
    Consume bone broth daily and take DGL* (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) to restore healthy gut lining

* Talk to your holistic healthcare provider about correct dosages

** Note: HCL should not be taken if using anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen (ie. Motrin, Advil), corticosteroids (ie. prednisone) or other NSAIDS.