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Ashley Woods MD Acid Reflux

When Eating Hurts: Acid Reflux – It May Not Be What You Think

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If you experience acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), you’re not alone. It’s an incredibly common problem affecting up to 25% of Americans. And it can make eating a simple meal a formidable experience.

But the standard treatment for acid reflux could be doing you more harm than good. GERD is not a problem of TOO MUCH stomach acid – it’s more about stomach acid being in the wrong location. In fact, the long-term lowering of your stomach acid with medications can create a host of other problems in your body.

Watch the video as we get to the root of GERD:

  • Learn about the many potential root causes of your GI distress after eating (it may not be acid related at all)
  • Discover the surprising truth about stomach acid – hint:it’s not the bad guy
  • Learn 5 ways to improveyour indigestion symptomswithout medication

It’s time to get back to enjoying healthy food without discomfort and pain!

Understanding Digestive Health: The Role of Stomach Acid

Digestive health plays a crucial role in our overall well-being, yet many individuals experience discomfort after meals, commonly attributed to acid reflux or indigestion. In a recent webinar by Dr. Ashley Woods from MaxWell Clinic, key insights were shared regarding the significance of stomach acid and its impact on digestive processes. Let’s delve into the details to understand why stomach acid is a critical factor in maintaining optimal health.

The Basics of Digestion

Dr. Woods emphasized that digestion is a complex process involving eight organs, numerous enzymes, nerves, and hormones. The goal is to break down meals into essential components like fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. This intricate process takes approximately 30 hours, relying on both mechanical actions, such as chewing, and chemical reactions with enzymes.

Stomach Acid’s Crucial Role

One of the key players in this process is stomach acid, which has a low pH between one and three. This acidity is essential for breaking down proteins and aiding in the absorption of vital nutrients like vitamin B12. The lower esophageal sphincter acts as a trapdoor, preventing the backflow of acid into the esophagus.

The Impact of Low Stomach Acid

Contrary to common belief, low stomach acid, or hypochlorhydria, can lead to significant discomfort after meals. Stress, age, autoimmune issues, surgery, fasting, and certain medications are among the factors contributing to reduced stomach acid production. Consequently, individuals may experience symptoms like bloating, nausea, and even depression or anxiety due to nutritional deficiencies.

Identifying Causes of Discomfort

Dr. Woods discussed various causes of digestive discomfort, including food intolerances, enzyme deficiencies, bacterial or fungal overgrowth, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Recognizing these potential culprits is crucial for effective management and relief.

Natural Approaches for Relief

Addressing discomfort after meals often involves a holistic approach. Dr. Woods recommended natural supplements like TumEz™, a zinc carnosine complex, and GI Acute, a combination of betaine hydrochloric acid, pepsin, l-glutamic acid, as potential aids. These supplements help support the stomach’s natural protective mechanisms without compromising the digestive process.

Promoting Digestive Wellness

Dr. Woods highlighted lifestyle changes that can contribute to better digestion. These include mindful eating, proper chewing, and incorporating pauses before meals to express gratitude. Moreover, she emphasized the importance of discussing symptoms with a healthcare provider to explore personalized solutions.


Understanding the intricate processes of digestion, the role of stomach acid, and potential causes of discomfort after meals provides valuable insights for individuals seeking digestive wellness. By addressing the root causes and adopting natural approaches, it is possible to achieve optimal digestive health. If you experience persistent symptoms, consulting with a healthcare provider can guide you toward personalized solutions for a healthier digestive system.

