Acid reflux, or heartburn is a very common problem.
As much as 30% of adults in the US experience heartburn or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
GERD is when things in your stomach back up into your esophagus. People suffering from GERD deal with issues like; heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea - but sometimes it can cause you to clear your throat or cough frequently. Things seem to be the worst after you eat or when you lay down at night.
Acid reflux is thought to be caused by your body producing too much stomach acid] With this thinking treatments have aimed to neutralize the acid or stop its production. The problem with this is that in most cases your body never produces too much stomach acid. It’s kind of like the tank on your toilet. When its full, the water shuts off. Toilet tanks don’t overflow because it is producing too much water. The same is true with stomach acid. You make as much as you need and then stop making it. So, if the reason for reflux is not too much acid, what causes the problem? The answer for most people is in the lining of their stomachs.
To understand acid reflux and it’s symptoms, it’s helpful to know the structure of our stomachs:
· The inside of our stomach is lined with cells that produce a layer of mucus.
· That layer of mucus acts as a barrier, protecting the sensitive cells below it from the acidity of the stomach.
· Common American diets, especially those containing high amounts of processed foods and sugar erode the mucus and the sensitive cells are now left exposed.
· Exposing the cells to acid causes them to become irritated and inflamed and that causes the uncomfortable symptoms.
· Turning off or neutralizing the acid is a highly effective way to stop symptoms. But since our bodies know how much acid to produce, turning off the acid, and having less than for the body needs, could lead to further issues.
Stomach acid serves two main functions:
1. The first function of stomach acid is to lower the pH of the stomach enough to begin the digestion of protein.
Less acid means that only some of the protein you are eating is being digested. The remaining undigested protein will rot in the digestive tract. and cause irritation. This can upset digestion with things like gas, constipation and even leaky gut syndrome or diverticulitis.
Additionally, anything in our bodies that relies on protein will suffer. There are more than 10,000 types of protein found in everything from your organs to your muscles and tissues to your bones, skin, and hair. Protein fuels your energy and carries oxygen throughout your body in your blood. It also supports fighting off infections and illnesses and helps keep cells healthy and create new ones. Our bodies use protein for just about everything.
In addition to shorting your body on protein, the use of antacids also leads to gallbladder problems. The acidic pH required for protein digestion needs to be balanced back out as our food moves through our intestines. To do this, our bodies use bile. Bile is made in the liver and sent to the gallbladder for storage. If the acid was turned off by an antacid and the food leaving the stomach is not very acidic to begin with, less bile is needed to balance the pH. Since the bile is not being used, it sits in the gallbladder. The longer it sits, the thicker and sludgier it gets and then gallstones form. So, if you are taking an acid reducer or blocker, it’s not a question of if you will create a gallbladder problem, it’s when.
2. The second function of stomach acid is to kill and pathogens that enter the stomach. Parasites, bacteria, and viruses cannot survive very well in the normally acid environment of the stomach. When we use antacids to lessen the amount of acid, it makes it more likely that the things we would like to kill can survive. When you combine that with a compromised mucus lining, which is most likely causing the symptoms in the first place, and the decrease in available protein for the immune system, you make a much easier entrance into the body and its more difficult to combat the intruder once it is there.
The importance of stomach acid and stomach lining are often overlooked. When they are both working as they should, digestion works well and our bodies are well protected from foreign invaders, while acid reducing and blocking medications make us vulnerable to invaders like virus and infection.
For optimal health, Williams Chiropractic & Internal Health Center can help your body heal and restore to normal function. If you are experiencing acid reflux or GERD, come in and talk with us about it today. We offer complimentary consultations – so you can achieve the health and wellness goals that have felt out of reach.