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Your reflux/heartburn is actually due to...

What if I told you that your acid/reflux/heartburn is actually due to LOW stomach acid?

Yes...you read that right, hear me out!


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Do you experience the following symptoms frequently:

  • bloating

  • belching

  • heartburn

  • indigestion

  • feeling full after eating only a small amount of food

  • feels like food stays in your stomach for too long

  • loss of taste for meat


Well then, let's chat about your body's disinfection chamber - the stomach!


What is stomach acid and why is it important?

The stomach is the body's "disinfection chamber" and stomach acid the main "disinfecting liquid" which resides in the stomach. Basically, stomach acid is our first line of defense against all types of foreign invaders and with an optimally functioning digestive system, we will have the best chance of neutralizing critters!


What happens when you have low stomach acid?

acid reflux stomach

I will try to simplify as much as possible here and make it clear. Our stomachs have 2 rings of muscle called "sphincters" at the top (the gastroesophageal) and at the bottom (pyloric) of the stomach acting as valves for the passing food. The stomach acts as a quality control center for the food we have ingested. In summary, the food needs to be acidic enough to go from the stomach to next stage of digestion in the upper part of the small intestine. If your stomach acid is low, the food will not be acidic enough for the lower ring of muscle of the stomach to open and let the food go to the next stage of digestion. The stomach will hold on to the food as long as possible until optimal acidity occurs. When stomach acid is low, these maldigested foods begin to ferment and pushback against the upper ring of muscle, causing it to open and thus creating a backflow into the esophagus. Your esophagus tissues are super sensitive and not supposed to be exposed to food which was mixed with gastric juices = hello reflux/heartburn!! This happens a lot when you are lying down! (Kahrilas, P., Yadlapati, R., & Roman, S., 2017)


What causes low stomach acid?

  • stress - when your brain thinks it is chased by tigers (we enter fight/flight), it shuts down all non-essential body processes such as stomach acid production.

  • excess carbohydrate consumption

  • nutrient deficiencies such as zinc, B1, B6 - adequate stomach acid production requires adequate zinc stores

  • food sensitivities

  • excess alcohol consumption (Bienia, A., Sodolski, W., & Luchowska, E., 2002)

  • if someone has been vegan/vegetarian for a while (McArthur, K. E., Walsh, J. H., & Richardson, C. T., 1988)


What complications can low stomach acid lead to?

  • gastric/duodenum ulcers: when food sits in stomach for too long, it irritates the lining which isn't made to have long term exposure to undigested food and gastric juices

  • GERD: this happens when acid reflux progresses and damages the upper stomach muscle (Kahrilas, P., Yadlapati, R., & Roman, S., 2017)

  • Barrett's esophagus: occurs in approximately 2.3-8.3% of people with GERD. About 3-5% of those diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus develop further pathologies (Sharma P., 2022)


What can you do to fix your low stomach acid?

Low stomach acid is the # 1 gut imbalance I see nowadays! It is literally an epidemic!

The process is honestly quite complex, involves multiple steps and is very bio-individual. The best suggestion I have is to find a qualified practitioner who can run some testing and work with you for a period of time guiding you through the process.

If you feel ready to resolve this once and for good, please don't hesitate to reach out!


References:

Bienia, A., Sodolski, W., & Luchowska, E. (2002). The effect of chronic alcohol abuse on gastric and duodenal mucosa. Annales Universitatis Mariae Curie-Sklodowska. Sectio D: Medicina, 57(2), 570–582.


Kahrilas, P., Yadlapati, R., & Roman, S. (2017). Emerging dilemmas in the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. F1000Research, 6, 1748. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.11918.1


McArthur, K. E., Walsh, J. H., & Richardson, C. T. (1988). Soy protein meals stimulate less gastric acid secretion and gastrin release than beef meals. Gastroenterology, 95(4), 920–926. https://doi.org/10.1016/0016-5085(88)90164-3


Sharma P. Barrett Esophagus: A Review. JAMA. 2022;328(7):663–671. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.13298


Disclaimer: This post is intended for inspirational and informational purposes only, is not a substitute for medical advice, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. Consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your routine.

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