The Specific Carbohydrate Diet Cures GERD?

by Steven Wright

Conventional wisdom tells us many things that turn out wrong; we are living breathing proof of that in the SCD community. Why do you think so many of our family, friends and doctors like to take issue with what we eat? If you buck conventional wisdom, you might actually be headed in the right direction, like using the SCD diet to change the root causes of your symptoms, not taking pills to mask them.

The same holds true with chronic heartburn or gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Conventional Wisdom says “Ah, I have too much stomach acid because it burns sooo bad!” Once again, listening to conventional wisdom, including most doctors and ALL pharmaceutical companies, you’d be wrong again.

Chris Kresser put together a great series of articles into a free eBook that explains how and why GERD happens. I think it should be required reading for anyone on the SCD diet, because it explains in very simple terms how and why many people on the typical Standard American Diet (SAD) have acid reflux and how doctors treat the symptoms with medicine handed to them from the evil pharmaceutical empire. It also helps that the author backs everything up with legit sources and studies.

Here are some of the highlights:

1: “GERD is caused by increased intra-abdominal pressure (IAP)”

So, that begs the question “What causes intra-abdominal pressure?”

According to the author:

2: “Instead, I believe the primary causes of IAP (and thus heartburn and GERD) are bacterial overgrowth and mal-digestion of carbohydrates – both of which are caused at least in part by low stomach acid. In a nutshell, the process looks like this:

Now, I encourage you to read the entire eBook so you can be informed about your body and the real reasons for GERD. Chris breaks it down as this: you need to simultaneously treat both the bacterial overgrowth and the maldigested carbohydrates (from grains and starches) as well as the root cause of low stomach acid. If you don’t address each issue you allow the cycle to continue.

So, How Is Addressing Bacterial Overgrowth and Maldigested Carbs Accomplished?

It’s easy. Just start the SCD diet, which reboots the gut flora (kills bad bacteria) and removes any hard to digest carbohydrates (grains and starches) and then supplement with Betaine HCL until the levels of stomach acid secretion are strengthened. You treat the root cause, break the cycle and remove the symptoms all in one fell swoop.

What are your thoughts on his articles/eBook?

-Steve

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About the author

Steven Wright Steve Wright is a health engineer and author. In 2009, he reached a breaking point when IBS took over his life and the doctors didn't know how to help. Since then, he has transformed his health and started SCDLifestyle.com to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet Works

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

sonya October 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Thank you for leaving the information for Gerd. I did not think of the two SCD togethere

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Sharon May 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I was diagnosed with celiac disease 2 1/2 years ago and have been in a strict gluten free diet ever since. My doctor was so sure this would get rid of my horrible acid reflux, fatigue, weakness and anxiety issues. Well guess what, if anything I feel worse. Plus i had a follow up endoscopy and it showing all the damage is still there. Very little to no healing has occurred in 2 1/2 years being gluten free. So I’ve been on SCD for 5 days. I know I have to make drastic changes for my health and to be around for my children and that I can handle. I’m just terrified it won’t work because this is my last hope. I’ve been to every doctor imaginable and a natropath and a functional medicine doctor and none have been able to help me. This is my last resort. It’s only day 5 but I feel terrible and my spirits are low. I have everything staking on this. I know I’m jumping ahead and I need to give it more time but I was hoping the acid would be a little better by now (it isn’t). I get acid up in my throat everynight and I wake up hoarse every morning. And I deal with this on and off burning in my upper stomach no matter what I eat. Sorry for the long post…I don’t even really have a question…just needed to vent a little I guess. Hopefully I’ll start feeling better soon.

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Jordan Reasoner June 2, 2012 at 3:53 am

Sharon, you’re amazing!

Your story sounds exactly the same as mine (http://scdlifestyle.com/jordan ) and I can totally relate to feeling like SCD is the last hope. You’re doing the right things!

I’d highly recommend you get digestive enzymes ASAP here: http://www.giprohealth.com/prozymes.aspx

Also, based on your acid, consider testing for low stomach acid here: http://scdlifestyle.com/2012/03/3-tests-for-low-stomach-acid/

Hang in there, you’re amazing and I believe in you!

