Posted on by Margo Gladding
Many people experience heartburn pain on a regular basis, where acid refluxes up into the esophagus causes a burning sensation in the chest. Additional symptoms can include a sour taste in the mouth, chronic cough, hoarseness, and sleep disturbances. In conventional medicine, doctors commonly recommend acid-blocking medications to relieve symptoms. However, these medications only offer temporary relief and do not address underlying root causes. And, over time acid blockers can do more harm than good.
A Surprising Root Cause of Heartburn
It generally comes as a surprise to most people, but often the root cause of heartburn is not an overproduction of stomach acid, but rather an underproduction. A lack of stomach acid can slow the digestive process, which allows protein to sit in the stomach for too long. This can cause increased pressure and the fermentation of food. As a result, the sphincter between the stomach and small intestine delays opening because the protein isn’t properly broken down. Air bubbles and acid can then backflow into the esophagus, which causes the pain associated with heartburn.
Some of the causes of low stomach acid include aging, high sugar diet, nutrient deficiencies such as zinc and magnesium, chronic stress, eating on the run, food sensitivities, and taking certain medications, including antacids. Beyond heartburn pain, other symptoms of low stomach acid include bloating, belching, gas, fullness after eating, Candida overgrowth, food intolerances, hair loss, cracked fingernails, hypothyroidism, fatigue, diarrhea, and undigested food in the stool.
Benefits of Stomach Acid
Having adequate stomach acid plays a critical role in digestion. The stomach’s acidic environment is necessary for helping to keep pathogenic bacteria and yeast in check. Without the proper amount of HCl, harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, can proliferate and cause GI infections. H. pylori bacteria also thrive in a low acid environment.
Stomach acid is also essential for the absorption of nutrients. It is necessary for the breakdown of protein and stimulates the release of other enzymes and bile, all critical for the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and fats. Vitamins and minerals need stomach acid for their absorption. That is why individuals on acid-blocking drugs run a risk of multiple nutrient deficiencies (including vitamin B12, magnesium, calcium, iron, folate, and zinc), as well as an increased risk of bone fractures.
4 Ways to Help Alleviate Acid Reflux & Improve Stomach Acid Production
1. Make dietary changes
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, adding in dark leafy greens, removing trigger foods such as alcohol, processed and fried foods, spicy foods, and citrus, and addressing food sensitivities (often gluten and dairy) can be very beneficial.
2. Modify lifestyle habits
Chewing your food thoroughly, avoiding eating on the run or late at night (especially 3 hours before bed), eating smaller meals, and avoiding drinking a lot of fluids with meals can be helpful.
3. Breath deeply
A stress reduction technique such as diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to reduce gastric pressure and ease reflux symptoms.
4. Take specific supplements
Betaine HCl, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and a combination of DGL licorice, aloe, glutamine, and zinc carnosine can help to enhance digestion, soothe and repair inflamed mucosal tissue, and promote a healthy GI microbial balance.
A Natural Approach to Addressing Heartburn
Working with a nutritionist or integrative doctor can help to uncover the root cause(s) of your heartburn symptoms and create a personalized plan for you. There are many diet and lifestyle recommendations as well as nutritional supplements that can help restore the optimal functioning of your digestive system.
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