Heartburn can mean low stomach acid, not high!
You know the feeling – you’ve been out for dinner, had a rich meal with good company and during the night or next day you pay for it, with heartburn and acid.
So the logic goes that if you have acid, you reach for an antacid – right? Not necessarily. Sometimes heartburn can actually indicate low stomach acid. Low stomach acid allows an increase in bacteria, normally killed by this acid. As a result, enzymes which normally break down carbohydrates are not released and these half broken down foods begin to ferment. It’s the pressure from this fermentation, which causes acid to rise.
Antacids may aggravate the problem
Acid, whether caused by low or high stomach acid needs to be addressed as the membranes in this area are not built to handle acid. However, by reaching for antacids you may, in fact, be making the problem worse. First of all you will reduce further what little stomach acid you have, thus enabling even further bacterial overgrowth. And secondly long-term, self-prescribed use of antacids has
been linked to negative health outcomes, such as cancer.
Stomach acid declines with age
As we age, stomach acid declines – you rarely hear of young people complaining of heartburn. One study has shown that around 30% of men and women over 60 suffer from little or no acid.
Stress is a big contributor
Stress is a big contributor to low stomach acid. Prolonged stress reduces stomach acid, because the body diverts blood flow away from digestion and towards the heart and muscles. Add to this the tendency under stress to eat quickly and unconsciously, not to mention to eating poor quality foods. The result can be heartburn and indigestion, but as you can see, it has nothing to do with excess acid.
There are some natural remedies for heartburn. Before having a large meal, consider using digestive enzymes, which will help breakdown food. Have a look at your diet and consider prebiotic foods (fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh) and probiotics to improve digestive health. As a pre-dinner drink consider Angostura bitters – the bitter taste stimulates stomach acid. A bitter salad such as rocket, which also help. And of course herbs such as barberry, dandelion, aloe vera, fennel, mint and cardamon will all support digestion.
If you want to go a step further, make an appointment and have your diet analysed. It is important to understand what is happening in your body, before you try to address the issue. We can help with this and perhaps, give you a herbal formula, specific for digestion and overall health. Contact us now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where heartburn is consistent and you are concerned, please also consult your medical practitioner.