Most of us resort to taking medications whenever we have acid reflux or digestive issues. And more often than not, we either get too addicted to drugs or our digestive problem doesn’t go away at all. Well, I’ve got great news! Apparently, we can solve our digestive upset and even reverse gut issues with food and my guest, Dr. Norm Robillard, Ph.D. will teach us how.
Dr. Norm Robillard has his own story with chronic acid reflux. Through his personal experience, he realized there were some connections between acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome.
“There’s a study that showed pretty conclusively that people with IBS have something going on with too many bacteria in the small intestine, possibly even excessive fermentation,” shares Dr. Norm Robillard. “I spent most of my career in biotech. But at that time, I was suffering from chronic acid reflux. I had a minimal idea of what it was and what caused it. Plus, I also had no idea if it had a connection to diet.”
Then in 2004, something accidentally happened to Dr. Norm Robillard. Through the influence of his son who was an athletic trainer, Dr. Norm Robillard went on a low carbohydrates diet. He was amazed that his acid reflux went away!
When Dr. Norm Robillard’s acid reflux went away just by changing his diet, he started reading about it and discovered that carbohydrates somehow cause heartburn and acid reflux.
“I studied how the three food groups are digested—fats, proteins and carbs. Bacteria love carbohydrates,” Dr. Norm Robillard said. “They prefer carbohydrates as a food source, and they produce a lot of gas. It is also well-known that people with GERD have more pressure in the stomach.”
But Dr. Norm Robillard says the good thing is, it opens up new treatment options. There are ways of controlling the reflux itself while keeping stomach acid in good health.
He further explains that it’s called acid reflux because essentially, what’s in your stomach is refluxing into your esophagus. If it happens a lot, then it’s a chronic condition. Heartburn, on the other hand, is one of the significant symptoms of reflux.
“So that’s how I got into it. I couldn’t work in drugs anymore and work on creating diet strategies, behavioral and cause analysis,” said Dr. Norm Robillard.
The Right Diet
Dr. Norm Robillard admits that a plant-based diet is challenging because of a lot of highly fermentable materials. Legumes and certain starches, for example, are very fermentable and will cause bloating and belching.
Add on to that; there are harder to digest carbohydrates and people who are lactose-intolerant usually have a hard time. Fiber can also be an issue as well as sugar alcohols because they cause G.I. distress. Another is resistant starch which behaves like dietary fiber.
“Bottomline, as you increase this load, you have a higher chance of having symptoms. But also, if your digestion is out of whack, you don’t digest carbs as well,” Dr. Norm Robillard explains. “There’s a whole variety of things that can affect how well your small intestines work. Even drugs. On top of that, if you have consumed more than you are capable of digesting, that can cause symptoms as well.”
Fast Tract Digestion
Dr. Norm Robillard has gathered all the information he learned from the past 14 years and compiled it in a book called the Fast Tract Digestion. Aside from acid reflux, the book also touches on heartburn and IBS.
“It focuses on three areas. First, it talks about the food. The other part is identifying and addressing all of these underlying causes that can make SIBO and excessive fermentation worse,” said Dr. Norm Robillard.
He adds, “Third is the behaviors and practices to minimize malabsorption and optimizing digestion. Like eating slowly and chewing well to give more time to digest the starch. How you select, prepare, store and consume food is important as well.”
Understanding Your Digestive System
Dr. Norm Robillard firmly declares that having stomach acid is bad for your digestion. You won’t absorb vitamins properly. That ends up affecting your bones, nerves and cardiovascular health.
“I give my patients some notes on what I think, and a regimen on how to wean off of medication. Then I tell them to take the notes to their doctor and have a discussion. Because long-term, getting off acid-reducing medicines is part of the solution,” said Dr. Norm Robillard.
How Our Bile Works
Bile salts are produced in the liver, and Dr. Norm Robillard says those salts are collected in the gallbladder. From there, they are squirted into the small intestine especially when we eat fatty meals.
“They help the fat mix with the water so that lipase can digest better. They can be broken down and absorbed. Bile is also anti-microbial. It helps keep some of the bad bacteria at bay from getting into your small intestine,” Dr. Norm Robillard explains.
