Heartburn? