By: Mark DiSalvo
This Heartburn piece goes out to my boo Jeff. Jeff is a member from way back that is no longer at our gym after he moved, but I owe him this. He has been waiting for it since I mentioned it back when the Artist formerly known as Prince was just Prince, or when gas cost less then a blood or sperm donation. It is also for my girl Karen who has …… WTF WAS THAT??!! Totally side tracked right now. It is 3am as I write this and one of my kid’s toys just started talking. If I am dead tomorrow, investigate the Dora doll that just screamed out, “It’s baking time, lets make some cookies”. Anyways… I owe this article to my friend Karen as well. She has been waiting for awhile so lets get down to the business of getting down.
Some of you have been diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD or Heartburn) or Hiatal Hernias. All of these are far more common now due to poor dietary and lifestyle habits. 10% of us have heartburn daily, while 20% of us experience it weekly. Another 3 – 7% experience an extreme condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, which is a scarring of the esophagus caused by stomach acid. This condition can make it difficult to swallow while increasing your risk of cancer. With any of these conditions, it is best to fix the underlying issues rather than masking symptoms with pills. Did you know there are more than twice as many pharmaceutical lobbyists than lawmakers in DC? Many of these pharmaceuticals only help the sick get sicker quicker. Most pharmaceuticals for heartburn simply block stomach acid. Seems to make sense right? I have way too much stomach acid, so lets use antacids or acid blockers to reduce all that which is bubbling up into my esophagus. Well it would all make sense if excess stomach acid was the issue. It would also be fine if blocking stomach acid came without severe consequences.
The reality is that most people suffer from low stomach acid, since too much stomach acid is an extremely rare condition. So if low stomach acid is the issue, why do I feel this burn? Usually the esophageal sphincter malfunctions. This sphincter is responsible for letting food into the stomach and keeping stomach contents out of the esophagus, thus it must function properly to avoid such pain. Many things contribute to this malfunction including bacterial or yeast overgrowth, birth control pills, NSAID’s, cholesterol meds, low stomach acid, stress, poor diet, and yes… heartburn pills themselves.
Ok, so maybe my sphincter doesn’t work, but who gives an F! It is easier to just take a pill, so what is the problem with low stomach acid? Well, nothing if you don’t think your body needs nutrients, or if you don’t mind being overrun by unhealthy bacteria. If you love yeast overgrowth, bone fractures, leaky gut, putrefied or fermenting foods rotting in your intestines, then don’t sweat it. Eat the big nasty, wash it down with a beer, and take your pills. The real deal is that stomach acid sets the entire stage for digestion. The stomach is extremely acidic for a reason and we can’t just skip this function with pills. Stomach acid kills bad bacteria/fungus, does not allow yeasts to overgrow or embed inside the walls of the digestive tract. Stomach acid literally cleans what we eat, while breaking it down. It also triggers the rest of digestion. It signals the esophageal sphincter to close, it unfolds proteins to signal the release of pepsin, gets glands to produce fat digesting enzymes, and signals the release of intrinsic factor, which is needed to absorb vitamin b12. Nutrients simply cannot be broken down without enough stomach acid. This entire digestive process is interconnected. When you have a bacterial overgrowth, the cells of the digestive tract starve or are destroyed by the toxins produced by unhealthy bacteria. Such bacteria or yeast hijack the function and abilities of these cells. Suddenly the body can no longer absorb nutrients, which means the body starts to breakdown. Good luck with mood, thought, memory, or depression without B vitamins. Good luck with your skin or controlling various forms of inflammation when tissue cannot repair or when the immune system is overactive from excess toxins, undigested food, and bacterial overgrowth. And good luck with properly functioning sphincters!!! We have alot of sphincters in the body and they all need to work properly. (You love it when I talk sphincters don’t you? PERVERT!!!!) All of this can lead to Inadequate B12 levels, poor energy, numbness of extremities, damage to nervous system, increased bone fractures, low mineral levels, thyroid issues, inability to breakdown fats, or inefficient neurotransmitter production. If it sounds like it effects everything, that’s because it does! When you can’t digest food properly, you can’t absorb nutrients. Without nutrients, the wheels fall off and every tissue, organ, chemical, and hormone will not function the way they were intended.
I could go on forever, but I think you have the point by now. Stomach acid is vital to digestion and usually not the culprit. Yes, it is burning your esophagus, but suppressing it is not the long-term solution. So with all of that said, you are probably asking, what do I need to do? What do I need to do to get right?
Get Tested for Stomach Acid
- You need to know where you stand.
Heidelberg Gastric Analysis test – This is the best. It is accurate and expensive but ask your doctor if you struggle with GERD. Ask if you struggle with bloating, belching, excess gas, pain when eating large meals, or if it takes awhile for your stomach to clear. These are all signs you have low stomach acid. Even something like Rosacea, Psoriasis, or asthma could be related to low stomach acid. This test is apparently hard to find. Some other choices include:
Gastro-test – This is less accurate but more available.
BQRT – Accurate blood test but not yet widely available.
Remove all Irritants
Lose weight – Fat around the belly actually tilts things in a way that can cause the esophageal sphincter to open and close improperly.
Quit smoking – Its messing with your sphincter!
Remove alcohol - look people, its only your health. Healthy people can have a drink sometimes, but if this is a real issue for you, get right before touching the sauce. Alcohol and their sugars also feeds yeast and ferment in the gut.
Reduce processed carbs that feed bacteria, deplete the body, and irritate tissue.
Remove any food intolerance – Commercial dairy be is a problem for many.
Do not eat large meals – Large meals challenge limited stomach acid which can lead to bloating or backup.
Do not eat late – Leave about 4 hours before bed.
Re evaluate the use of birth control, aspirin, or steroids
Chew your food – many don’t realize how vital this is. When food is not properly chewed it places a great deal of stress throughout the later stages of digestion.
Reduce stress – look people, this one is beyond the scope of this article, but stress depletes the body of nutrients and causes a number of things to malfunction.
Drink water without chlorine, fluoride or other toxins.
Options to Heal the Esophageal lining
Before concerning yourself with boosting stomach acid, you must let the tissue heal.
Drink Cabbage juice. Cabbage has a strong flavor so make with other fruits. Here is the Recipe from Dr. Murray’s Total Body Tune Up. Feed all this into a juicer and drink 16-24oz daily while healing.
o 2 cups of green cabbage
o 2 tomatoes
o 4 rips of celery
o 2 carrots
Glutamine – One of the reasons Cabbage juice is believed to be so healing is its concentration of Glutamine. This amino acid feeds the cells along the digestive tract directly, giving those cells the energy they need to heal.
Increase Antioxidants – including 1000mg of vitamin C, green tea regularly, 200-400mcg of selenium (which is chronically low in people with Barrett’s), and 1000 -2000 mg of NAC.
Take DGL – this seems to be one of the most important steps for healing so be sure to do this one. Take 2-4 chewable DGL tablets 20 minutes before meals. Continue its use for 8-16 weeks for full healing according to various sources including Total Body Tune up, Digestive Wellness, and various course work from my classes.
Probiotic – This is essential. With chronic low stomach acid, bad bacteria and yeast most certainly are a bit out of control. This bacteria is destroying the tissue along the digestive path. One of the only ways to beat this, is to fight fire with fire, which means you need to bring in the good guys. I like Complete Probiotic from Mercola.com. If you are a mess, get a 3 month supply and get everything back in order. If you aren’t too bad, start with a month supply.
Other Great Teas – Ginger which heals the digestive tract and Slippery Elm Bark which is soothing to mucous membranes. For slippery elm, put 1 teaspoon of it in 2 cups of water, simmer for 20 minutes and strain.
Eat foods high in Magnesium and folate – Look any nutrient up on whfoods.com. Just type in a nutrient in the search and a list will come up that include foods high in that nutrient.
Consider Goldenseal – This is also soothing to mucous membranes, enhances immune function, and has antifungal properties. Try roughly 75-250 mg 3x per day.
Once you are eating a whole foods diet, removed the irritants, and healed the esophagus with proper supplements, teas, and foods, it will be time to be sure you are producing enough stomach acid. Stomach acid naturally declines with age or is low due to poor diet, pills and whatnot, thus we need to give it a boost. Only once you are sure you are healed, you can do a few things to increase stomach acid.
INCREASING STOMACH ACID FOR THOSE WITH LOW STOMACH ACID
-Be sure you are taking and getting enough Vitamin D. Get this tested at some point but begin supplementing immediately if you are not out in the sun regularly without sunscreen.
-Consume some Organic Bragg Apple cider vinegar at each meal. Mix 1 teaspoon with a small amount of water. Increase up to 6 teaspoons if needed.
-Take bitters before eating – consume something bitter. Bitter tasting things trigger a few things in digestion which helps prepare the body for meals. Take 4-5 minutes before meals. It can be anything bitter like fruits, herbs, or roots. Parsley and endive are put on plates because they are bitter which improves digestion.
-Supplement with HCL – Talk to me about this and make sure you are healed before doing these steps. Could be vital though for long term nutrient absorption. In general, you would continue to increase dosage at meal until you noticed a burn. At that point you would back down to a comfortable dose. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOUR ARE NOT HEALED.
-You could use baking soda if you ever experience to much acid in the stomach.
As always, consult with a professional before implementing many of these steps. I believe this should give you good places to start and I welcome your questions. I am not a Dr so I would never recommend taking anyone off of their meds, but I think you should develop a strategy that heals the underlying issues. Any good plan should heal the body and make sense for the long-term. In summary, if heartburn is an issue for you, get your stomach acid levels tested, test for bacterial overgrowth, get the diet right, remove problem foods, drink a tea that will help healing, increase antioxidants, and consume a supplement like DGL. After you get healed up and understand your stomach acids levels, take steps to maintain healthy stomach acid levels to ensure proper function physically, mentally, and emotionally. Good luck peeps! See you on the other side.