Jordan

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Mallory Smith August 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Try taking Hydrochloric Acid with Pepsin! It is the only thing that has helped me.

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Liz December 29, 2016 at 3:09 am

Hi Sharon, this is quite a few years since your post so hopefully you’re feeling much better by now but just in case you’re not I just thought I’d mention Norman Robillard who has a book about IBS & Heartburn (I know your issue is much more serious than IBS but it also covers how his diet can help other conditions). I have IBS & reflux/heartburn and, while every diet has helped in someways, I end up back at square one. The Fast Tract diet is based on the fermentation potential (FP) of foods and after just 3 days my digestion feels much better, heartburn has massively reduced so I can wait to see how it continues. It seems to fill in the gaps that other diets I’ve tried (like GAPS/SCD/lowcarb) where they’ve helped but then my issues don’t resolve or even get worse with no rhyme nor reason (but the Fast Tract diet has given me a few answers as to why some foods recommended on other diets caused problems). Anyway, not sure of you’ll even read this but wanted to say in case it helps you or someone else.

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Kate Donald May 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Dear Sharon,
I just came across your post. I felt compelled to write. I really feel for you as I too have been suffering from severe digestive issues for last 3 years. I’ve been to every kind if doctor, orthodox and alternative, I have done water fasts, coloincs, juicing , healers! You name it I’ve done it! But I’m still suffering! My main symptom is nausea all day long, every day and it has effected my life greatly. I too have a burning stomach and on endoscope they found bile in my stomach. I wonder if you may hsbe bike reflux instead of acid?? The symptoms are the same but treating it with acid reducers will not help, infact it will make it worse. Most doctors know nothing about it and don’t know how to treat it. I’m in process of trying Chinese medicine but it’s been a few weeks and I’m still terrible. I’ve tried the gaps diet which is similar to scd but i dont think i tried it for long enough. I don’t even know if scd will help this sort of thing but like you I’m beyond desperate! I have a 3 year old and he needs me ! Ive become severely depressed and anxious about it and nobody really understands what it’s like unless they are going through it! For me it’s literally like my body is allergic to food!! Anyway sorry for ramble, you may not even get this. Just wondered how your getting on and just know your not alone! Kate x

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Jordan Reasoner June 2, 2012 at 4:12 am

Great to hear from you Kate, you support is wonderful. I know you’ve been through a lot with your health and I’m excited for your future health. 30-days on a diet like SCD or Paleo would probably help, and I look forward to hearing from you.

In good health,

Jordan

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Aria December 7, 2012 at 1:29 am

These stories sound so similar to mine. I have had gerd my entire life. I have a severe allergy to nuts, so I already have that food restriction. About 3 years ago my reflux got so bad, and about every day since then I feel inflammation in my throat. I have tried no dairy, did nothing. I recently tried no gluten and within 3 days I seemed to be cured, but then started getting symptoms again. My symptoms are mild but always there. I am also so afraid that because this has been going on for so long that I have done irreversible damage to my body; I’m 33 and have a 5 yr old son that needs me. I am also going to try this diet as a last hope!!!

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Steven Wright December 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm

@Aria – I can’t wait to here what changes you start noticing make sure you come back and let us know.

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Peter Stevens July 14, 2013 at 9:54 pm

funny I searched SCD Lifestyle site for acid reflux and didnt find anything – the next day I Googled SCD Lifestyle acid reflux – and this article came up. I poured over the 6 articles by Chris Kresser – WOW. I am on day 140 of the SCD Lifestyle diet – and had great success with HCL Betaine – due to low stomach acid – it helped digest food greatly – they had been hanging around in my stomach. But six ago I thought my stomach acid had rebuild and stopped the HCL. A few weeks ago I started acid reflux – and thinking that now my stomach acid was too strong – WOW quite the opposite it is still quite low – as soon as I was part way through these articles i started popping HCL, and going back to 4 at meal times – the acid reflux went away immediately – THE OPPOSITE TO WHAT I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED until I read this post and the 6 articles. Brilliant – thanks guys, Peter