Are you ready to take charge of your health? Schedule your free 20-minute discovery call with our New Patient Coordinator to see how you can become a patient at MaxWell Clinic and start your healing journey today.

hi everybody thank you for taking time out of your day to spend a little bit of it with me
um i appreciate it today we are going to talk about a
very common problem my name is dr ashley woods i’m one of the physicians here at maxwell clinic
and um i’m it’s my pleasure to be with you
i’m gonna wait just a few more minutes as other people may be uh jumping on
if something uh goes awry with this webinar meaning a technical difficulty like internet going out just stay on the
link i will log out jump on my hotspot and rejoin if you have questions that
come up as we go through the slides and and the discussion today please
put them in the chat will be time at the end to answer questions that may come up for you
and i’m going to go ahead and get started again today i’m discussing very common
problem that affects greater than 25 of americans
called acid reflux some people call it indigestion or we call it gerd for short
standing for gastroesophageal reflux disease
so if you’ve joined us today it’s likely that you or someone that you love suffers from pain or discomfort after
meals but eating should not hurt it is a reality for some
for many people um and it can be occasional with certain foods or it can be with every meal
and that’s unfortunate these are um some symptoms that people
may complain of or that you may have and there are many reasons that food can create problems and i’ll touch on some
of the many causes today but we’re not going to do a deep dive into those we’re going to mostly be talking about
acid reflux so these symptoms as they’re listed here um
burning or what people call is heartburn or indigestion can occur in the tummy or
it can occur in the chest or people can have chest pain and it can be so severe that a lot of folks may go to the
emergency room because they not sure what’s happening and may think they’re having a heart attack um because it’s
that painful um abdominal pain can happen uh at nausea after meals
bloating belching coughing which sounds strange but a lot
of people will end up at their ear nose and throat or allergist or primary care doc saying well i’ve got this cough and
it just won’t go away um it can actually be from acid reflux
sore throat hoarse voice for no apparent reason could be acid reflux um and so
you might leave your ear nose and throat doctor or your primary care doctor saying no give this give this
prescription a prolific a try let’s reduce your acid and see if this gets better
um wheezing um that occurs primarily at night and um a little bit of anatomy that
we’re going to talk about in a minute will help explain that so these are familiar medications that
are often reached for or even prescribed for these symptoms listed here are alkalizing agents
h2 blockers proton pump inhibitors some of them used to be prescription but
now they’re easily reached for over the counter and so i really think that that 25 of americans might be a little higher
because um this is a very very common uh medication used in america
uh and many work very well acutely um but they were never intended to be
long-term medications um and some of them cause really big problems long term
um because they lower the acidity of the stomach and you’re like well dr woods isn’t that the point
no that’s really not the point you don’t want lower stomach acid and that may
surprise a lot of you but it’s actually a location problem
um and that’ll make more sense when we go through some anatomy here um
this is not your anatomy this is a photo of a complex contraption that does a
simple task and rube goldberg was a cartoonist and engineer who was known
for drawing these types of machines in our house when my boys were little we would make things in our garage out of
random stuff to roll a ball down a hill to land in a cup and we made up the name
googamizer which is really not a word but this is a googamizer picture or a
rube goldberg contraption but it reminds me of human digestion because eating food to nourish
our body seems like a simple task but digestion is really quite complex and it
relies on many sequential things to happen under the hood for the desired
outcome to occur which is to get nutrients into your cells to create
energy so stick with me uh here is an anatomy
picture and we’re going to go through this and you don’t really have to remember or completely understand or maybe this is really basic for a lot of
folks but i want people to understand what i’m talking about because otherwise it won’t make sense
um so digestion again like i said is very complex it is a process that involves
over eight organs and numerous enzymes nerves and hormones and this process turns what we eat into
energy or fuel for our body and brain and more specifically it breaks down
that meal into fats carbohydrates proteins vitamins minerals
and phytonutrients and waste products and this whole process takes about 30
hours for it to be complete um
the process is both mechanical like chewing and churning of the stomach and chemical with the enzymes um and it all
starts actually in the brain when you very first think of eating a food or
think about right now biting into a lemon kind of like makes your mouth salivate a little bit um that’s
because the thought has triggered the release of amylase in the saliva to get
your body ready for that first bite of food it prepares yourself to be able to enjoy what you’re about to
eat um next comes chewing chewing is something that i actually talk about
with a lot of my patients because if they’re having indigestion or tummy issues at all i’m like well do you chew
your food well because we live in a fast-paced very busy society where we eat fast we don’t have
time to sit down and you know do things especially during the week and i am also very guilty of that but you’ve got to
chew your food that is what your teeth are for um and the more you chew and the more
you pulverize your food the better it’s going to do as you begin to digest so
lots of chewing and very slowly is important because that’s that’s a step you don’t really want to skip
um and it breaks that those big um
molecules pieces of meat pieces of broccoli whatever you’re eating into smaller food particles uh
and then combined with saliva it becomes a big lump which you swallow that big
lump is called a bolus if you’re being technical um and then that bolus begins its journey down a long tube called your
esophagus and this is helped by gravity and peristalsis which are sort of
waves that are non they just kind of it just helps the food move down um
and at the end of the esophagus is a little trapdoor we’ll call it the um or
it’s called the lower esophageal sphincter i’m the one calling it a trapdoor because that’s the easy way to
think about it it’s closed most of the time unless food is coming down and then it opens and then it is supposed to
close again this is key because this is where the problem lies
so once it goes down through the esophagus it hits the stomach the
in the stomach the stomach produces hydrochloric acid so this is where the acid piece comes in
hydrochloric acid’s ph or the acidity of that is a number which is 0.8 it’s very
very low and so the acidity of the stomach is between one and three and you want it to be between one and three you
don’t want to lower the acid of your stomach um and for reference the like
water is a ph of seven and that’s neutral and the body likes neutral um
the stomach is the only organ on this whole trail that is supposed that’s
really built for holding acid and keeping it’s lined with mucus and the
cells there are not disrupted there are some exceptions like ulcers and we’ll talk about that later but what i’m
saying is that that’s where the acidity is supposed to be and stay and it’s that little trap door at the top or the lower
esophageal sphincter that is supposed to close um and remained closed as your stomach
begins to churn and pulverize again mechanical um churn and mix with acid as it begins to
digest further down you get um
secretion of other enzymes from other organs so the other organs kind of join
the disassembly line and then the liver the gallbladder the pancreas secrete
their enzymes and the secretion of those enzymes rely on the
pepsin signal from the stomach to activate them in other words you need
the acidity have occurred for those other enzymes to
to come to come online and start helping break down the amino acids the fats from the
gallbladder um people that have had their gallbladder removed frequently will have trouble digesting fattier
foods and that can be a problem um another thing that is important here and
this is a big reason that we need the stomach acid is that to
to absorb vitamin b12 vitamin b12 is only available if you’re not supplementing
through through animal proteins and so but for you to absorb the vitamin b12
that’s in that steak or hamburger or whatever you’re eating it’s got to be broken off by the by the
acid it’s got to be separated from the protein molecule and the acid is what does that and then you release something
called intrinsic factor intrinsic factor is released um
and it binds to the b12 and it helps the absorption further down
along the trail in the terminal ileum which is part of the small intestines
and so if you don’t have the acid to break off or to break apart the proteins
into smaller amino acids and you can’t break off b12 you’re not going to be
able to absorb it so lowering your acid in your stomach is a bad idea
um and i know that’s really contra what’s what i’m looking for it’s
not what you’re taught in school it’s not what i was taught in school it’s like oh hi i said tr treat it lower it
um you know and so that that’s gonna going against the grain but it is it
serves a purpose um so after these other uh enzymes and
organs kind of join the disassembly line of of that food bolus coming down now now
the food bolus is more of like what’s called kine and chyme is more of a frothy slurry of a mixture if everything
is going well and then as it gets to the small intestines that’s where
