So how does low stomach acid cause reflux?
Undigested food in the stomach, particularly starchy carbohydrates, can ferment in the stomach; releasing gas, which can add pressure to the lower esophageal sphincter (valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus). Over time, the lower esophageal sphincter may weaken from the continued pressure. As the pressure rises, some acidic contents of the stomach can flow back up into the esophagus. The symptomatic experience from this is a burning sensation in our esophagus. This is because our esophagus does not have the same special lining as the stomach to protect us from acid burn so this results in the ‘heartburn’ sensation.
So what are the common causes of reflux?
- Consumption of too many carbohydrates/sugar
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Heartburn medications
- Not consuming enough protein from the diet
- Food sensitivities
- Helicobacter pylori
- The oral contraceptive pill or other female hormone treatments
Medications for reflux
There are two types of medications that are used to manage reflux. These include antacids and acid-blockers, both of which compromise the stomach’s acidity levels and as a result; relieve the burning sensation, masking the symptoms but not addressing the cause! The stomach should be highly acidic and reducing the acid will slow digestion, ultimately exacerbating the issue of poor digestion due to not enough stomach acid. This then creates a cycle of chronic digestive conditions such as heartburn and Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). What this means, is people who have been taking the medication initially to aid reflux or heartburn will find that if they stop the medication, the symptoms return as the cause has not been addressed! With less stomach acid you will also be more likely to develop bacterial infections in the intestines as the stomach acid normally kills the bacteria to prevent infection.
Another consequence of using medications to reduce stomach acid
Reducing stomach acid may also cause a reduction in Vitamin B12 as stomach acid helps the B12 to be extracted from food and absorbed. B12 deficiency is very serious and can lead to memory loss, mental confusion, mood changes and much more.
- Try apple cider vinegar instead of an antacid
Apple cider vinegar will give your digestion a little boost! Mix 1-2 tsp of apple cider vinegar with water and make sure you take it before each meal. Works well! Remember things like lemon and apple cider vinegar are good for your stomach but not so good for your teeth, don’t immediately brush your teeth rubbing the acid into your teeth, eat or at least rinse before you brush.
- Identify any food sensitivities
Eating foods that you are sensitive to will cause inflammation and strain to the digestive system – worsening reflux. The symptoms are not always obvious; you may experience many or one of the following: headaches, nausea, cramping, rash, mood drops, low energy, numbness, poor sleep, diarrhoea, constipation and IBS.
- Slow down
Eat consciously being aware of nourishing yourself. Sit down, relax and eat slowly ensuring that you chew properly. Don’t eat unconsciously (eg watching tv, using a device, driving, on the run). Digestion starts when you are thinking about your food, smelling food and chewing. If you bypass all of these steps and just start shoveling it in unconsciously, your body won’t be ready to rest and digest. You need to support your body to support you!
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