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Peter Stevens July 14, 2013 at 9:56 pm

correction – should be: But six weeks ago

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jennie c. July 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve suffered from acid reflux since I was in my late teens. My doctor recommended taking Prilosec which helped, but after taking the generic OTC for over two years, if I miss a dose, my reflux is worse than ever. A few weeks ago, my partner came across an article that listed all the negative (little advertised) side effects of PPIs like Prilosec, and I stop taking them immediately. Any time I asked my doctor about natural alternatives, she just said to cut out garlic, coffee, and lose weight (which are not cure alls for my condition). I searched natural alternatives and came across SCD. I’m on day 4, and am taking Betaine HCL w/Pepsin, and my symptoms are pretty much gone. My digestive system hasn’t felt this great in years! Thank you for creating this site to help supplement information on the SCD. I look forward to adding new foods (slowly) in the coming days. =-D

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Steven Wright July 29, 2013 at 10:30 am

Congrats! Keep us updated!

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Katia March 13, 2014 at 4:53 am

After prolonged use, coming off PPI’s is tricky, because you have blocked all this gastrin, the hormone that induces acid production in your stomach. It’s all floating in your bloodstream, and when you discontinue the meds, your stomach starts producing EXCESS amounts of acid which it can’t handle. This is what happened to me – I got even worse heartburn that what I originally had. You gotta wean off the meds slowly and decrease your dosage. And of course, there are side effects to PPI’s which is why I try to stay away from them.

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AARON November 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Hi, 2/3 weeks in to the diet – 0 burping when its purely fat and protein, but once winter squashes are added in i’m burping a lot.

I get that this is probably the fermenting of the carbs and the gas is increasing IAP/opening LES hence reflux, but what can one do. some fibre is needed to prevent constipation, but it feels like winter squashes are fodmaps (butterneut squashes are) as they just keep feeding the bacteria. Thus the burping cycle continues.

Any thoughts appreciated, so far portion control of squashes is about all i can do to keep a lid on burping. a quarter of an acorn squash is about my limit right now.

Thanks

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Steven Wright November 3, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Just skip the squashes for now. Some people react to them as you are. I’d switch over to cucumbers, zucchini and avocado.

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Katia March 13, 2014 at 4:47 am

Yeah I reacted to the butternut squash too, after I introduced it in the beginning of the diet. I wonder why it’s there so early in the protocol then, being rather starchy?

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aaron November 6, 2013 at 3:25 pm

thanks, i have mast cell activation syndrome so avvo’s are out but zuch’s are in.

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Brian November 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Hi my name is Brian I am 20 years old i have had acid reflux for about a year now it came out of nowhere and have been on ppi’s but they dont cure the cause i am always burping and acid washing up my throat after meals espcially when i go to sleep in the morning my throat feels all burned. I was told about a natropathic doctor by a patient at the doctors office I go to and just went this week she has put me on a specific carbohydrate diet yesterday was thanksgiving so i kinda broke the diet but the days before i was feeling alittle better my question is if I follow this diet and allow my stomach to heal will I ever be able to eat a non restricted diet again. Will this diet heal my Lower esophageal sphincter to a point where it will hold my acid in my stomach. I want to be like I was before being able to eat what ever I wanted. Has anyone been cured and been able to resume a normal diet? Because if not isnt surgery the best option because it fixes the lower esophageal sphincter and allows you to eat whatever you want again without the reflux?

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Thomas March 3, 2014 at 10:56 am

Brian if you want to eat whatever you want, make sure you exercise your diaphragm. No diet will ever cure GERD because Gerd is the result of a weakened less. And how did it get weak? Probably a bit more chocolate, sleeping after eating etc.. Once it relaxes and opens it doesn’t close again. So exercise your diaphragm and every time you take a deep breath you force your LES to close.See the documents “Electrical and mechanical activity of the lower esophageal sphincter” and “Respiratory physiotherapy can increase LES pressure”. There is another research paper released in 2013 I don’t remember its title. So stop listening to the charlatan who promise miracles with their diers yet they never promise a complete cure.

