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It’s estimated that over 40% of Americans suffer some symptom of heartburn, digestive issues, or what is known as “GERD” at least once a month.
That is a LOT of people with heartburn problems.
For most people, the onset of these symptoms marks the beginning of prescription medications. Years of them. Along with increasing digestive problems, and a slowly shrinking list of fun foods. (goodbye spicy hot wings…. and wine… and chilli….)
It’s a long-term sentence with little hope for improvement.
But what if we had it backwards? What if the real solution is the opposite of conventional medicine?
But before we get there, we need to rewind a little bit and really see what’s happening with GERD and heartburn.
GERD is an acronym that stands for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease.
It involves symptoms that can include:
Conventional medicine (mistakenly) equates these symptoms with “too much” stomach acid. Thus it aims to reduce acidity through antacids, proton pump blockers, and any number of other clever pharmaceutical interventions.
No more acid, no more problems, right?
But this is exactly where they get it wrong.
It is not so much a case of too much acid as much as it is acid in the wrong place.
And yes, there is a big, important difference between the two.
GERD develops when acid repeatedly gets into the esophagus.
Sometimes it goes even further and ends up in the larynx or even the oral cavity where can cause tooth erosion. But the problem here isn’t the amount of acid, it’s that it is in the esophagus.
So the real question is “how is it getting into the esophagus?”
We have a little valve between the esophagus and stomach called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). For one reason or another, it stops functioning properly. It gets “weak” and starts letting stomach acids through the gate into the esophagus.
This is where conventional medicine stops and begins prescribing drugs.
When we dig deeper, however, we find that this valve is pH-dependent – it requires a certain low pH to function properly.
Translation: it only works when you have enough acid.
When you think about it, it makes a lot of biological sense.
When you eat food, your stomach begins secreting more stomach acids for digestion. As the pH of the stomach lowers to digest the food, the valve shuts so the stomach can do its job without sending the gastric juices into the sensitive esophagus.
With a higher pH – meaning lessstomach acid – this valve stops functioning properly. It gets leaky. It lets stomach juices creep into the esophagus, causing heartburn and symptoms of GERD.
Pharmaceutical solutions to heartburn that act to raise stomach pH by inhibiting acid have the side effect that makes one muscle that could stop the heartburn even weaker and less effective.
It makes the problem worse, which then requires more and more pills to deal with a bigger problem.
Great for a the Big Pharma bottom line. A tragedy for health.
Reflux is only the beginning of the problems.
It’s not just the esophageal sphincter that’s pH dependent.
So are a number of your digestive enzymes, the little guys who actually do the digesting work.
Especially pepsin. Made by the stomach, it does most of the work breaking down protein into amino acids.
And it is activated by low pH.
Without enough acid, it remains in an inactive state and your food remains improperly digested. Low pH is also crucial for extracting minerals from food matter, so your body can’t receive the nutrition and mineral content it needs from the food you eat.
This partially digested food then enters the intestines where it continues to cause problems. This raw and rotting food matter feeds the wrong kinds of microorganisms in your gut, throwing off the balance of your gut microbiome, which in turn has dozens of negative health consequences.
Gas, strange smells, and belching are the most obvious ones.
But depending on your own particular microbiome or collection of microorganisms that make up our bodies, it can easily lead to brain fog, inability to focus, chronic inflammation, mood swings, and other mental health issues.
And that’s in addition to the nutritional deficiencies caused by improper digestion.
So what can we do about this?
Antacids and raising stomach pH are clearly not the best course of action.
First of all, prevention is the best cure and a healthy diet is the easiest route to prevention. Eliminate processed and fried foods as much as possible and eat a diet rich in organic whole foods.
But once symptoms have developed, you have a problem because you may not be digesting your food all the way.
This is where the solution is counter-intuitive:
Increase your stomach acidity. You can do this with hydrochloric acid supplements. Betaine is another compound that increases stomach acidity. Together, they are a powerful combination that helps to restore optimal stomach pH.
Again it seems rather counterintuitive, but this is one of the best ways to improve your digestion, reactivate your digestive enzymes, and restore the function of your esophageal sphincter.
When your stomach pH is too high, your digestive enzymes stop working. If the situation persists, your body will slowly stop producing the enzymes. This means even when you begin lowering your pH with acid supplements, you may not actually improve your nutrition.
At least not yet.
That’s why it can be helpful to take digestive enzymes along with the acid. That way you are getting both the enzymes to digest the food along with the acid to activate them. But how do you know which ones to use? There are so many different formulas out there, the choice can be confusing.
The best solution is to use what nature uses.
As we mentioned above, pepsin is made in the stomach and is the most important enzyme for protein digestion – clearly a good choice.
But most other digestive enzymes are produced in the pancreas and then released into the stomach. These are condensed into a substance known as pancreatin, containing 3 of the most important enzymes for proper digestion: amylase, lipase, and protease.
A combination of pepsin and pancreatin will provide your body the necessary tools to get all the nutrition you need from the food you are eating.
Once your digestion is back on online and getting you the essential nutrition you need for optimal health, you’ll be back on track to feeling strong and vital. And with a little time, you’ll be back to eating your favorite foods without fear of heartburn.
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