all those nutrients that you’re trying to get from that plate of food
into it’s where they get absorbed into the bloodstream so that they can
be in the cells and do their thing um and so um like i said like if you don’t
have a gallbladder because you had gallstones you removed breaking down fat will be a problem for
you um and so again the small intestines is where all these disassembled molecules
proteins fats carbs minerals vitamins
uh phytonutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream and then your cells use those for energy um and that’s kind of
the whole point of of why we eat now i mean we’re also hungry and it’s social
and it’s fun and food is yummy and i get all that but on a microscopic level that’s kind of what we’re doing
um at the end of the small intestines is your colon and it’s a big transport tube where stool travels through until you
poop and the whole process again takes about 30 hours unless you have some kind of intestinal illness or something else
going on so like i said uh eating and digestion is not simple
but it is complex and if one thing is off it affects everything else downstream
so what what is this whole thing about acid reflux and why do we care well
we care because it causes a lot of problems but what i want to reinforce is it’s the reflux piece
that’s the problem it’s not the acid itself it’s acid being in the wrong location because your esophagus and your
small intestines are not supposed to have acid in them and acid will reflux
up into your esophagus and create all those symptoms that we listed
on the first couple of slides to to occur so this is a great picture
because it shows the stomach and it shows acid refluxing back up
through that lower esophageal sphincter now you see this sort of band of tissue um there that kind of transverses the
esophagus and that that is the diaphragm that is the big muscle that helps us breathe um involuntarily
22 000 times each day without having to think about it and so that diaphragm is
allowing the esophagus to it’s the only opening in the diaphragm is is the hole
that the esophagus comes down and attaches to the stomach so people that have
um uh hiatal hernia what that is is the stomach is starting to poke up into the
into the lung cavity not into the lung but into the chest cavity um so that
opening in the diaphragm may anatomically for some people be a little larger and those people are going to
have trouble with the trap door closing thus some acid reflux again acid being
in the wrong location um and um
other things can affect and disrupt uh the lower esophageal sphincter and
we’re going to talk about that um so again the big takeaway
point that i really want you understand is that your stomach acid is a critical step in processing and digesting your
food and without it we develop nutritional deficiencies in things like amino acids and vitamins
um amino acids are important for energy production for detox for making our
neurotransmitters fatty acids they’re important for cell membrane [Music]
creation and maintenance and we talked a little bit about the vitamin b12
because that’s a great example of what can be thrown off by lowering your stomach
acid on a everyday basis with those types of medications
so what causes lower esophageal dysfunction
um several things are listed on here we’ve we’ve talked about a couple of them um
eating certain types of foods chocolate coffee peppermint sugar
onions those are just a few certain people have certain foods and they know their triggers so that’s a
problem alcohol or smoking will relax the lower esophageal sphincter or
the trapdoor excess weight in the middle section overeating big meals uh lots of
medications that are pretty common albuterol which is frequently used for asthma calcium channel blockers beta
blockers um benzodiazepines um and some pain medications um increases in
intra-abdominal pressure like if you have on really tight pants um
you know after you eat a meal and things just don’t feel right and then you get home and you’re butting your pants oh that
feels so much better well you’ve increased your intradominant pressure um
gravity so when you lie down at night um gravity is your friend so if you eat and
then immediately go and lie on your sofa that’s sort of working against
gravity um so that affects it somewhat hyaluro
hernia we talked about and then autonomic dysfunction mediated by the vagus nerve
so um things that you can do kind of speak to this and and people who’ve had
reflux have probably tried some of these things like elevating the head of their bed not eating two hours before dinner
losing weight which is harder to do sometimes than than than others um stop smoking i mean it’s
a little bit of a no-brainer um for good health but people struggle with that chewing your food well that is like the
simplest thing um and i’m guilty of not always doing it but if i
pay attention it’s it happens and and it’s important to remind myself and i have on here um
pause relax breathe in gratitude before meals because i do talk about this with
my patients um you know whether you say grace at the dinner table or not is not
