Heartburn is one the most common digestive complaints that people experience. Heartburn can present in a simple burning sensations in the upper chest and oesophagus (windpipe) and is called Acid Reflux. In more serious cases it can cause more serious symptoms like nausea and vomiting and in some cases damage to the oesophagus that can result in a specific type of cancer within the oesophagus called Barrett’s Oesophagus. This more serious type of heartburn is called GERD or Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease.
There can be structural causes of heartburn such as the dysfunction of the lower oesophageal sphincter, the valve that separates the stomach form the oesophagus. When dysfunctional, it won’t close efficiently and allows the stomach contents to move back into the oesophagus. Motility issues within the oesophagus may also cause a slowing of movement and acid moving back into the windpipe.
Slow stomach emptying may also be a cause of GERD or Acid Reflux. When the digestive process is too slow, the stomach becomes too full and the contents may push back up. While modern medicine suggests this a is a muscle contractions dysfunction, in naturopathic medicine it is suggested that the gastric emptying sluggishness is most likely from the slowed movement of the entire digestive system to inflammation or another simpler cause like faecal loading. I have certainly seen this in my practice, where when we remove the faecal loading problem, the GERD or Acid Reflux go away with it.
Other causes can be
Lack of sleep
Injury to the area
Common symptoms of Acid reflux and GERD
1. A burning sensation in the throat and lower oesophagus
2. A sour taste in the mouth
3. Bad Breath or halitosis
4. Pain and Swelling in the throat
6. Gum and Teeth problems
7. Bloating and belching
8. Nausea and loss of appetite.
9. Nutritional and Iron deficiency
10. Protein Deficiency
There is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that it is actually low stomach acid that causes heartburn. Eating the wrong foods (gluten, sugar and processed foods) combined with low stomach acid allows these food to dictate the acidity in our stomach and creates heartburn.
It is common knowledge that digestive HCL decreases with age
Here are a couple of things that won’t happen if you don’t have enough acidity in the stomach.
1. Protein Deficiency
The acidity in our stomach allows for the activation of protein digesting enzymes, without it protein doesn’t digest well.
2. Mineral Deficiency
Stomach acid triggers the release of pancreatic fluid and bile in the small intestine, without which we lack the enzymes to be able to digest food and minerals effectively.
3. Chronic Inflammation and or infection
Our stomach acid protects us from pathogens entering our stomach and the acidity of our bowel stops them from creating a home within our digestive system.
4. Vitamin Deficiency
HCL also allow for the easy absorption of vitamins and when there isn’t enough, the food is not broken down enough to be able to allow these molecules to be digested.
How to increase your stomach acid, improve digestion and free yourself from Heartburn.
1. Consider supplementing with Betaine HCL and pepsin.
These two commonly available nutrients are available in pill form and are easy to take and dose.
2. Remove Processed Food and sugar form your diet.
Processed foods and sugar are common triggers from heartburn. Removing them from your diet will have many health benefits.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemon Juice
Also two commonly available ingredients a dash of each in water in the morning can go a long way to upping your acidity in the stomach.
4. Peppermint and Ginger
Long used gastric tonics that can assist in upping your gastric juices and improving digestion. Can be juiced or used in teas.