Have you ever experienced thyroid reflux, GERD, or heartburn?
With many health issues, including food allergies, people often look at the foods as the cause of the problem.
But, rarely are the foods ever the real problem.
Instead, it’s the existing digestive dysfunction that is the real issue at hand.
Hypothyroidism is well known for…
- Lowering stomach acid production.
- Increasing harmful bacteria in the small intestines.
- Inhibiting digestive enzyme production.
- Slowing the movement of foods through the intestines.
All of these can contribute to reflux and GERD.
Yet, there’s another piece of the puzzle that has been missing, until now.
I’m going to show you what this piece of the puzzle is and 5 ways to prevent and protect yourself from reflux and GERD in just a minute.
First, there’s something important you have to understand…
The Dangers of Heartburn Medications (PPIs)
Excessive stomach acid production can be a problem.
Yet, in the case of hypothyroidism, we most commonly see low stomach acid levels.
Most doctors today blindly treat heartburn or GERD by prescribing Proton-Pump Inhibitor (PPI) drugs to block the secretion of stomach acid.
This poses a big problem.
Not only can this further complicate the underlying problem, PPI drugs come with a slew of negative side effects, including increased risk of:
- Heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Bone fractures and osteoporosis
- Magnesium deficiency
- Calcium deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Dementia and impaired mental function
Studies have also shown that PPIs directly suppress thyroid function by inhibiting the conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone, progesterone, and other protective steroidal hormones.
The last thing we want is to try to solve one problem only to further impair your thyroid function.
The Missing Piece of the Thyroid Reflux GERD Puzzle… Carbon Dioxide
With reflux and GERD, the pain and discomfort is more often associated with the lowering of stomach acid.
But there’s more to it than that.
Studies have shown that carbon dioxide is the main protective mechanism that protects your digestive lining from your stomach acid.
When your stomach produces adequate stomach acid, carbon dioxide levels rise in the surrounding tissue.
Yet, when stomach acid production is inhibited, research shows that tissue carbon dioxide levels can drop by 29%, leaving your digestive lining susceptible to damage and inflammation.
Metabolic base production and mucosal vulnerability during acid inhibition in a mammalian stomach in vitro.
“Acid inhibition reduced metabolic CO2 production by 29%… Overreplacement by 5% serosal CO2/HCO3- was required to prevent damage.”
What’s even more interesting is this…
In hypothyroidism, not only does stomach acid production become inhibited…
…metabolism becomes impaired resulting in an overall decrease of tissue carbon dioxide levels.
This decline in tissue level carbon dioxide can make hypothyroid sufferers even more susceptible to reflux and GERD.
This provides evidence that reflux and GERD are directly related to poor metabolism.
It’s also important to point out that one of the most common triggers of reflux and GERD is… stress.
Stress itself can greatly reduce carbon dioxide levels by increasing your rate of breathing.
With an increased rate of breathing comes an increased loss of carbon dioxide.
5 Ways to Prevent and Protect Yourself from Reflux and GERD
Of course, restoring thyroid function will correct most of the underlying causes of GERD.
But that can take time.
So, in the meantime, let’s take a look at 5 ways you can protect yourself along the way.
1. Protect Your Digestive Lining from Damage
If you’re prone to reflux or GERD, then you’ll want to put measures in place to prevent and protect your digestive lining from damage.
Based on the study mentioned above, increasing the carbon dioxide concentration of your cells is one way.
This can be accomplished by using thyroid hormone (T3) to through support healthy oxidative metabolism, which helps your cells produce more carbon dioxide.
Breathing into a paper bag through your nose can temporarily help you to increase carbon dioxide levels.
Using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can also help.
Many believe that the effects of baking soda are simply to neutralize the stomach acid. Yet, it actually works in part by releasing carbon dioxide when it comes into contact with your stomach acid
One study showed that glycine, an anti-inflammatory amino acid found in collagen protein, can also completely prevent damage.
Orally administered L-arginine and glycine are highly effective against acid reflux esophagitis in rats.
“RESULTS: The development of esophageal lesions was dose-dependently prevented by L-arginine and glycine”
Based on the research findings, this can be achieved by supplementing 30 to 40 grams of collagen protein daily.
2. Strengthen Your LES
Your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is what allows food into your stomach and prevents that food from coming back up into your esophagus.
It protects you from reflux.
But it often fails when reflux is present.
The strength and function of your LES depends largely on a number of factors including esophageal acidity pH and your calcium status.
Getting adequate calcium in your diet is essential for the tightening of your LES, which can help prevent reflux from occurring.
Vitamins D and K can also play a role by improving calcium absorption and its use by your cells.
3. Boost Your Stomach Acid “Production”
Many people attempt to solve the problem of low stomach acid by using supplements or digestive aids to increase the “acidity” of the stomach acid.
Yet, this doesn’t typically solve the problem.
It doesn’t address the underlying problem of the lack of stomach acid production.
There are many things that can help with this problem.
For starters, thyroid hormone (T3) can help correct the underlying cause of low stomach acid production.
For my clients who have trouble digesting foods, we often use coffee with or after meals as it’s well known for increasing both stomach acid and pepsin enzyme production.