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eel February 20, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Hi there Steve,

I have a question around starches & grains. The site talks a lot about taking Betaine HCL with protein containing meals as protein takes a while to digest, but here starches & grains are mentioned as hard to digest as well (I know they are illegal on SCD). I’ve basically been following a vegan diet with lots of starches due to IBS and constipation. This way of eating does make me feel a lot better mentally but frankly the burping & farting are starting to get rather annoying! On the whole I don’t eat a lot of protein at mealtimes but was wondering whether Betaine would help the starches & grains to digest and move through my system easier as well? I will do the low stomach acid test as soon as I can but from the sound of it taking Betaine without a fair amount of protein might give me stomach ache? I think I suffer from GERD though my doctors are never quite clear on this…I have a lot of pain in my chest from heartburn rather than burning in the throat and it is particularly bad at the moment. The issue seems to be that green veg makes me particularly windy – I really just don’t know what to eat and what to leave anymore!

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Katia March 13, 2014 at 4:40 am

As a tip for you eel, Enzymedica makes an enzyme called Gastro that might help you digest those starches and grains as well as reduce bloating and gas…My own story is, I have been suffering from acid reflux – “dyspepsia” according to my doctors – for over two years now. The article’s explanation of GERD makes SO much sense, yet my problem is that my stomach lining is SO IRRITATED that I can’t take HCl without burning it even more. I have tried twice with really bad results. Instead I have been using digestive enzymes (Enzymedica Gold mostly), and they have been somewhat helpful. But even with those, when I upped the dosage to two capsules per meal, my stomach got so irritated. I have been using probiotics and cleaned up my diet a long time ago, although THIS is the first time I’m trying to go grain-free and currently I am 3 weeks into the SCD diet. My general health and energy levels have improved much, yet my dyspepsia symptoms are pretty much the same, burning that starts a few hours after each meal. How long should I expect to be on the diet for it to work for dyspepsia and GERD? I am getting soooo impatient…

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Tansy Mclean July 1, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Hi Steve
I have really been suffering with gerd for a few years and have been on PPIs. I have just come off them -but i think too quickly and did some damage. I am about to start the intro phase of your diet. I cannot get the book BTVC in South Africa. Have even tried Amazon. Does your book have everything I need to know in it? Really hoping this diet can help me off-offi feel sore and raw inside.

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Ben Jimenez November 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Can some tell me where the duet menu is for gerd? I can’t find what to eat so I can start curing my sto mach from ppi use thanks!

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Lori Jo Berg November 26, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Hi Ben, thank you for reaching out! Please start with our free quick start guide here: http://scdlifestyle.com/scd-quick-start-guide/ From here, you can purchase the ebook, which will take you through the rest of the diet: http://scdlifestylebook.com/?_ga=1.12867508.2019544921.1414510857

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Trevor December 10, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Hi there,

I wonder if anyone who developed GERD following gallbladder surgery has had success with this program? I would be very interested to hear of any results.

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Elizabeth July 9, 2015 at 8:34 pm

I tried to follow the link for the QuickStart guide and there’s no where to tell you where to email it.

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Mariel Heiss July 10, 2015 at 11:10 am

Hi Elizabeth, I’m so sorry you’re having trouble with the quick start guide.

If you follow this link, you can enter your name and email address: http://scdlifestyle.com/scd-quick-start-guide/

We’ll email you the Quick Start Guide right away. If you’re still having problems, reach out to us at [email protected] and we’ll make sure you get it!

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Danielle August 30, 2015 at 6:14 pm

I’m on day 5 of my low carb diet for Gerd. On day 2, the bloat already went away. I feel emptier in my stomach. Prior to this I was having a stomach ache from indigestion and acid reflux daily. I still have the acid in my larynx, but it’s diminishing as well. This diet isn’t meant to stay in long term. So for those of you who are struggling as I did, with the psychological changes that go along with not eating like you’re used to, it will pass. When you get sick enough, you can do anything. I feel so much better, eating low carb, low starch veggies/fruits and lean protein, introducing kambucha, Kefir milk to make smoothies…etc….the energy levels haven’t been effected that much either, as I’m keeping lean protein in the mix and I’m not weighed down with the heaviness in my stomach. I even feel like exercising again. Chris Kresser.Com is a good source to really help understanding this disease. My father always told me “logic will lead you to the door of truth”. Well, I believe this is the door. Good luck to all who suffer. Hang in there, these folks have introduced hope. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Mariel Heiss August 31, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Hi Danielle, thanks so much for your comment 🙂 We’re really glad to hear you’re feeling better already following the diet.