He adds, “Bile is made from cholesterol. Your body makes it every single time for every round of digestion. Bile is recycled back to the liver and re-processed so they can be released again. Lipase which digests fat, on the other hand, is produced from the pancreas, released down the pancreatic duct and mixes with the bile along the way.”
Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You
Dr. Norm Robillard reveals that a lot of people think that when they have acid reflux or GERD, they think they don’t have enough stomach acid. And they act on it. Some people are even able to find some interventions to help them.
Dr. Norm Robillard further explains that if you want to look at a population of people that don’t have enough stomach acid, you want to look at people with something called atrophic gastritis. People with no stomach acid have a 50% lower risk of something called esophagitis. And low stomach acid isn’t enough for one to have GERD.
“Studies show that 80% of kids with asthma have chronic acid reflux. The drug companies thought it was great. There’s a study showing Nexium does not help asthma. So, the conclusion was that GERD does not cause asthma,” shares Dr. Norm Robillard.
He adds, “That is so wrong. Because you’re not stopping the bile, you’re not stopping the bacteria or enzymes. We need to stop the reflux, and we can do that with diet. Some physical or mechanical issues are really beyond the scope of the Fast Tract diet, and it’s really about identifying underlying causes and figuring out the solution.”
Fast Tract Diet App
To help you track the recommended foods to eat, Dr. Norm Robillard developed an app called the Fast Tract Diet. The app contains a list of 800 different foods and will increase to 1,000 foods when it launches soon.
There’s a voice recognition feature, and it can also be easily added to your specific meal plan. To help your meal tracking, there are points for each food. According to Dr. Norm Robillard, the formula was derived from an equation that he developed based on the glycemic index. The glycemic index measured how quickly carbohydrates from any food enter the bloodstream relative to glucose which is easy to absorb.
Dr. Norm Robillard’s app sounds fantastic because the meal plan can be customized. It can be anything from lamb, fish, eggs, and bacon. He also advises being cautious if you are going to have starches. Bread types also vary, but a French baguette is a good option.
As for fruits, cantaloupes and strawberries are good choices. But make sure not to consume a whole ton of fruit or starch or a big bowl of cereal or oatmeal. This is because Dr. Norm Robillard explains there’s a lot of fermented material in it.
For snacks, opt for celery or cream cheese, rice crackers or aged cheese. Because all the carbohydrates are already fermented before you eat it. And Dr. Norm Robillard says anything animal-based is 0 points unless it has added carbs.
“There is no limit on animal-based foods, fats, and protein. The only limitations are some carb-based foods. And moderate your intake of onions. Most of all, eat slowly and chew well,” advises Dr. Norm Robillard.
Dr. Norm Robillard reveals some studies showed that reducing or eliminating fiber was highly effective in addressing constipation. In fact, there was a study by Dr. John Hunter in the UK in 2004.
Dr. John Hunter found that a no-fiber diet was as useful for treating IBS. Limiting fiber is part of putting your gut microbes on a diet. And the other four—lactose, fructose, resistant starch, and sugar alcohols can jack up your digestive tract.
“In a nutshell, we are changing the way the world perceived digestive health. Our goal is to elevate science-based holistic and dietary solutions to a first line therapy instead of the last,” said Dr. Norm Robillard. “Our goal is to inspire 10 million people to transition from drugs and antibiotic therapies to the fast track diet and other holistic solutions.”
Dr. Norm Robillard, Ph.D., Founder of the Digestive Health Institute is a leading gut health expert. He specializes in functional gastrointestinal disorders (i.e., heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, LPR, IBS, etc.), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and dysbiosis helping his clients transition from drug and antibiotic based treatments to the Fast Tract Diet and other holistic solutions.
The Fast Tract Diet was presented at the Digestive Disease Week (www.ddw.org/) meeting in 2014 to give gastroenterologists another treatment option for SIBO and related conditions. His award-winning Fast Tract Diet, mobile app, and Fast Tract Digestion book series, make it easy to try the approach.
Dr. Norm Robillard received his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and completed his post-doctoral training at Tufts University in Boston. He currently serves as a scientific board member of Nutrition & Metabolism Society: http://nmsociety.org/.
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