Most of us have experienced heartburn at some point in our lives. In fact, about one out of every three people has a regular problem with it. That uncomfortable burning sensation can keep you from going about your day and actively enjoying life. Fortunately, heartburn can be reduced or eliminated when you learn what you’re dealing with.
What Exactly Causes Heartburn?
Normally, as you digest food your stomach produces gastrin, a chemical that signals your body to produce stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, or HCl), which makes it possible for your stomach to produce mucous and bicarbonate to prevent erosion of the stomach lining. Stomach acid, as it breaks down your food, is also your first line of defense against harmful bacteria and viruses that may be in your food.
When your body produces weak stomach acid, or not enough of it, your stomach can’t produce enough mucous. This causes the stomach lining to become inflamed, causing heartburn or reflux. Weak or insufficient stomach acid can also prevent the esophageal sphincter from closing correctly, which allows acid to escape up into your esophagus. This also causes the painfully unpleasant sensation of heartburn.
Unfortunately, many people choose to let TV commercials drive their healthcare decisions, and so immediately turn to antacids when they have heartburn. Antacid means “anti-acid.” Can you see the problem with this course of action?
We know that the issue is NOT ENOUGH stomach acid. That weak or insufficient acid leads to slowing the digestion of your food, the esophageal sphincter staying open, and a lack of mucous and bicarbonate to protect the stomach lining from erosion. You already don’t have enough acid, and now you are reaching for something that lowers acid even more! And while it may make the immediate burning temporarily go away, it is creating more serious problems long term and it is definitely not addressing the root cause of your problem.
Another problem with this “treatment” is that antacids have been proven to cause deficiencies in B12, calcium, magnesium and folic acid, because by eliminating stomach acid, it is DECREASING your digestion and absorption. Some studies have even found that taking antacids can lead to dementia and osteoporosis. This makes sense, because you are interfering with the body’s ability to properly digest and absorb that calcium and the other nutrients in your food!
When you understand what heartburn is you can easily remedy it! How? As always, by working on the root cause, not just the symptom.
Get tested for food allergies and sensitivities, as they can lead to irritation that can trigger esophageal reflux. Since heartburn can be caused by weak or insufficient stomach acid, the key is to stimulate your body to naturally make more. One of the best ways to do this is by taking digestive enzymes with every meal.
If you suffer from heartburn, please stop just managing symptoms and start addressing the root cause! Is your reflux being triggered by food allergies or by fatigue that may be leading to low stomach acid and poor digestion? We’ll help you get to the bottom of it! And, as always, if you have questions about this, or about any other aspect of your wellness, contact us for an appointment with Dr. Ridley.