We agree… the trade-off of changing your diet for feeling SO much better is definitely worth it.

Please keep in touch as you continue on your journey

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Sandy November 9, 2015 at 8:19 am

Hi Danielle, thanks for posting here…this is obviously a really bad thing for so many people; I wonder, can you tell me if you are still succeeding in your battle please? It would be great to hear that it is working

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Ashley October 7, 2015 at 1:20 am

Well I’m on day 30 and my gerd is worse then ever! I feel like I have burns inside my stomach and throat. I can feel them even when I only drink water. How can this be getting worse? I’m not eating nuts eggs or dairy and only 1-2 fruits per day. Could it be that this diet has more meat and protein then I’m used to and it’s harder for me to digest? I’m about to order a digestive enzyme. Hcl burns me too much so I can’t take that yet although I’m sure I have low stomach acid (Dx celiac 5 years ago). Is it possible that this diet gave me ulcers??? I can’t believe I feel worse now then when I was eating ice cream and pizza!!! This stinks!! I’m ready to just go back to my regular way of eating!

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Mariel Heiss October 7, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Hi Ashley – I’m so sorry you’re not feeling great yet!

If HCL causes burning, you likely have some irritation in your gut lining (gastritis or an ulcer) that will need to be addressed before HCL will be able to help you.

I recommend this article regarding the possibility of an ulcer: http://scdlifestyle.com/2015/05/the-h-pylori-controversy/

We only want to see you feeling better and are here to support you in any way that we can. Please reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any more questions.

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Dani January 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm

The links to the article on GERD aren’t working. My husband is an MD and suffers from near-constant GERD. If I’m ever going to convince him to try this diet, it’s going to take some compelling science, since he thinks most of this stuff is unsubstantiated (plus he loves all things refined carbohydrate). I’m going to buy Elaine Gottschall’s book, but can you suggest any other scientifically rigorous or compelling resources that I could show him? Thanks in advance.

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Mariel Heiss February 1, 2016 at 4:39 pm

Hi Dani -you might be interested in this article: http://scdlifestyle.com/2012/05/the-specific-carbohydrate-diet-is-backed-by-124-years-of-research-testing/

We encourage your husband to approach the diet as a N=1 experiment – the SCD Diet is safe and healthy and based on real foods, so there is no harm in trying the diet and seeing if it works for him. At worst, he learns some new recipes and tries something new – at best, his GERD is relieved.

Hope this helps!

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Dani February 2, 2016 at 8:54 pm

Thank you! I spent some more time Googling and found this series of articles — it appears to be in the same vein as the ones referenced in the original post. The author sites many studies. (As for my husband, he frequently dismisses anecdotes with “But that’s only an N of 1” — he wants controlled, randomized data 🙂 Mostly though, he doesn’t want to give up refined carbs, since they comprise 80% of his diet.)

Here is the link:
http://digestivehealthinstitute.org/2014/07/08/what-really-causes-acid-reflux-gerd/

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Sibi Thomas May 12, 2016 at 12:01 pm

I dont have heartburn but excessive Gas feels like its stuck in the throat and stomach bloating. I got an endoscopy which tells that I have GERD. Will Low Card Diet work for me?

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Mariel Heiss May 12, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Hi Sibi – there is no way for us to know what will or won’t work for you, but we’ve seen SCD help so many people – including those with GERD, gas, and bloating. You can get started for free here: http://scdlifestyle.com/scd-quick-start-guide/

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Eva June 11, 2016 at 9:28 am

Does SCD address GERD-related esophageal issues? Along with GERD, I experience extreme, painful restriction in my esophagus while eating certain trigger foods, like beans. What do we know about the esophagus and SCD?

