How many of you have ever had heartburn?…. You are not alone. According to the National Institute of health, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from heartburn at least once per week. Half of those people actually have symptoms on a daily basis. The sale of acid blockers and antacids is a billion dollar industry. How many of you think that taking an antacid or acid blocker is the way to treat heartburn?…Wrong!!!
According to extensive research, these medications can actually worsen the underlying cause of heartburn and potentially lead to significant health problems in the future.
Heartburn is the pain that you feel in the chest area and it is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach). Wait….If the pain is caused by acid in the esophagus, then the problem must be too much stomach acid, right??……Wrong!!
Let’s look into this further. It is well documented that as we age our stomach acid naturally declines. After the age of 40 we produce half as much stomach acid as teenagers produce. If acid is the cause of heartburn then we should see teenagers suffering from heartburn more often than older adults. But heartburn is actually more common in older people. The incidence of heartburn goes up as we age and the amount of stomach acid decreases as we age. Since older people have less stomach acid but more heartburn, how can excess acid production be the cause of heartburn???
It’s not!!…According to decades of research and patient care by integrative medical providers, a better explanation for heartburn is a malfunction of the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus. (the lower esophageal sphincter) When this valve is functioning properly it prevents the stomach acid from refluxing into the esophagus. If this valve is not functioning properly it allows stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus which causes painful damage to the lining of the esophagus. Interestingly, low stomach acid levels, which happens with age, are associated with an impaired function of this valve.
Stomach acid is not the bad guy. In fact, we need our stomach acid! We must have stomach acid in order to properly break down our food and absorb the nutrients. A lack of stomach acid causes a malabsorption of your food and supplements which can lead to anemia, heart disease, mood disorders, cancer and osteoporosis. Undigested protein molecules can also damage your intestinal lining and trigger autoimmune reactions. In addition, low levels of stomach acid increases your susceptibility to infection since you need stomach acid to kill certain ingested infectious agents. You need stomach acid, just not in your esophagus.
When you suffer from heartburn, antacids and acid blockers temporarily give you relief because they neutralize or eliminate the stomach acid from irritating your esophagus. Antacids and acid blockers help your esophagus feel better but actually make things worse by decreasing your stomach acid–affecting your nutrient absorption and infection susceptibility. In addition, less stomach acid ends up making your valve more likely to allow reflux and keep this vicious cycle going. The sad fact is that many people end up being dependent on acid blockers or antacids because on the surface they seem to help, but in reality they are making their acid reflux worse and hurting their overall health.
What can you do instead??
You can support the proper function of your valve so that acid can not reflux into your esophagus. There are several things that you can do to support that valve.
You may need to have an appointment so that we can determine if you have underlying food allergies that may contribute to the malfunction of your valve. We can safely help you to increase your stomach acid and can get you on the proper digestive enzymes in order to further help your digestive system.
Heartburn is not about simply popping an antacid or acid blocker. Those medications may help you temporarily but will hurt your health in the long run. Stop worrying about having too much stomach acid and start focusing on having enough stomach acid and supporting the valve that keeps your stomach acid in your stomach. You will be free of heartburn and you will be able to live a longer, healthier life.