Are Acid Reflux and Diarrhea Related?


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A significant number of people who have acid reflux disease also seem to suffer from frequent IBS or irritable bowel symptoms.  But is this coincidence or connection?  The answer is, there does appear to be a connection.  There is at least one affiliation between acid reflux and diarrhea, and there could be more.  In this article, we will briefly explore the implication of these connections.

The Connection

The first of the two connections is a natural one.  This could possibly mean that both acid reflux and diarrhea are symptoms of a larger root problem.  In this case, the problem is digestion.  Medical sources note that acid reflux disease can occur when the intestinal and lower-stomach muscles involuntarily relax.  This, also, can lead to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea.

The other link between acid reflux and diarrhea is not naturally occurring, but rather drug related.  Several current studies show that drugs taken to alleviate acid reflux are actually helping to cause diarrhea.  There are two basic categories for acid reflux medical treatment – protein pump inhibitors (PPI’s) and H-2 blockers.  Some common brand name versions of these drugs you may recognize are Prilosec & Nexium for PPI’s, and Zantac and Pepcid for H-2 blockers.  Diarrhea has been found to be a side effect of taking both of these drug categories.

The Cause

H-2 blockers and protein pump inhibitors both have been shown to facilitate the excessive growth of the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C-diff).   Excessive amounts of C-diff growing rampant in the large intestine, or colon, are responsible for causing diarrhea.   And to make matters worse, antibiotics taken for separate problems (or related) can kill the “good” bacteria that are needed to ward of C-diff in the large intestine.

Colitis, a painful form of cramping intestinal inflammation, can result from too much C-diff.  Compounding matters, these infections can spread very easily in populated places such as hospitals and dorms.

The Reason

Basically, taking drugs to combat acid reflux actually weakens the body’s defenses.  The stomach acid in a person’s body is not just for digesting food, but also acts as a barrier to prevent unwanted bugs from entering our bodies.  The drugs used to suppress stomach acid can actually weaken this form of defense, allowing access to certain bacteria (like C-diff) that would otherwise not be admitted.

This is also a reason that doctors often recommend more natural methods of fighting acid reflux before resorting to medicine.  Some of these methods include losing weight (if applicable), eating smaller meals more frequently, eating less fatty foods, eating less spicy foods, limiting alcohol and smoking, and elevating the head when sleeping.  These can often go a long way in controlling acid reflux if followed carefully. 

Acid reflux and diarrhea are related, probably in more ways than one.  If you haven’t exhausted these possibilities already, you may want to try utilizing some of the lifestyle and diet related treatments listed above.  If you’re stuck using the medicinal treatments, then just remember to be aware of infections that can result from a weakened line of defense.  And, maintain frequent contact with your physician as a result.

Probiotics are a great way of keeping bad bacteria levels at a manageable level. Probiotics can help to relieve IBS symptoms, including diarrhea and also aid digestion. Primal Defense™ is a whole food probiotic blend, which customers have given 4.5 out of 5 – you can read their reviews here: Primal Defense™


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5 Responses

  1. Terry Wilson
    July 19th, 2007 | 5:33 pm

    I do take Nexium for my acid reflux. It helps quite a bit. My only symtom has been a feeling that there is something stuck in my throat. This is much reduced since being on this RX, but not perfect. I am careful to follow all of the other suggestions, though that does not seem to help much.

    I keep alert to any new thoughts or development on this issue. Thank you.

  2. July 20th, 2007 | 10:35 pm

    i have mucus in my throat what can i take to make it go away and the burning feeling

  3. Colin
    July 25th, 2007 | 5:09 pm

    Dear Kathryn,

    Please can you advise about the acidity of fruit related to acid reflux. I have noted that I should avoid citrus fruit and tomatoes. Please can you advise on the following:-

    strawberries
    blackberries
    logan berries
    blackcurrants
    gooseberries
    raspberries
    grapes
    melon
    peaches
    apples
    pineapples
    cherries

    Many thanks

    Colin

  4. Colin
    July 25th, 2007 | 5:10 pm

    Dear Kathryn

    Please can you explain why chocolate is bad for5 acid reflux as I tend to be a ‘chocoholic’.

    Many thanks

    Colin

  5. July 27th, 2007 | 9:12 pm

    Colin

    Although everyones different the following are general guidelines regarding the fruits that you mentioned:

    strawberries - generally ok, although can cause reflux in some
    blackberries - generally ok, although can cause reflux in some
    logan berries - generally ok, although can cause reflux in some
    blackcurrants - generally ok, although can cause reflux in some
    gooseberries - generally well tolerated
    raspberries - generally ok, although can cause reflux in some
    grapes - generally ok, although can cause reflux in some
    melon - generally well tolerated
    peaches - generally well tolerated - canned seem to be best
    apples - generally well tolerated
    pineapples - generally well tolerated
    cherries - generally well tolerated - try californian

    The reason Chocolate seems to disagree with most reflux sufferers is due to it’s relaxing effect on the LES (lower esosphageal sphincter) muscle at the top of the stomach.

    If you ‘must’ have chocolate, try eating a small square for taste, but make sure it’s not too near to bedtime.

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