the fire within.

Many clients come to me suffering from ‘excess stomach acid’ or acid reflux. A common misconception is that this condition is caused by too much stomach acid. In fact, in a majority of cases, the problem is not enough stomach acid.

Wait. What?

Think about what happens when you leave your lunch in a jar on the windowsill. It starts to ferment, which causes it to expand. The same thing happens in your stomach when there is an environment that is not acid enough to break down food- the food takes too long to digest, starts to ferment, and starts to expand upward back through the esophageal sphincter. The esophagus is meant to be completely pH neutral, so even insufficiently acidic stomach contents are too acidic for the esophagus. Hence, the feeling of acid reflux.

In many cases the remedy is to actually increase the acid content of the stomach, so that food breaks down and moves through in a timely manner. However, if there is any damage from repeated acid events there needs to be some healing first. Once that is done then adjusting the acid level in the stomach can result in much more efficient digestion and a reduction in acid reflux symptoms. It's also very important to consider the diet and make sure it is made up of nutrient dense, whole foods.

What causes low stomach acid? Often, the condition is due to chronic stress that does not allow the body to switch into ‘rest and digest’ mode, and to release acid when we eat. Additionally, we produce less stomach acid as we age, and a poor diet of processed foods can make matters worse. And, it can be a vicious cycle as lack of stomach acid can cause a reduction in nutrient absorption, making it harder to create more stomach acid!!

Why not just use antacids or PPIs? (proton pump inhibitors) I hope it is becoming clear that using such methods for longer than a brief period can result in poor digestion, which results in poor nutrition and all sorts of nutrient deficiency down the road. Here is an article detailing how, among other possible issues, long term use of PPIs can be associated with osteoporosis: http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20080811/lengthy-use-of-reflux-drugs-may-up-fractures   (Calcium needs sufficient acid to be assimilated.) And another, on PPI use and B12 deficiency. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/acid-suppressing-drugs-linked-to-vitamin-b12-deficiency/  You can imagine what other nutrients are not getting absorbed properly by the same reasoning. In addition, the body is never satiated when food is not properly broken down, which can be one root of overeating.

Below are two resources for further reading on stomach acid if you would like to learn more. If you’d like to work with me to support your efforts to reduce acid reflux, get in touch, I’d be happy to help.

Book: Why Stomach Acid is Good For You

Book: The 30 Day Heartburn Solution