The Great Myth of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux occurs when some of the contents of the stomach is regurgitated up the oesophagus and since gastric acid is part of this ‘content’, the sensation of burning can feel ‘acidic’.
A sphincter at the base of the oesophagus normally keeps food from going back up, after being ingested, but for some, this ‘ring’ fails and allows for upward reflux.
About 15-25% of the UK population also suffers from hiatus hernia, where stomach contents are regurgitated through a hole (hiatus) often leading to burning and chest pains.
Understandably, most reflux sufferers will blame an over-production of stomach acids for their reflux or hiatus hernia as the burning feeling in their chest intensifies.
However, research shows that the opposite problem – hypochlorhydria (low acid production) or achlorhydria (no acid production) – actually causes the problems of acid reflux.
Indeed, in a normally functioning stomach, acid is crucial to break down food and absorb nutrients. It’s also essential in balancing out the right levels of bacteria and viruses in your gut. With lower or no acid production, food stagnates, ferments and starts putrefying – causing an overproduction of gas, bloat, and pressure that will cause some of the content to travel back up to and through the oesophagus sphincter.
This will also encourage the production of ‘bad’ bacteria and may cause small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), as well as IBS symptoms, erratic bowels, pain, chronic bloat and nutrient deficiencies that can lead to a myriad of illnesses.
Although acid blocking medication may give temporary relief, in the long run, they only deepen the problem of suboptimal natural acid production and problems listed above.
So what to do when you have low acid production?
You need to watch out for the likely cause(s) in your own digestion:
- Deficiencies in zinc and B vitamins (which also get depleted more rapidly when stressed)
- Age – you are more likely to suffer from this if over 60
- Over-medication: yup – taking those antacids, ppis etc will cause long-term low acid production
- H-pylori ulcer-causing bacterial infection – get tested if you have any doubts
- Surgery in the abdomen area
- Damaging eating habits: eating fast, not chewing, eating too much gluten, dairy, sugar.
While some of these factors are in your own control, some, such as age – are not.
Through years of working with acid reflux sufferers, I have found that managing stress and eating habits, as well as supplementing where needed, will have a great – long-term impact on acid production and can be the key to regaining healthy digestion.
I will give you some tips on top foods for acid reflux in my next blog – watch this space!
3. Why Stomach Acid is Good for You by Jonathan Wright, MD and Lane Lenard, PhD M. Evans and Company
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