You may be all too familiar (so many people are) with that heart burn, reflux kind of feeling. Does it wake you up in the night and you feel the burn? Is it difficult to enjoy a meal for fear of it later? You are not alone! Many people suffer from this. You might think it’s because you have too much acid – BUT I am here to share with you the REAL DEAL with stomach acid, why reflux happens, and some NATURAL ways to control it without making the problem worse!
As a future Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP) one of things we look at in client’s is not only their nutrition, but digestion of the food they eat. This is important because you can eat THE BEST nutrition on the planet from THE CLEANEST foods in the world, but absorb nothing if you have digestive dysfunction anywhere from mouth to … well the exit anus.
If you have struggled with reflux, GERD, OR you have an autoimmune disease, asthma, cancer, or other digestive issues – you need to check out the book (which inspired this post) – Why Stomach Acid is Good for You by Jonathan Wright & Lane Lenard.
Why do we need stomach acid?
Stomach acid is necessary to break down the food into the correct smaller nutrients we need to fuel our body. If the stomach is too alkaline (higher pH and not enough acid) the food will not be broken down into nutrients for distribution in the body. Without this breakdown, not only will you be missing nutrients, but you may suffer from some upset as your food starts to reach the small intestine because it hasn’t reached the state it needs to in order to be properly digested or used. You will quickly become deficient in amino acids (proteins), vitamins and minerals, and possibly even fat and more!
What causes reflux, pain, GERD?
For the most part these conditions are caused by LOW stomach acid. That means NOT ENOUGH! So when you use an antacid or an acid blocker, it creates even LESS acid for the stomach thus keeping you on the meds and aggravating your condition. Other causes are weakening of the “door” (sphincter) that keeps the acid INSIDE of your stomach and out of more sensitive areas like your esophagus (that is why it “burns”). The weakening can be caused by foods, alcohol, smoking, diseases and more. You can also get pain from bacteria or yeast growth that happens from not having enough stomach acid for a long time. Acid kills bacteria and yeast very quickly, but without it in the stomach they sneak in from the intestines causing more problems. Your doctor would need to evaluate you for the presence of this growth for treatment.
Is there anything that can be done to fix this?
YES! The great news is that you can actually work on trying to resolve your issues yourself at home. Of course, you should be examined by a physician for functional disturbances that might need surgical repair or for infection.
When looking at the issue you need to identify what some food sensitivities are, what offending agents to this condition are, and you need to remove them from your diet and your life. If you drink alcohol, that may be it, if you smoke, that may be it. You may also have food allergies or sensitivities you are unaware of. Working with a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP), like myself, would be one step in helping you determine sensitivities you may not even know you have causing the issue. Did you know that most people have food allergies they are unaware of? They happen over 24-72 hours AFTER eating the food and are not life threatening and often go unnoticed. These offending agents cause a reaction in the body creating an issue. When removing these, and increasing the stomach acidity you can start to work toward resolution.
Guess what? Stomach Acid is not just a problem for reflux!
Turns out that there is a connection between low stomach acid and the following:
* Chronic sinus issues
* Food Allergies
* Autoimmune issues – such as lupus, RA, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and MORE!
* Asthma – especially childhood
*** AND MORE!
These are just a few things that are tied to low stomach acid. AND I know for sure that when treating symptoms of lupus or other autoimmune you have likely been prescribed a type of acid blocker or inhibitor to continue to take harmful NSAIDs and more. This is only AGGRAVATING the condition. You likely started with low stomach acid, which contributed to the immune response from your gut – leading you on the path to autoimmunity!
Keep in mind: As we age we naturally lose stomach acid.
Where can you start at home then?
1- Eliminate offensive agents like – alcohol, tobacco, dairy, stress management, medications like NSAIDs, and many more!
2- Work on adding in nutrient rich foods to your diet to help combat and change the environment.
3- SLOW DOWN WHEN YOU EAT! This is hard we are all in a hurry BUT it is essential. It’s true that if you chew your food more before swallowing and eat more slowly, your digestive system will thank you. It helps break up the food to become less work in the stomach, and therefore, the nutrients are more available to your small intestines for distribution.
4- Cut out processed foods. Eat whole real foods gives you the best nutrients and also your gut to work on something it was meant to work on. Not processed chemicals that are difficult to digest.
5- Add a little apple cider vinegar (diluted in water) or some lemon in water about 15-30 minutes before a meal. This helps lower the stomach pH and get it ready to digest.
6- Try fermented vegetables. Anything fermented (if buying from the store and not making yourself CHECK THE LABEL INGREDIENTS – no processed chemicals!). Fermented foods help with the digestive process and can help heal the tract and gut.
Need more help?
You may need more than this. You may need the help of an FNTP, and your physician to work on a HCL and pepsin regimen, as well as B12 and other vitamin supplements to get back on track. One thing is for sure, talk to your doctor about getting off of your acid blocker, especially if you haven’t been tested and told you have TOO MUCH stomach acid. The only people who may benefit (although can be done naturally as well) from these meds is someone with a hyperchlorhydria (too much acid) diagnosis. There are some other methods that a FNTP could also help you with to control this naturally. The great news is that once you get control and remove those offending agents from your life – you may not need anything else and you will have a happy gut again!
Once you have some control over the acid and you are feeling a bit better, getting enough B12, zinc and other vitamins is crucial as these have been deficient if you have had low stomach acid in your past.
Kate is a (FNTP) Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner student with the Nutrition Therapy Association. She is taking test clients, and will be practicing in 2020. Email her here to learn more about being a test client, or becoming a client in 2020.