Thanks!
Eva

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Mariel Heiss June 13, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Hi Eva – you’ll want to checkout our special program for GERD here: http://heartburnhelp.scdlifestyle.com

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Rob Engelhardt November 15, 2016 at 7:11 pm

I was diagnosed with GERD, the same time I was with diverticulitis, and also have a hiatal hernia and Barrets. I went on omeprazole for the acid reflux, and SCD to heal the infection. I eat scd yogurt every day, and it’s been over 2 years. The acid reflux started coming back so the omeprazole isn’t working as good anymore, and the scd diet alone does not fix the acid reflux since when I go off the drugs the heart burn comes back with a vengeance. I have not tried to figure out my level of stomach acid. So why when I go off the omeprazole (when my acid should increase just from not inhibiting the proton pumps) does the heart burn come back but the omeprazole makes it go away for the most part? By this information I should be cured.

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Lori Jo Berg November 16, 2016 at 11:38 am

Hi Rob, thanks for reaching out to us. Chances are you have low stomach acid. Here is how you can test it: ttp://scdlifestyle.com/2012/03/3-tests-for-low-stomach-acid/
GERD often is the end result of a malfunctioned LES, which is due to pressure in the stomach. If we are eating intolerant foods or have a gut infection (to name a few) these types of things can cause pressure and hence, GERD. We’d stick with the dietary changes and talk with your doctor about tapering off the medication. It’s going to take a while for your body to normalize and produce the rihgt amount of acid. To support this process, we’d suggest talking to your doctor about taking HCL supplements: http://scdlifestyle.com/2012/03/how-to-supplement-with-betaine-hcl-for-low-stomach-acid/

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Megan December 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm

What do you do about heartburn in toddlers/preschoolers? I can cut out grains – they are already gluten and dairy free, virtually chocolate free, peanut free, and we skip out on citrus, lemonade, etc. They can’t supplement with the hcl – can’t swallow pills yet. They take a probiotic. It’s so bad they are up at night, have cavities, etc. They are on meds…but even with the strict diet it just holds us over. If we stray from our diet – we are up at night really uncomfortable. Any ideas to help??

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Lori Jo Berg December 6, 2016 at 10:00 am

HI Megan – I’m really sorry to hear that as I know it must be very hard. You may want to take a look at pecanbread.com which is a site for kids and the SCD diet. I’d also try removing any sugar or processed food they may be consuming. You could also utilize digestive enzymes by removing the contents from the capsule and mixing it with food to help w digestion. Also, don’t eat too close to bed time, as this can make it worse. IF you’re finding that nothing is helping, you may need to have some stool testing done to check for things like SIBO to see if it is part of the cause.

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Liz December 29, 2016 at 3:21 am

Hi Megan, I jut replied to someone but related to a few years back so Im not sure if you’d see it. Have a look at https://digestivehealthinstitute.org/author/normjr1/ he is Norman Robillard. It is very similar to SCD diet but a few more foods are allowed and some discouraged due to how they are broken down in your body. Each food is given a fermentation potential as a guide to how it may encourage/reduce SIBO. I’ve been following it for a few days and already symptoms have reduced. If you’ve followed SCD this will be easy for you and I’ve re-introduced dairy for now. Hope that may help…

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Magali De La Torre March 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

I’m a 20 yr old I not to long ago i went to the ER and the doctor told me I have GERD. They prescribe me Pantoprazole and Carafate. I had to stop taking Pantoprazole because right after taking it it made my symptoms even worse I had bad stomach pain and chest pain. I want to try the SCD. Diet but does it really work for GERD completely. Cure GERD for good? Will I be able to eat whatever I want again after SCD Diet? And is there a particular order the do the Three R’a steps? These are questions that I want to know. Please reply. Thank you.

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Lori Jo Berg March 16, 2017 at 11:47 am

HI Magali – GERD is typically caused from a malfunctioning LES that connects the stomach to the esophagus. Diet plays a major role in this chain of events and therefore going on SCD will help. Eating whatever you’d like a after a specific amount of time on the SCD diet could very well lead you back to a place of having GERD so we’d recommend sticking to your customized version of the diet to maintain health.

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Greg August 19, 2017 at 1:54 am

hi.
im 22 yo and i have Gerd for 5 month. Every single morning i saw kind of red (blood) in my saliva maybe it caused of the acid who broke my throat.
But, 7 days ago i went to this website, i learned and took Carbs Diet and I feel so great

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