When most people think of the word reflux – they generally think unpleasant feels, especially those that have experienced persistent reflux. And most people would are lead to believe that reflux develops due to an excess of stomach acid. However, research has actually identified that this is the opposite. That reflux is most frequently caused by a decrease of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. With the incidence of heartburn and GERD increases with age, while stomach acid levels generally decline with age.
And while ‘standard’ treatment for reflux provides relief of symptoms it essentially doesn’t treat the cause of the symptoms and why they first initiated.
What is important to understand is that any amount of acid within the oesophagus is going to cause issues. Due to its delicate lining isn’t protected against acid like the stomach lining is. You don’t have to have excess acid in your stomach to have heartburn.
Causes of reflux
Reflux is essentially caused by a dysfunction of the muscular value (sphincter) that separates the lower end of the oesophagus and the stomach, known as the lower oesophageal valve. This valve usually opens to allow food and liquid through to the stomach, the only other time this valve opens is during blenching. Therefore is the valve is working properly, it doesn’t matter how much acid we have in our stomachs. It’s not going to make it back up into the esophagus. But if the valve is malfunctioning, as it is in reflux, GERD and heartburn acid from the stomach gets back into the esophagus and damages its delicate lining.
With an increase in intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) being identified as the cause of reflux, GERD and heartburn. Acid reflux occurs when pressure causes gastric distention (stomach bloating) pushing the stomach contents, including acid, through the valve into the esophagus.
So what causes this increase in pressure?? A number of factors can contribute to this including overeating, obesity, bending over after eating, lying down after eating, and consuming spicy or fatty foods.
However, this may not be the primary reason for increased IAP – this is where the juice info comes!!
As I have mentioned low stomach acid plays a major role in the onset of reflux – which can contribute to bacterial overgrowth and carbohydrate malabsorption which in turn increases IAP and therefore reflux.
Bacterial overgrowth can play a major role here – as while low stomach acid can increase it’s growth so can acid suppressing medications which in turn continue to keep your body in this cycle without effectively treating the original cause. The body requires stomach acid for a large amount of roles throughout the body – including maintain bacterial numbers, supporting nutrient absorption, decreased resistance to infections and an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.
These 4 things play a vital role throughout the body and one of the one’s I will explore more is the nutritional deficiencies that can develop with the presence of low stomach acid.
Stomach acid plays a key role in the digestion of protein, carbohydrates and fat. When food is eaten, the secretion of stomach acid (HCL) triggers the production of pepsin. Pepsin is the enzyme required to digest protein. If HCL levels are lowered, so are pepsin levels. As a result, proteins don’t get broken down into their component amino acids and peptides. This can lead to a deficiency of essential amino acids, which in turn may lead to chronic depression, anxiety, anaemia and insomnia.
At the same time, proteins that escape digestion by pepsin may end up in the bloodstream. Since this is not supposed to happen, the body reacts to these proteins as if they were foreign invaders, causing allergic and autoimmune responses – such as rashes, dermatitis, hashimotos and cealiac’s disease.
How you can increase your stomach acid–
Now remember that reflux, GERD and heartburn are all essentially cause by low stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth within the intestines. Therefore we need to focus on restoring the stomach acid not reducing it.
First we need to reduce the factors that lead to reduced stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth in the first place – by following a low carbohydrate diet will support healthy stomach acid levels which will essentially reduce levels of bacterial overgrowth.
Artificial sweeteners and fructose can also play a large role in increasing your susceptibility to bacterial overgrowth due to the damage they can cause. Sweeteners should be completely avoided and fructose kept to a minimum.
Secondly how to increase your stomach acid, enzymes and digestive, to do this we need certain nutrients; one of which is Zinc – as it aids in supporting the production of stomach acids which then triggers the release of pancreatic enzymes supporting an increase in enzymes levels and a reduction to bacterial overgrowth and reflux.
Another way to stimulate acid production in the stomach is by taking bitter herbs. “Bitters” have been used in traditional cultures for thousands of years to stimulate and improve digestion. More recently, studies have confirmed the ability of bitters to increase the flow of digestive juices, including HCL, bile, pepsin, gastrin and pancreatic enzymes.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Globe artichoke
- Milk thistle
It is also important to avoid consuming liquid during meals. Water is especially problematic, because it literally dilutes the concentration of stomach acid.
And finally restoring beneficial bacteria via the use of probiotics – this has such an important role to the overall health of your digestive system and you really need to look at the whole picture of what is going on and why for you.
If reflux, GERD or heartburn is something that you have been battling with get on top of it now before long term damage and implications occur. Book your appointment to discuss more.