Struggling with GERD? Try this.

If you are tired of the heartburn, pressure, and regurgitation discomfort associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you can do more than just take your medications.

Thirty-seven percent of overweight and obese individuals suffer GERD symptoms, and one study is showing that a structured weight loss program can lead to complete resolution of symptoms for the majority of people.   Published in the scientific journal Obesity in February 2013, the study enrolled 332 adults and asked them to participate in a formal weight loss program.  After 6 months, the volunteers had lost an average of 30 pounds. Even better–81% of subjects had a reduction in symptoms, with 65% of them having complete resolution of symptoms.

So if you are struggling with GERD, one of the best first steps you can take is to investigate the structured weight loss programs available to you.

A very famous study, called HUNT, looked at a large population in Norway.  They found that even though GERD patients were put on high doses of proton-pump inhibitors—a class of drugs used to treat GERD—they still experienced severe symptoms.  However, if those same participants were enrolled into a supervised weight loss program, their symptoms decreased after weight loss was achieved. Even if those patients only lost relatively small amounts of weight.

As your weight drops, your symptoms of GERD will plummet too.

Weight loss is a preferred treatment over medications for patients suffering from GERD for a few reasons. First, proton-pump inhibitors are designed to decrease the amount of stomach acid, called HCL, that your body produces.  Proper acid levels in the stomach are extremely important for the digestion of proteins, as well as ensuring specific nutrients are released from foods that you eat.

When the acidity of the stomach is reduced by GERD medications over a longer period of time, it can actually lead to certain nutrient deficiencies. For example, bone fracture risk increases with the use of acid-blocker medications, because it affects calcium absorption in the small intestine.

Calcium isn’t the only nutrient that your body struggles to absorb when you have decreased acid levels in the stomach.

Your body also demands an acidic stomach environment in order to release Vitamin B12 from proteins in your diet. Once Vitamin B12 is free from food, it must bind to something called an R-protein, and then this binds to a compound released in the stomach called ‘instrisic factor’.  This stepwise process requires an acidic environment in the stomach in order to ultimately achieve absorption of vitamin B12.  Decreases in vitamin B12 absorption can occur in as little as two weeks on a medication like omeprazole, a commonly used proton-pump inhibitor. Decreased vitamin C levels in gastric juice also show up after acid-blocking medications are used, even in healthy individuals.

While certain absorption issues begin with short-term acid-blocker medications, over the long term, even more deficiencies can arise. Long term GERD medication use can lead to magnesium deficiency, which resolves after the drug is discontinued.  Magnesium deficiency is implicated in a wide range of diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

At Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, we partner with patients to achieve a total health transformation. If you are suffering from GERD symptoms, and want to reduce your medications, lose weight, and gain control of your health, you will find an ally in our specially-trained medical staff and dietitians.  Our structured weight loss program provides a framework for your health to flourish, and will enable you to get rid of GERD—forever.

Cederquist Medical Wellness Center

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