Acid reflux or GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disorder) affects a lot of people, and can, if left unchecked, result both in severe damage to the esophagus and downstream issues with your digestion. Not good.
Here’s the saddest part of this picture:
1. It’s preventable
2. Conventional treatments suppress symptoms by short-circuiting your body’s normal processes (rather than addressing the causes)
3. If taken long term, those treatments can actually make things worse
Let’s look for a moment at how things are supposed to work, before we think about what can go wrong.
Digestion starts in the mouth, and is partly mechanical and partly chemical.
Chewing is the mechanical part. The reason your momma told you not to bolt your food is that your teeth are supposed to grind your food into teensy bits, which gives your stomach a leg up on its job. You really can do your gut a favor by chewing your food 25 – 30 times per bite. For one thing, chewing promotes saliva production.
Saliva does the chemical work. Primarily generated in the parotid glands in your cheeks, saliva is mildly acidic; this acid helps break your food down. By the way, saliva is rich in IgA, an immunoglobulin, which is part of your body’s immune arsenal.
Once the food is reduced to an amount you can actually swallow, it moves into the esophagus. Essentially this is a tube, connecting mouth and stomach.
The stomach is supposed to be super acidic, with a pH of 1.5 – 2. This sterilizes our food and helps break it down. To contain that acid, the stomach has a “gate” or sphincter at the openings from the esophagus and into the small intestine. Both are supposed to be one-way, but the cardiac valve can be pressured open from below if you don’t have enough HCL (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach.
We need adequate amounts of both HCL and pepsin to digest our food without trouble. Sugar, stress, and poor diet all interfere with the formation of HCL and pepsin — as do many prescription and OTC drugs, including acid blockers.
If we don’t have enough HCL, stomach pH rises, making it LESS acidic than it should be. Then the cardiac sphincter won’t stay closed, and we get leakage back up into the esophagus. This is how acid reflux/heartburn happens.
Inadequate gastric secretions are at the root of most digestion problems! Here’s a sampling:
– Bloating, belching, burping
– Stomach burning, excessive feeling of fullness
– Frequent coughing
– Avoidance of/aversion towards meat
– Smelly gas after eating; cramping after eating
– Fatigue after eating
– Nausea after supplements
– Diarrhea or constipation
– Chronic bad breath, strong body odor
– Allergies, food sensitivities
– Post-adolescent acne, other skin issues
– Weak, peeling or cracked fingernails
– Chronic joint pain
Ouch! If this is happening for you or someone you love, it’s high alert time.
Please don’t rely on OTC or histamine blockers proton pump inhibitors to “fix” these issues! Taken longer than 14 days, or more than 3 times per year, they have serious risks and side effects for your heart, brain and general health.
If you find yourself avoiding foods that you used to be able to eat, let’s take a look at why you can’t. Call me for a free 15 minute review of your digestion.