Think you know what causes heartburn? Think again ....
Do you ever get that rising burning feeling and find yourself reaching for the antacids? If you do, read on to find out what might be causing your heartburn.
Very few of us challenge the idea that too much stomach acid causes heartburn. When anti-stomach acid medication appears to fix the problem – why would you doubt it? These medications only temporarily relieve heartburn. They don’t address the actual cause of your symptoms and can worsen health issues over time.
Too little stomach acid?
Would you be surprised to hear that heartburn is one of the symptoms of low stomach acid? This is one of the most common issues I see in my clinic and its health effects are far reaching.
The most common symptoms of too little stomach acid are heartburn and indigestion (bloating, burping, etc). Other indicators include anaemia, food intolerances and feeling excessively full after a meal.
So why does it feel like there’s too much acid?
We need stomach acid to digest our food. When we don't produce enough the food sits in the stomach, partially digested, for longer than it should. When this happens we feel bloated. The pressure created by bloating in the abdomen weakens the oesophageal sphincter, allowing the stomach contents to move up the oesophagus - causing symptoms of heartburn. The solution is to produce enough stomach acid to enable digestion - then heartburn will subside.
How does low stomach acid affect your health?
Stomach acid starts the process of breaking down food. If this process isn’t properly completed over time it can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Also, the immune system can become compromised as partially digested food feeds non-beneficial bacteria further down the digestive tract. We are also more likely to succumb to stomach bugs as a highly acid environment in the stomach is needed to kill off any potential pathogens we might swallow.
The consequences of disrupted digestion are varied. You could develop food intolerances or diseases related to nutrient deficiencies. Also, when amino acids are not properly broken down this can lead to neurotransmitter imbalances and mood disorders.
Lifestyle changes that might help.
- There are some foods that contribute to the weakening of the oesophageal sphincter. These include coffee, chocolate, alcohol, sugar, mints and any food you might be intolerant to.
- Eating smaller meals might help to support sphincter function too as the stomach will be less full.
- Sitting down to eat meals and chewing your food properly will encourage the digestive processes, reducing the likelihood of heartburn occurring.
- Try not to drink too much liquid with your meals as this can dilute stomach acid concentrations and lead to maldigestion.
- Taking Swedish Bitters or sauerkraut juice ten minutes before each meal can help to stimulate stomach acid secretions.
When stomach acid levels are particularly low sometimes supplements are required to either stimulate or replace it. If you find applying the above measures do not get rid of your heartburn then consult with a qualified nutritional therapist who can help you further.