Here’s What You Need To Know…
- The stomach produces acid which is essential for the breakdown of food, protection against foreign invaders and helps to release nutrients out of food.
- Acid Reflux is one of the most common problems affecting 1 in 10 to 1 in 5 of the population at any one time.
- The conventional approach treats this condition as TOO MUCH acid and provided medication to suppress the release of stomach acid.
- Too little stomach acid doesn’t allow the proper breakdown of food causing noxious gasses to be released which irritate the oesophageal lining.
- Working on diet, lifestyle and gradually adding in certain supplements will help to resolve this issue.
Acid Reflux Is Not An Acid Problem
Over the years I’ve mainly been working with people for injuries, aches and pains, but there’s always been an interest in nutrition, and other chronic health conditions and how to overcome them through diet, lifestyle, exercise and much more.
I’ve lost track of the number of patients I’ve seen for various aches and pains who have also reported they suffer from other complaints, and one of the main ones is acid reflux.
Acid reflux can also be referred to as Heartburn, or Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD). It is characterised by a burning sensation 30 to 60 minutes after eating in the centre of the chest and up into the throat, causing discomfort especially when swallowing.
According to the NHS 1 in 5 people experience an episode of reflux a week and 1 in 10 people experience it on a daily basis. What’s more surprising is that most of the people I see are between the ages of 25 and 65, so are still quite young and there is no reason why any of these people should be suffering from acid reflux.
The conventional medical approach is that acid reflux occurs when the stomach produces too much acid, causing some of the acid to leave the stomach and come back up the oesophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach) and irritate the lining of the oesophagus, and this irritation is what causes you pain.
If this is left untreated it can cause changes to the oesophageal lining and lead to a condition called Barrett’s Oesophagus (which we will not be covering today).
I’m going to put it out there now that this approach is wrong and I’ll explain why further in this article.
But first let me tell you the basics.
Your Stomach and Stomach Acid
Lets start with the basics.
The stomach is essentially a muscular sack that can expand and contract depending on how much food is taken in. Because of its muscular nature it squeezes your food to help break the food down mechanically while the stomach acid released from special cells helps to break the food down chemically.
Stomach acid is produced in your stomach primarily in response to food entering the stomach (although a smaller amount is released when you see, smell and taste food).
Stomach acid has three main functions;
- Digestion- It starts the breakdown process of food, especially protein.
- Immune- It is a barrier against the outside world and is ESSENTIAL for killing bacteria and viruses entering your body through your mouth and on food.
- Release of Vitamins- The acidic environment it creates allows the release of vitamin B12 from food to be absorbed later in the digestive process.
Hopefully you will see that your stomach acid is actually quite an important component of your health and that your body is designed to produce stomach acid to help the processes above.
The Current Approach To Acid Reflux
Everyone I have treated up until this point who suffers from acid reflux has been led to believe that their issue is a result of TOO MUCH stomach acid being produced which has led to an overflow and the irritation of the oesophagus causing pain.
Acid reflux is often associated with a hiatus hernia (where the top part of the stomach has squeezed through the oesophageal opening of the diaphragm). Reflux occurs when the oesophageal sphincter (a muscular valve at the entrance of the stomach) doesn’t shut properly which allows some acid to flow backwards (reflux).
If people medicate themselves with over the counter medications they use antacids for when their symptoms are bothering them.
If these people have been to see their GP they have often been prescribed with either/or a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) drug, or “histamine H2-receptor antagonists” which basically stop the production of stomach acid.
Omeprazole and Lansoprazole are the two most commonly prescribed PPI’s in the UK, and interestingly they are both in the Top 10 most prescribed drugs in the UK.
The problem with this approach though is that firstly, it doesn’t address the CAUSE, and secondly I have not met anyone who has actually had their symptoms cleared from taking these medications.
[Hypo-claw-hy-dria]- An insufficient amount of stomach acid.
Now here’s what the current research is showing and this is what Functional Medicine Practitioners are having great success with.
Instead of thinking that too much stomach acid is being produced, the latest thinking (which has evidence supporting it) suggests that the stomach is producing TOO LITTLE stomach acid.
This leads to food remaining undigested in the stomach for too long, which leads to putrification of the food, causing noxious gasses to be released which irritate the oesophageal lining and thus causes pain.
What Causes Hypochlorhydria?
The stomach produces acid, also known as Hydrochloric Acid, which is made up of Hydrogen and Chlorine. If the body doesn’t have enough ions in the body, such as through excess excretion via the kidneys or through excess sweating, or the diet is deficient in enough of the essential minerals to needed then the stomach won’t have what it needs to produce sufficient quantities of acid.
This can also happen as a result of taking certain prescription medications or over the counter medications. It is also possible that a low protein diet may also inhibit the production of stomach acid.
How To Overcome Hypochlorhydria
The most common approach to treating hypochlorhydria is to supplement with HCl capsules, taking a capsule with every meal and increasing the dosage day by day by one capsule until you notice a burning sensation. At this point, reduce by one capsule. This is effective for most people and will usually be around 3 or 4 capsules. Some people won’t notice any difference so after 4 capsules there is little point in continuing to increase the dosage.
The best wholistic approach is to;
- Remove any dietary triggers- sugar, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine tend to be the main triggers.
- Encourage your body to produce enough of its own stomach acid- eating enough raw materials such as protein, foods rich in Zinc, Chloride and Sodium. An unrefined SEA Salt or Himalayan Salt as these both contain an abundance of minerals.
- Drink more water. This allows your stomach cells to operate efficiently and produce enough acid.
- Get yourself checked for a bacteria called H.Pylori. H. Pylori can cause a multitude of digestive issues and can be easily picked up and transferred. H. Pylori has been associated with a reduction in stomach acid.
In my experience, when someone presents to the clinic with a problem like acid reflux, it is very rarely the only issue going on. Using a Functional Medicine approach we can work out other issues that may be maintaining or predisposing the client’s health challenges. It often requires a lot of self motivation and hard work but the results are by a mile way better than the benefits of taking a prescription pill.
If you are suffering from acid reflux (heartburn) on a frequent basis, you shouldn’t be content with living in constant discomfort. Take a look at your overall health and make some sustainable changes that will ultimately benefit you and those around you.
What Should You Do Now?
Don’t accept living with acid reflux. Book a Functional Medicine appointment with us today.
Call us on 0203 356 7060