Heartburn is also known as acid indigestion or acid reflux. Essentially, it is an irritation of the esophagus caused by acid that comes up from the stomach. This causes a burning discomfort in the upper chest area. GERD is the medical term used for chronic heartburn.
Why Is Stomach Acid Important?
Stomach acid plays a key role in defending us, by sterilizing the food we consume and preventing harmful pathogens from entering and colonizing in our digestive tract. Stomach acid also triggers the release of specific enzymes (i.e. pepsin) that are necessary to break down protein. This prevents undigested proteins from causing the depletion of good gut bacteria, intestinal damage and food sensitivities, in addition to decreasing the enzymatic workload in the intestines. Also, certain vitamins and minerals are dependent on stomach acid for absorption such as, Vitamin B12, calcium, chromium, iron, manganese, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Lastly, stomach acid is necessary to trigger peristalsis and release both bile and alkalizing bicarbonate into the intestines for further digestion and elimination support.
Potential Causes of Heartburn
Factors that can contribute to heart burn include poor eating habits (drinking with meals, inadequate chewing, eating while stressed/rushed, overeating, improper food combining), obesity, smoking, eating processed and refined foods, restrictive clothing, certain medications, physical conditions, H. Pylori infection, hiatal hernia, food triggers (carbonated beverages, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, chocolate, citrus, fatty foods, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, raw onions, spicy foods) and both excess OR low stomach acid.
What About Low Stomach Acid?
Interestingly, the majority of people who have heartburn actually suffer from low stomach acid and not high. This is because without the hydrochloric acid (HCl), the stomach is no longer sterile and pathogens such as bacteria or parasites can enter and colonize in the digestive tract. Bad bacteria then putrefy food in the stomach, causing the production of volatile gases and fatty acids. This creates pressure in the stomach and allows acids from the stomach to be forced upwards into the esophagus. Specific underlying factors behind low stomach acid include aging, Zinc & B-Vitamin deficiency, Candida overgrowth, consumption of processed and refined foods, chronic stress, antacid overuse, etc.
Stomach Acid Test: Am I Low or High?
Test: Take 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (diluted in a small amount of water if desired) on an empty stomach.
- Results: Immediate Strong Burning Pain = HIGH Stomach Acid
- Mild Warming Sensation = GOOD/NORMAL Stomach Acid
- No Pain/Sensation = LOW Stomach Acid –> Note that the more teaspoons needed in order to feel a warming sensation, the lower your HCL level!
*Note: Have a glass of water (250ml) mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking soda on hand in order to neutralize burning if test results are HIGH.
For those with high stomach acid, ingredients such as calcium/magnesium carbonate or activated charcoal help provide relief by temporarily decreasing gastric secretions in the stomach and neutralizing existing acid, acting as a natural proton pump inhibitor.
For those with low stomach acid consider digestive enzymes that contains betaine hydrochloride (HCl), a component of stomach acid that helps destroy bacteria and parasites.
Note that saccharomyces boulardii and mastic gum help to eradicate H. Pylori, which can cause heartburn, nausea, bloating, belching, and even peptic ulcers.
Consider bitter herbs such as gentian root, yellow dock, dandelion root, blessed thistle or wormwood to support digestion. When these are ingested, bile flow is stimulated and saliva, stomach acid and pancreatic enzyme production are increased.
Ingredients such as L-Glutamine, Zinc L-Carnosine & N-Acetyl D-Glucosamine help to rebuild and repair the digestive tract lining while marshmallow, licorice/DGL, aloe, chamomile and slippery elm help soothe irritation and inflammation.
Probiotics and essential fatty acids help support the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Lastly, ginger, anise, fennel and caraway help to reduce gas and relieve flatulence.
Tips to Improve Digestion
- Avoid food sensitivities and common triggers.
- Eat slowly and chew your food well.
- Drink plenty of water between meals (do not drink while eating)
- Limit alcohol intake, quit chewing gum and smoking.
- Practice food combining (enjoy fruit alone, do not eat high protein and high starch foods together).
- Do not lie down after eating.
- Maintain a healthy weight and manage stress.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day and don’t eat immediately before bed.
- Ensure adequate fiber to help reduce reflux.
- Exercise regularly and encourage detoxification.
- Choose whole, fresh, organic, soaked, sprouted, fermented and lightly cooked foods.
-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -