I have to laugh sometimes at mainstream medicine, pharmaceuticals particularly. Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars marketing drugs in order to make billions of dollars in profits, all at the expense of the health, and pocketbooks, of people who are buying (literally) their lies. And every once in a while a story comes out that highlights the stupidity of it all. In those moments l like to sit back, take it in, and snicker.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article titled “Emerging Type of Heartburn Defies Drugs, Diagnosis.” The article covered a strange phenomenon—it seems that almost one-half of patients with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), otherwise known as chronic heartburn, don’t get complete relief from antacids or acid-blocking medications, and most don’t even have any evidence of acid erosion, or damage, in the esophagus. And the doctors don’t seem to know why. They call this “new” condition non-erosive reflux disease (NERD).

You have got to be kidding me. 

And we place so much trust in these so-called experts. Folks, this is yet one more reason why I am trying to inspire you to become your own health advocate. Mainstream doctors only have half of the story, and unfortunately, their lenses are tinted the color of pharmaceutical drug. (Their pockets are also lined in one particular pharmaceutical-drug-related color: green!) I can just hear the pharmaceutical companies coming up with new drugs to treat NERD. Oh, please.

From the WSJ article, “Gastrointestinal experts now estimate that 50% to 70% of GERD patients actually have NERD, and studies show they are more likely to be female—and younger and thinner—than typical acid-reflux sufferers.” Doctors think some of these patients may be suffering from a reflux of bile. Sure, bile reflux is a possibility, but there are more underlying causes of NERD.

Another possible cause, they say, is stress. Now we’re getting closer. Stress definitely plays a major role in digestion. When you’re stressed your digestive functions shut down. It’s the standard fight-or-flight response that occurs under stress. Don’t let them sell you an anti-depressant though. It won’t solve the problem! Instead, find a stress-relieving therapy like massage, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or any number of relaxing therapies that are available. In fact, I’ve blogged about a breathing technique that helps heartburn.

But let’s get to the main reasons people are not finding relief from acid suppressors, shall we? It’s simple really, and I have been saying it for years. Most people are not suffering from too much stomach acid, but rather, too little stomach acid. That simple fact can be hard to believe when doctors are pushing acid suppressors at the mere mention of heartburn, but now we see that there is more to the story. 

When not enough stomach acid is produced, protein foods are not fully denatured, or unfolded, making it very difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the complicated protein molecules. When the digestive process in the stomach is hindered, symptoms of heartburn can occur. Stomach contents—with or without stomach acid—can reflux into the esophagus causing the characteristic heartburn symptoms, yet produce no visible damage to the esophageal lining. Adding acid suppressors to this scenario only worsens the situation.

There are a few solutions. Let me start with the most important—diet. The Standard American Diet (SAD) itself puts a strain on the digestive system, stomach acid or no stomach acid. Refined and processed chemical-laden foods are difficult to digest, as you might imagine. Add to this the rapid speed at which most people eat, and the mindless way in which they eat, we have a recipe for disaster. If instead we eat a diet high in vegetables and non-starchy fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds, thoroughly chew our food, and eat with at least some focus on the meal (and not our smart phones or computers, etc.) then we have already gone a long way towards relieving digestive symptoms. 

If heartburn still persists after making the dietary modifications made above, it’s time to consider low stomach acid as a possible cause. Luckily, there are digestive enzyme formulas that contain hydrochloric acid (HCl) that can help. If you think you may have too little stomach acid, you may benefit from such a formula. 

Another possibility is digestive enzyme insufficiency. The body’s production of digestive enzymes decreases as we age, and it also decreases with certain health conditions, including stress. Add to this a diet high in difficult-to-digest foods, and it’s easy to see why so many people suffer digestive symptoms. You may have heard heartburn also called indigestion. The word indigestion says it all—inability to digest. Again, a digestive enzyme formula taken with every meal can be very helpful. 

I find it funny that mainstream medicine has “discovered” a new condition. And I’m not surprised that they are stumped at its cause. Perhaps if they look to us in the natural health field—who have known about this “mysterious” condition for decades—they might just learn something. Food for thought.