What You Should Know About Heartburn & Reflux
Heartburn and acid reflux are very common digestive disorders and make the life for many people very uncomfortable. Acid stopping drugs bring quick relieve, so it´s no wonder that they are sold so often. Unfortunately, these drugs don’t address the underlying cause of heartburn and reflux.
What’s even more disturbing is, that these drugs have serious side effects on our health. Acid stopping drugs contribute to bacterial overgrowth, reduce absorption of important nutrients and may create an environment for various digestive disorders and even cancer. Most people are not aware of these problems. Heartburn and reflux can be prevented and even resolved with dietary and lifestyle changes.
Is too much stomach acid the problem?
Heartburn and reflux don’t only damage the delicate esophageal lining, but they cause a lot of damage downward through the whole digestive tract. Most people are convinced that the cause of heartburn is too much stomach acid. That seems very logical because of the burning that they experience. The problem with this assumption is, that according to studies incidence of heartburn and reflux increases with age and the levels of stomach acid decrease with age. That is a paradox. According to Jonathan Wright, MD who carefully tests and measures the stomach acid of his patients suffering from Heartburn and reflux. What he found out, may seem astonishing. The stomach acid levels of his patients were almost always way too low, not too high. On the contrary excess stomach acid was the exception. These are the results of more than 20 years of testing and he is not the only one in the medical field who came to the conclusion that taking more acid is needed to relieve the symptoms associated with Heartburn and reflux and to improve overall digestion.
Most people are doubtful when they hear that more stomach acid is needed to get rid of Heartburn and reflux, especially when they have experienced relieve with acid stopping drugs. What we have to understand is that even a tiny amount of acid in the esophagus will cause burning. The esophagus has a very delicate lining that is not equipped for contact with acid. That’s not where the stomach acid is supposed to go at any time. On the other hand, the stomach can handle a lot of acid and acidity in the stomach is crucial to the digestive process. When we don’t reflux in the esophagus, we don’t experience heartburn symptoms.
We should not forget that relieving symptoms – in our case burning in the esophagus – with antacids, does not mean removing the true cause. Eliminating the true cause of our trouble should be the goal. When the cause of heartburn and reflux is removed, the symptoms do not occur.
The true cause of heartburn
The public believes that too much stomach acid causes heartburn. But the science does not confirm that the underlying cause of heartburn and GERD is excess acidity in the stomach. What science is finding is that the muscular valve that is placed between the esophagus and the stomach does not function correctly. This esophageal valve is supposed to easily open when we swallow our food or drink liquids. Then it should stay closed. So when this valve is working well, it stays closed and keeps our food in the stomach. Then the acidity of the stomach is not a problem, because the food doesn´t return to the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus is very delicate, so even a very low stomach acid will burn and damage the esophagus.
There can be several factors that contribute to acid reflux, such as overeating, bending over or laying down after eating and obesity.
When carbohydrates are not properly digested and absorbed, it can lead to bacterial overgrowth. That is caused by low stomach acid. On the other hand, sufficient stomach acid ensures proper break down of carbohydrates before they start to ferment. Good expression of stomach acidity will also ensure that proteins will not putrefy and fats will not rancidify. Only then they can be properly absorbed into the bloodstream and nourish our body.
Unfortunately, low stomach acid has far-reaching consequences for our overall health. Jonathan Wright reminds us of well established scientific findings that confirm that people who suffer from various diseases, such as childhood asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, depression and many others are closely related to low stomach acid.
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„The resulting malnutrition can, over many years, lead to depression, osteoporosis, arthritis, and other chronic degenerative diseases that reduce the quality of our lives and may ultimately shorten our lifespans.“
Jonathan V. Wright, M.d. & Lane Lenard, Ph.D.: Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You
On the first glance that may seem strange and far-fetched. But when we think about that a little bit more, it makes perfect sense. Good functioning digestion is the key to health. We can eat the best foods in the highest quality possible, but if we are not able to digest them well and absorb them, then we don’t receive the much-needed nutrients. Without the nutrients, our body cannot build healthy cells, healthy tissues, healthy organs and healthy systems. Of course, that impacts our bodies negatively and sets the stage for various diseases.
How to reduce reflux naturally
So what can you do to reduce reflux? There are several lifestyle and dietary changes that you can implement and get great results in reducing and preventing reflux.
Relaxing & Eating Belong Together
Eat in a relaxed state of mind. Digestion works well only when we are in a parasympathetic state. That means stress, hurry or pressure impair the release of digestive juices. Having a pleasant conversation and eating the food with enjoyment and gratitude supports the digestive process significantly.
Chew Well & Eat Slowly
Taking time to chew every bite really thoroughly enhances digestion. Only by chewing thoroughly is the food sufficiently mixed with saliva and thus also with the enzyme amylase, which is responsible for the digestion of carbohydrates. Thorough chewing is our only conscious task in the digestive process, the rest does our body for us!
Eat smaller meals to reduce the pressure on the esophageal valve.
Avoid bending, heavy lifting or any other activity that increases intra-abdominal pressure.
Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Make sure your diet consists maily from well-prepared whole foods.
Don´t Too Late
Eat very lightly in the evening and allow some time to pass before bedtime.
What To Avoid
Following foods and drugs can cause heartburn: Coffee, Chocolate, mints, sugar, alcohol, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, and cigarettes. Avoiding them can help you to relieve or prevent reflux.
Be Carefull With Carbs
Avoid excess carbohydrate consumption, especially simple carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, any white bread or pastry made from white refined flour. Whole grain breads and pastas or brown rice are the better choices, but remember that they can be overdone.
There are various bitter herbs that simulate digestion and support the GI function. Bitters in liquid forms can be dissolved in as little water as possible and taken before meals, to simulate stomach acid and the digestive process in general. It is important to taste the bitterness. Bitters can be bought in natural food stores. Especially gentian root and wormwood are known in Western medicine for the relief of GI symptoms.
It is wise to contact a medical professional or nutritional therapy consultant who is knowledgeable about the true causes of heartburn or indigestion. They will be able to support you, so that you will be digesting well and absorbing nutrients optimally.
Nutritional Therapy Consultant
Katerina lives in Munich, in the southern part of Germany, just a short drive from the beautiful Alps. In February 2018, Katerina began the Nutritional Therapy Consultant training which is based on holistic approach to nutrition. She has deepened her knowledge of nutrition, and how it can impact the body through digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acid balance, hydration, hormone health, and much more!
Katerina is learning how to address nutritional deficiencies in clients through whole foods diets, lifestyle changes and even supplementation. Her goal is to teach others how good they can feel and inspire others to make the most of every day.