Another effective tool is the amino acid Taurine.
Taurine has been shown to increase stomach acid production for two hours after it’s consumed, thus providing another option to improve digestion.
4. Neutralize Acidic Irritating Foods
When reflux or GERD are already present, acidic foods can cause more irritation.
Yet again, we often wrongfully blame the foods.
Take oranges for example.
When oranges are fully ripe, they are generally well tolerated and not very acidic.
Yet, in the production of commercial orange juice, they often use unripe oranges which are much more acidic.
When we don’t have access to fully ripe foods, we sometimes have to improvise.
Adding a pinch of baking soda to your orange juice can help neutralize the acidity and reduce or prevent any irritation.
5. Speed Up Your Transit Time
Another common factor in reflux is your digestive transit time.
This is the time it takes food to be swallowed, digested, and excreted out the other end.
You can test your transit time by eating beets, which have a strong reddish color that will show up in your stool. (Don’t be alarmed if you find it in your urine too.)
If it takes much longer than 24 hours, then you may not be digesting your food properly.
If you’re not digesting foods in your stomach well, then your stomach contents may take too long to empty into your intestines, thereby increasing the chance of reflux.
One of the best things to do in this case is to focus on easy to digest foods.
Getting protein from high-quality broth or collagen protein can help considerably, especially due to its ability to prevent damage to the digestive lining.
Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines can also impair proper digestion by inhibiting enzyme production.
Dr. Raymond Peat often recommends the daily use of raw carrots to help reduce the bacteria in intestines.
Hypothyroidism can contribute to reflux and GERD in a number of ways.
Restoring thyroid and metabolic function, and cellular carbon dioxide levels, all play a pivotal role in overcoming reflux and GERD.
Yet, the five preventative and protect measures outlined above can also help you manage it in the process.
How is potassium bicarbonate vs sodium bicarbonate in terms of CO2 and buffering acidity? If it does the same but with potasium instead of sodium it would be better as most people are defficient in K… Thanks Tom
You can really use any bicarbonate, however, the sodium bicarb is probably safer because the body tends to get rid of excess sodium easier than potassium. Hypothyroid people also tend to waste sodium and magnesium more readily than potassium.
I have had reflux for years and was on nexium until I started to feel it was doing more damage than good. I had violent diarrhea for a whole month after stopping it. To stop the reflux, I chew a nice big piece of candied ginger and I am usually good for at least 3 days. I keep a pkg of unsalted crackers by my bed and if I feel some reflux, I munch on 4 crackers. I have been doing this for 2 months now and I feel a lot better, except for the other thyroid symptoms, the worse of which are nails that split into the quick.
Hi Tom, thank you for the article.
What is the best source of calcium one can eat in order to prevent food coming back up into the esophagus.?
Thank you very much.
Hi Paula, I cover that here: http://www.forefronthealth.com/eggshell-calcium-supplement/
I see lots of places adding T3 thyroid is a big help. Having had my thyroid surgically removed 35 years ago, I did ok on levothyroxine generic. The last three years I have many more hypothyroid symptoms like weight gain, brain fog, lack of energy, gerd, low muscle mass, always cold. Regular doc said no to T3 or Armour, went to a DO and he did a complete work up, added vit D3 went to synthroid, then from 112 mcg to 125, to 137 and finally to 150, where the brain fog got really bad. Stopped the 150 but he wanted me to go to an Endocrinologist. Endo said, your tests are all in the normal range, the problem isn’t your thyroid. Referral to urologist for Testosterone. I can’t find anybody here that will put me on T3. I went to several pharmacists to see who prescribes T3 or Armour and that’s how I got the name of the DO. But DO was NO GO for T3 period. Help
Hi Tom, that’s a common problem we run into and why we use the source of desiccated thyroid mentioned in the article with our clients: https://www.forefronthealth.com/shop/raw-desiccated-thyroid/
Using T4-only meds after a thyroidectomy is entirely unnatural and often very problematic. This article should help too: https://www.forefronthealth.com/rai-and-thyroidectomy/
Hi Tom, thanks for this article. I thought that changing my diet on your program would solve my heartburn/reflux problems. It seemed to for a while but then it came back and it didn’t matter what I was eating. I can see how CO2 can make all the difference. I seem to lack it in a big way and I am having to go to greater lengths to try to retain it in my system. I never seemed to respond to thyroid.
Hi Kate, if you’re not responding to thyroid, then we have to determine why that is. Vitamin A deficiency, low cholesterol, high PUFA in the bloodstream, elevated estrogen, lacking the enzymes to digest and absorb the hormones, deficiency in thyroid co-factors like selenium, zinc, and copper, b-vitamin deficiency, or even dosing problems are potential reasons.
Gah! I can’t believe the number of problems I have that all point back to hypothyroidism. Gallstones leading to acute pancreatitis, gerd, diabetes 2, sleep probs, skin probs, fibroids, allergies, weight gain.
I felt a lot of my issues were connected because of their onset. Couldn’t get any doctor to agree with me.
In finding Tom I feel like I finally found someone who ties everything together. Now I have a direction. Whew!