“Tummy trouble?”

Those uncomfortable digestive issues deserve more than a potentially life-threatening quick fix…..

Would you take the battery out of the smoke-detector to stop that irritating noise? Or put tape over the annoying blinking engine warning-light? Likewise, suppressing symptoms of digestive issues is really not very bright. Yet doctors routinely prescribe medications to do just that.

“Acid indigestion” is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, and taking acid suppressing drugs seems at first glance to be a pretty good idea. Not least because they make the pain go away.

The pain is your warning light.

In general, stomach acid production tends to decrease with age, due in large part to a loss of the cells that produce the acid. Yet heartburn and indigestion are more common as we get older.

It seems unlikely then that excess stomach acid is the problem, and suppressing it the answer….

Stomach acid plays a critical role in the digestion of proteins and minerals, as well as the proper absorption of Vitamin B12  and folic acid. It also kills bacteria, protecting us from all manner of food-borne bugs while preventing bacteria from the intestines migrating north into the stomach where they set up home and play havoc with digestion.

And so taking antacids or the more powerful acid-suppressing drugs for any length of time can lead to malnutrition, even if your diet is excellent. This leaves you vulnerable to a spectrum of disorders including osteoporosis (poor absorption of minerals including calcium), pernicious anemia (Vitamin B12 deficiency), macular degeneration (poor zinc absorption), depression (acid breaks protein down into the essential amino acids necessary for neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine), and many more.

Some antacids contain aluminium. It’s possible that aluminium is involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. So, for safety’s sake, avoiding unnecessary ingestion of aluminium is probably a good idea.

What is causing reflux?

Commonly the LES, the valve that allows food to enter the stomach from the esophagus, is weakened due a number of lifestyle or dietary factors. This valve lets acidic gastric juice back up into the esophagus where the lining is not designed to withstand the acid and becomes irritated.

Certain foods, including mints, sugar, alcohol, and onions, may weaken the valve. Acidic citrus fruits and spicy food, as well as carbonated beverages, may further irritate an already inflamed esophagus. Too much food may put pressure on the LES and cause reflux. Lying down after eating too much just makes it worse!

Some medications such as bronchodilators, NSAIDs, Valium, and  blood-pressure drugs may weaken the LES. Other medications directly irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to heartburn, ulcers, and leaky gut.

Determining what is causing your heartburn is an essential first step. Work with your doctor and never go off prescribed medication without consultation.

It may well be that supplementing with acid such as betaine hydrochloride or glutamic acid hydrochloride will alleviate your heartburn as well as improve digestion. But if you’re taking any medication that is damaging the lining of your stomach you need to be careful. And you may be one of the few people who genuinely do have too much acid production in your stomach – without actually testing the levels of stomach acid it’s hard to know. Professional guidance is essential.

It’s worth tracking down the cause, which may be very simple to fix –  or else chronic degenerative disease may be the price you pay for switching off that warning light!

 

(Reference: “Why Stomach Acid is Good For You – Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux & GERD” by Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. and Lane Lenard, Ph.D.)

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Photo credit:  Colleen Parker

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