The Truth About Acid RefluxNov 29, 2013 07:57PM ● By Kristine Bahr
The burning sensation that occurs when food comes back up the esophagus, known as acid reflux, is thought to be caused by too much acid in the stomach, which is why a majority of people take antacids to treat the problem. Unfortunately, antacids might temporarily relieve symptoms but they do not fix the underlying cause.
Some holistic doctors believe that the cause of acid reflux is actually too little stomach acid, or hypoacidity. After chewing, food travels down the esophagus and into the stomach via the esophageal sphincter. The presence of food in the stomach triggers a hormone called gastrin, which controls the amount of gastric juices that are secreted, mainly hydrochloric acid (HCl). For proper digestion, it is necessary to produce enough stomach acid to reduce the stomach pH levels to 1.5 to 2.5, which in turn triggers protein-digesting enzymes (pepsin), kills harmful microbes and allows for proper mineral absorption. If at any time the pH of the stomach drops too low, the hormone gastrin is inhibited, the production of HCl ceases and the release of pepsin is compromised. This negative feedback mechanism is not generally recognized by many conventional doctors.
When too little stomach acid inhibits proper digestion, food stays in the stomach longer, creating a greater chance that the esophageal sphincter will relax and allow acids to come up into the esophagus. Pepsin, the main enzyme responsible for protein digestion, can also irritate the stomach if present for long periods of time. Low stomach acid, and the corresponding higher stomach pH, leaves people vulnerable to food poisoning, ulcers, parasites and other kinds of stomach infections. It also makes it difficult to utilize protein and critical nutrients from food.
Taking hydrochloric acid supplements and digestive enzymes at the beginning of each meal helps to break down foods and maintain the proper pH in the stomach. This approach is wiser than taking pharmaceuticalgrade or over-the-counter antacids, medications known to block the absorption of vital nutrients, leech vitamin B12, D, calcium and zinc from the body and lead to food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers and other health issues.
Kristine Bahr, MS, is a nutritionist and the founder of Cutting-Edge Wellness in Brookline. To learn more and schedule a free 15-minute consultation, call 617-360-1929 or visit KBahr.co.