What’s the real reason for your heartburn or reflux?
Contrary to what it may feel like, acid reflux symptoms are not usually caused by too much acid in the stomach, and antacids may not be the best remedy. This blog outlines the truth about antacids, and why you may want to consider a natural solution.
Here’s the thing: It seems that symptoms such as heartburn and reflux actually come about because of low stomach acid, AKA hypochlorrhidria. And what’s worse is that every time you take antacids, PPIs or H2 blockers you may actually be making the problem worse.
The truth about antacids is they may cause a viscous cycle situation.
Now that’s not to say that medications such as antacids don’t have a place, they are useful for effectively treating the occasional bout of heartburn or reflux. What I’m talking about here is chronic, ongoing, frequent use of these medications.
Prolonged hypochlorhydria – or low stomach acid – is associated with
- nutrient deficiencies,
- chronic fatigue
and a whole host of other disorders.
Before we go any further into this, be aware that antacids themselves tend to be associated with an array of side effects, including –
Nausea and vomiting
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) actually stop the production of stomach acid and pepsin. Pepsin is the enzyme responsible for breaking down protein into easily digestible particles.
Needless to say, if your protein isn’t broken down effectively it can go on to cause a lot of problems further along your digestive tract – mainly a lot of bloating.
The bloating may cause extra pressure in your abdomen, including your stomach, and cause your lower oesophageal sphincter to open somewhat, allowing hydrochloric acid to seep into the oesophagus.
So what does cause these uncomfortable symptoms?
Reflux comes about because of acid rising up through the oesophagus. This happens because the valve at the lower end of your oesophagus starts to leak, generally because of too much pressure on the stomach (as I just mentioned) allowing acid to creep up into the oesophagus. If your stomach acid isn’t in your stomach, but sloshing around up in your oesophagus, you may get uncomfortable problems.
There are a few reasons this may happen –
Hiatal hernia – this is when the upper end of your stomach pushes through the diaphragm.
Eating meals which are too large – an over-full stomach adds pressure to the diaphragm allowing acid to seep upwards.
Eating too much of the ‘wrong’ food – this isn’t to say that everyone has the same ‘wrong’ foods, it’s just that some foods are more suited to some people than others. Or, what your body needed when you were younger, for example, may not be what it needs now. It could be that you may be consuming too much carbohydrate for your current needs, for example.
You may also have dysbiosis or SIBO which could be increasing the levels of gas in your digestive system.
Food intolerances – These could be behind your symptoms.
Stomach acid is also a major first line of defence for your immune system
If you raise the pH of your stomach environment so it becomes more alkaline, it’s not particularly hostile to any unwelcome guests. We want it to be nice and acidic to protect us from invaders.
Therefore the risk of stomach bugs such as salmonella or listeria may increase. A very acidic environment is not only necessary to effectively digest food, but also to kill off any invaders.
So what is the truth about antacids and PPIs?
Unfortunately you may be inadvertently adding to the problem.
Your stomach may go all out trying to make more hydrochloric acid to increase the acidity of your stomach, and return it to it’s set point, you can really end up with a no-win situation.
So what can you do about it?
You’ll need to do a bit of detective work to ascertain where these symptoms are coming from:
Dietary changes may help you here.
Reducing refined grains – white bread, white pasta etc. and also keeping your sugar intake to a minimum.
Increasing your fibre intake.
Lots of fruits and vegetables to keep your friendly bacteria well fed and in healthy numbers.
Eating probiotic-rich foods may help you – but be aware these can sometimes aggravate symptoms, especially if you have an underlying issue such as SIBO. This is where testing can be valuable.
There are also supplements that can help you, but of course it depends on what is actually the underlying cause of your reflux or heartburn. High quality magnesium and digestive enzymes are a couple that may be recommended.
If you would like to speak to me about any aspect of your gut health, then please use this link to book into my diary for a FREE 30 minute chat so I can find out more about what is going on for you. Alternatively please use the ‘Learn More’ link below.
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