my point i’m trying to make but the point of just that pausing and being like
taking that deep breath and settling in to be like okay i’m gonna accept these
nutrients into my body and then you can dive into your into your food and that kind of helps
cause you and slow you down and help you remember to chew
um so a chlorohydria and that’s a big fancy medical word for not
enough stomach acid and um and that sounds crazy but stomach acid
production low stomach acid production is a very common cause of indigestion
and a lot of people think it’s because they have too much when in fact the case is they don’t have enough
and it can cause pretty significant discomfort after meals particularly
bloating and nausea what are the causes of low stomach acid
the ones that i see they’re listed here on the slides but i’m gonna only speak mostly about the ones i see most
commonly are stress people that are stressed don’t digest their food well they also probably don’t take time to
chew their food well so stress will absolutely lower your stomach acid um in
fact if you think and what i hear a lot is is that yeah i started having stomach acid and when you look back it was
around a time of um a lot of a lot of stress in their life
or something happened then after that you know digestion was suddenly
more of an issue acid blockers prolly sex that’s why we frequently at mexico clinic will try to
get you off your your acid blocker or your ppi as soon as possible
um for this reason um autoimmune issues surgery can do it um
fasting which we do you actually recommend quite a lot at the mexico clinic it actually can increase your stomach
art can sorry i said that wrong can lower your stomach acid um
and different infections but stress and also stomach acid goes down with age and so that’s pretty common we see as people
get older um their stomach acid will drop again
complicated simple um so the consequences of low stomach acid
we’ve talked about already so nutritional deficiencies is sort of a broad category but there’s some specific
ones listed but one thing i didn’t mention is bacterial overgrowth
of things like h pylori which can cause stomach ulcers um
fungal overgrowth um so the potential clinical outcomes
depression anxiety if you don’t have the building blocks for neurotransmitters brain fog
fatigue um gi distress with meals which is kind of what we’ve been talking about during this time hair loss brittle nails
um autoimmune issues so a lot of potential clinical outcomes um
that that feel more relevant there um so what are other causes it’s like
well you know it might not be stomach acid it could be too low stomach acid or you know how do you know what what are
other causes of discomfort after you eat um because not everybody fits into this
box of acid the wrong location is it reflux is it not um
there are other suspects frequently next on the list by my book is food
intolerances that’s something you can discuss with your clinician um because we can test for that uh it’s not easy to
test for stomach acid we don’t do that at the maxwell clinic because that’s usually um well
let me back that up we do that in a different way which i’ll talk about later but technically manometry which is done by a
gastroenterologist where they put a probe down to measure the ph in the esophagus it’s invasive it’s not
commonly done even in gi circles um textbook-wise so that’s that’s how that
happens um but food intolerances can be can be checked for so that may be
something worth discussing with your clinician um enzyme deficiencies um that could be
related due to low stomach acid maybe you didn’t get the signal to turn on those other enzymes and maybe those enzymes due to
stress or aging or autoimmune conditions are low going to make it hard to absorb
those those broken down molecules pancreatic insufficiency
global dysfunction or absence like we discussed uh sibo uh which is small
bacterial i’m sorry small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in c-fo which is small intestinal fungal overgrowth um
yes that could be a cause of symptoms but it could also be a result of the low stomach acid um
inflammatory bowel disease like crohn’s or ulcerative colitis can cause symptoms
um peptic ulcer disease and just imbalance of what goal
gut flora so these are things we’re not going into
in depth today because they all could be a talk in and of themselves but i just wanted to touch on them because they um
can be teased out with a couple of different techniques with your clinician
okay so what do you do if you feel like you’ve got too much stomach acid or it’s in the wrong place or you’re just not
sure and you’re trying to come off of your uh pepcid or prilosec or you just want
to try something more natural this is something that we use a lot of in the office it’s called tum ez and it’s zinc
uh carnosine complex uh and it’s elemental zinc and it really does help
um in the moment you take it sort of as needed and it safely and effectively supports the stomach’s natural cell
protective mechanisms without interfering with the normal digestive process um those are those are capsules
