Heartburn, acid reflux and GERD (Gastro-esophageal reflux disease) are the top of the list of ailments many individuals suffer from and seek relief from their physician. The standard prescription is a drug, a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) or over the counter (OTC) medication such as Prilosec. These medications actually decrease stomach acid. These pharmaceuticals are meant to decrease the amount of acid in your stomach. However, the problem isn’t too much stomach acid causing your heartburn and other symptoms. These symptoms are a sign that you may not have enough stomach acid!
Yes, you need stomach acid! It has a job; multiple jobs to be exact. Here are just a few:
- Stomach acid breaks down food into amino acids, important building blocks for proper body system functions.
- Stomach acid is necessary to break down and digest your food properly so your body can absorb nutrients for your health. The effects of not absorbing nutrients can cause numerous health issues. One example: Calcium not absorbing. Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for the life. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium helps our blood clot, and enables our nerves to send the important messages to our muscles to contract. Since about 99 percent of our calcium is in our bones, if we are not absorbing calcium we risk weakening our bones. Many people who take PPI’s to inhibit stomach acid production end up with osteoporosis.
- Stomach acid is your body’s first defense against bacteria and pathogens that may be ingested through everyday food and drink.
- Stomach acid is necessary to digest your food. Without the proper amount of stomach acid, any undigested food can have a negative impact on your body as it passes through your digestive system. One issue, that could be a direct result of undigested food proteins getting into your blood stream, is a condition called “Leaky Gut”. This condition compromises your immune system causing chronic diarrhea and some believe autoimmune diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4036413/
What causes acid reflux/heartburn? Although there is some controversy when pinpointing whether there is too much or too little stomach acid to cause the reflux or heartburn, there is certainly agreement about the mechanical causes.
It is possible that stomach acid is “regurgitating” or coming back up through your esophagus. This is caused when a muscular valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter, (a valve connecting your esophagus and your stomach) relaxes incorrectly and allows the acid in your stomach to flow backwards into your esophagus.
Another possible cause is undigested food. This food is coming back up through the valve into your esophagus.
Here is a list of recommendations to follow to help ease the discomfort of heartburn and acid reflux. Many times, the symptoms will subside when you follow the list of recommendations.
- Slow down, sit, and relax during meals.
- Chew your food thoroughly. (you should be chewing each bite at least 20 times!)
- Eliminate processed foods, hydrogenated fats and oils, soda, fried foods, food high in sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
- Stop smoking.
- Consider incorporating Intermittent Fasting (IF) into your life.
- Eliminate or reduce foods that can cause allergic/inflammatory effects: refined carbohydrates, grains/gluten, and dairy—as well as reduce caffeine and alcohol as much as possible.
- Add organic, locally grown raw vegetables to every meal whenever you can.
- Drink bone broth regularly.
- Replace regular table salt with mineral-packed unprocessed salt like Himalayan sea salt or Celtic sea salt.
- Don’t consume liquids during a meal. This can dilute the stomach needed for digestion.
- Allow 2-3 hours after eating to properly digest your food before lying down to sleep.
- Eat less during the meal and wait 20 minutes to assess if you are full enough
- Light exercise such as walking, yoga, etc.
- Manage stress through meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, laughing, etc.
If you are having intolerable acid reflux:
- Eat a few bites of protein
- Drink a small amount of baking soda in water (1 tsp. baking soda in 4 oz. of room temperature water).
You don’t have to suffer with heartburn/reflux. There are many healthy methods of dealing with the symptoms without taking prescription medications.
**If you are taking PPI’s, please do NOT stop taking your PPI’s cold turkey or you could find yourself experiencing a severe rebound of your symptoms and end up with a worse condition than before you started the medication.
As a Nutritional Therapist, I can combine a supplemental protocol to heal your digestion along with diet and lifestyle changes to help you work with your body discontinue the use of PPI’s completely.