Nov. 21, 2017; By Briana McDonald-Staff Writer, Silver Bulletin e-News Magazine (UtopiaSilver.com) Thanks to deceptive television ads, most of us believe that heartburn or acid reflux is caused by too much acid in the stomach. In actuality it is caused from us not having enough! To heal acid reflux without drugs we have to first understand why we are too low in stomach acid to begin with and what steps we can take to increase stomach acid, not decrease it.
What Really Causes Low Stomach Acid
If you suffer from acid reflux you aren’t alone, in fact more than 90% of Americans live off of Tums and other over the counter medications to treat this annoying ailment. (1)
Causes of low stomach acid include:
- slowed metabolism
- food allergies
- poor diet
- nutritional deficiencies
- low protein diet
- too much alcohol
Strong Stomach Acid Equals Proper Digestion
We need to have an adequate amount of acid in our stomachs for the proper absorption of vital nutrients and minerals such as zinc, iron, and B vitamins that require a highly acidic environment. This type of environment is also necessary to activate pepsin in the stomach to cleave apart amino acids so they can be fully and properly absorbed. (2)
If our digestion is not adequate the integrity of each cell, tissue and organ in your body will suffer from it. An entire cascade of health issues can result from this one system alone. If your body is unable to break down and properly absorb your food it can not be used to nourish your body like it is designed to do.
Here are some clues you have poor or weak digestion:
- belching or gas within one hour after eating
- heartburn or acid reflux
- feeling bloated within one hour after eating
- sweat has a strong odor
- stomach upset by taking vitamins
- feel like skipping breakfast/feel better when you don’t eat
- sleepy after meals
- anemia unresponsive to iron
- stomach pains or cramps
- crave acidic foods such as vinegar or citrus
Why Over the Counter Treatments for Acid Reflux are Dangerous
Since the advent of drugs such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid, the public believes that all that needs to be done to protect against heartburn and acid reflux is to block stomach acid production. This misconception can have long term health consequences. Chronic use of these medications to treat this ailment can lead to nutritional deficiencies, bone fractures and even heart disease.
While proton-pump inhibiting drugs impede acid production, they do not stop the reflux of digestive enzymes, bile and corrosive food/drinks into the esophageal lining which can lead to esophageal cancer, a growing cause of cancer deaths in older adults.
These proton pump inhibitors interfere with vitamin and mineral absorption which can further exasperate any nutritional deficiencies.
- Vitamin B 12 – like most vitamins, vitamin B12 must be obtained from the diet where it is bound to proteins. Deficiencies in this vitamin can result in anemia, depression, and disrupted nerve signaling including decreased taste and numbness or tingling in the extremities. An acidic stomach is necessary for B12 absorption because the acid is required to break down dietary proteins to which the vitamin is bound and release it for absorption.
- Iron – is an essential nutrient, especially for the formation of red blood cells and proper muscle function. Like vitamin B12, stomach acid is a requirement for proper absorption. This is because about 1/3 of iron intake comes from non-animal sources where it is bound to plant chemicals that inhibit its absorption and the acid in the stomach helps to break down those inhibitory molecules.
- Magnesium– another essential mineral that is important for the functioning of numerous enzyme systems, energy management and nerve conduction. There have been reports of low blood magnesium levels in chronic proton pump inhibitor users. Symptoms of low magnesium levels include fatigue, unsteadiness, numbness/tingling, seizures, and heart rhythm disturbances.
Increased Risk for Bone Fractures
As a result from disturbances in calcium absorption from the diet under conditions of low stomach acid, a growing number of studies show an increased risk of bone fractures in people who use PPI’s to treat Acid Reflux. This is because stomach acid secretion can boost calcium absorption while acid-suppressive therapies reduce this absoprtion creating a negative impact on bone mineral density.
How to Heal Acid Reflux Without Medications
Here are some things you can do to heal acid reflux without medications:
- Ingest Apple Cider Vinegar: The No. 1 thing you can do to start to balance this pH in your stomach is use apple cider vinegar right before your meals. It provides intestinal protection by introducing more acid to the digestive tract. It is also rich in enzymes, pectin, and protein all of which will help reduce the effects of acid reflux. Upon waking, drink 1/2-1 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar (it must be raw) in 1/2 cup warm water. Take this concoction before each meal and, if needed, after meals to stop heartburn.
- Take Digestive Enzymes with your meals to help break down your food.
- Add HCL with Pepsin to Your Diet: Betaine HCL increases the level of hydrochloric acid in the stomach necessary for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food. Normal levels of hydrochloric acid are required for complete digestion of proteins and absorption of amino acids. It’s also required for the extraction of vitamin B12 from our food. Betaine HCL helps to restore the proper acid levels in the stomach and maintain healthy GI function.
- Eat Manuka Honey: Manuka Honey is produced in New Zealand and Australia from bees pollinating the manuka tree. It has a naturally occurring peroxide content which makes it a potent anti-bacterial agent. This therapeutic honey has been widely used to heal stomach lining and to help address h. pylori overgrowth. Take 1 tsp twice a day to help repair stomach lining.
- Chew Your Food Thoroughly and Eat Smaller Meals (3) ‘Grazing was the way our body was designed to eat,’ says nutritionist Antony Haynes. ‘Large meals burden the digestive system, often causing bloating and lowered energy while the body struggles to digest them.’By eating smaller meals you prevent this, and the body functions more efficiently throughout the day.’ When we eat a big meal, the sugar level in our blood rises, but once that meal is digested that blood sugar level falls, taking your energy and mood with it.
- Drink LESS fluids with meals if possible. If you are already low in stomach acid and you’re drinking 12oz plus of fluids with a meal, you are substantially diluting the little stomach acid you have! Since it’s estimated that stomach acid production peaks 90 minutes after a meal, it’s a good idea to get the fluids your body desires between meals instead of around meal time. While this ONE tip may seem insignificant, it can have a HUGE impact on your digestion.