Got Hashimoto’s and heartburn? Rethink antacids

No one can be blamed for wanting relief, especially when acid reflux makes it feel like molten lava is shooting up through your esophagus. Antacids can bring quick relief, but their long-term use can also bring lasting problems that could worsen your Hashimoto's. It’s better to identify and address the underlying causes of acid reflux than simply to squelch the symptoms.

Acid reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach backwash into the esophagus. These contents can include stomach acid, bile, food, or sour liquid. Although the lining of the stomach is designed to handle such an acidic environment, the more delicate tissue of the esophagus is not. As a result, symptoms include indigestion, a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), and tasting regurgitated food or liquid in the back of your mouth.

Many factors can cause acid reflux, including overeating, obesity, or the types of foods you eat. Spicy foods, fried foods, coffee, chocolate, and citrus are frequently cited as triggering acid reflux. When the reflux becomes constant, it’s worth exploring some of the common underlying conditions.

Studies have established a strong link between digestive health and function and autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Acid reflux or heartburn are warning signals that you may suffer from an underlying digestive imbalance. Unless you address the digestive issues that cause acid reflux, it will be difficult to manage your Hashimoto's.

Possible underlying causes of acid reflux

H. pylori overgrowth: An H. pylori infection occurs in the stomach and is the most common chronic bacterial infection, affecting more than 50 percent of the world’s population. An H. pylori infection may promote acid reflux by decreasing stomach acid. Although acid reflux is associated with too much acidity, the truth is in many cases too little stomach acid causes acid reflux, which I’ll explain in the next paragraph. An H. pylori infection is a common underlying factor to flareups in autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto's hypothyroidism.

Too little stomach acid: Sufficient stomach acid is necessary to break down dietary proteins, ensure absorption of vital nutrients and minerals, and protect the digestive tract from harmful bacteria. It’s believed that low stomach acid, or hypochlorhydria, results in improperly digested food lingering too long in the stomach. Eventually it backwashes into the esophagus, and although the contents are not acidic enough for the stomach, they are too acidic for the delicate esophageal tissue. Factors that cause too little stomach acid include an H. pylori infection, a nutrient-poor diet, stress, and antacid medications.

Gluten: If you eat gluten, it could be a culprit in your acid reflux. One study found chronic acid reflux affected 30 percent of patients with celiac disease compared to less than 5 percent of those not diagnosed with the disease. Another study found almost 40 percent of children with celiac disease suffer from esophagitis, inflammation of the esophagus that causes heartburn.

Studies show a strong connection between gluten intolerance and Hashimoto's. If you have Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, a strict gluten-free diet can help you manage the underlying immune component of the disease.

Acid reflux usually just one of many digestive symptoms that contribute to Hashimoto's hypothyroidism

Acid reflux is often just one of many digestive symptoms that can result from poor digestion, food intolerances, chronic stress, gut infections, and other factors. In fact, one study showed that participants with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were nearly twice as likely as non IBS participants to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic, advanced form of acid reflux. Conversely, another study found a majority of participants with GERD also suffered from IBS.

Because most of the immune system resides in the gut, all digestive disorders are evidence that the immune system is imbalanced or in distress. Because Hashimoto's hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease, working to restore digestive health can in turn help restore health and balance to thyroid function.

Although antacids can bring temporarily relief, they may also worsen your acid reflux problem in the long run. Ultimately, antacids reduce stomach acid, hinder digestion, and inhibit nutrient absorption. In addition, antacids are shown to weaken bones and increase the risk of food poisoning.

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