so those are easier to take this one’s not as easy to take because it won’t i mean i guess if you had a big
purse you could put it in there or you could put it on your desk at work um not as easy to take but works like a charm
this is a powder um and so you do mix it with water
if you do not like the taste of licorice you are not going to like the taste of this but it works marvelously and you
can just do it like a shot and it really it has um
a contra concentrated form of licorice and
some other ingredients like aloe and arabidoglyctins and
it helps naturally soothe and heal the um
the esophagus in the stomach um without significantly lowering stomach acid um
it is sort of um it has it has a little bit of a
well it has a lot of a licorice taste so just letting you know it works great but it’s not going to be something that you
enjoy it’s medicinal and we use
both of those in combination sometimes some people one works better for the other and you just have to individualize
there this is earlier when i said we don’t test for low stomach acid in the office
we don’t do something to you to test like we don’t do manometry obviously but this is something that is frequently
used in functional medicine to sort of test the theory of maybe you have low
stomach acid and it’s not too much stomach acid and this is called gastric acid and it is
a combination of products mostly uh beteen hydrochloric acid which is
what we talked about pepsin in uh l-glutamic acid and some
um help it helps with digestion in that it’s sort of a replacer for stomach acid that you may
be missing and you test yourself by starting out taking one
capsule with each meal and if that doesn’t help then you go up to two and if that doesn’t help you go up to three
and you’re looking for a warm sensation in your tummy if you get the warm sensation then you’ve exceeded or maybe
with one pill you that’s not your problem and you need to look at other things but the warm sensation in your
tummy could indicate that you have reached your dose and you need to back off a little bit um so say you do this
and you go up to four capsules with your meal and that you get the warm sensation so you back off to three where you
didn’t have the warm sensation but that’s your dose and you continue that as
with meals as you eat to help lower those those symptoms um and that is
frequently helpful um another thing that is frequently helpful and and i don’t
recommend that you just get this off the shelf and try this yourself i do recommend that you discuss it with your
clinician it’s not that it’s dangerous really really benign but it is it’s
worth a complete understanding of of how to do this in the stepwise fashion and how to
use it you know just for a short period of time and some people need it longer
another thing that i would show is digestive enzymes which are
available in digestive nrg and it works in a wide ph range so even if you don’t have
too low stomach acid or that if acid’s not your problem and you
feel like maybe it may be a pancreatic insufficiency again something to work with your provider on but this is
another um potential um aid in helping kind of tease out what’s
going on a lot of people get a lot of relief with this okay so i have said a lot of things
about a lot of things and you’ve had an anatomy lesson about the gastrointestinal tract so at this point
i’m going to open it up to any questions you may have and if you do have
um questions just put them in the chat um
bar and i will find that well done let’s see
in the q a and i’ll just wait for a second to
let any of those come through or you may just have follow-up questions for your clinician at your next visit
and that would be completely appropriate um but the big takeaways that i want people to
walk away with from today is that it’s not that you have too much stomach acid it’s that the stomach acid is not
supposed to be in your esophagus and it may be that your stomach acid is actually too low and if you are
continually lowering your stomach acid it will cause nutritional problems and
um you don’t want those you don’t want to add to what’s going on but you don’t want to be measurable so we do
occasionally try to lower stomach acid if somebody has erosive esophagitis or
something you’ve got to get repair happening um but it’s not a long-term plan
as the advertisers would have you believe so
okay i don’t see any questions coming in so thank you for spending a little bit
of your afternoon with me today and i hope all your meals are just delicious
and not painful and that you can absorb all of those good new drinks have a good rest of the day

This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website or in any linked materials. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone immediately.

Ashley Woods, MD

Dr. Woods' focus is on her patients and their wellbeing. She believes in the innate intelligence of the human body and its capacity to heal given the correct environment, nutrition, support and tools. She seeks to find the root cause of patients’ symptoms in the context of each individual’s unique genetics, environment, and lifestyle.