"On a pain scale, it doesn't rank anywhere near a kidney stone, but it does make those few hours after my meals really damn unpleasant," my 34-year-old patient Sara recently told me during her initial consultation. Testing revealed Sara suffered from dysbiosis and gastritis, which manifested as gas and bloating within minutes of eating, and acid reflux—more commonly called heartburn.
She wasn't alone; about one in four Americans experience this condition at least once a week. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid unpleasantly comes up from your stomach into your esophagus (rather than staying in your stomach), accompanied by burning in your chest and sometimes food regurgitation. Sara's heartburn occurred several times every week. Her Western diagnosis would be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition characterized by frequent heartburn and esophageal damage. A diagnosis that says nothing about the root cause of the issue. And she wasn't being dramatic about her pain level. I've had patients visit the ER thinking they're having a heart attack because of intense chest pain. Their heart checks out fine, and it turns out to be GERD.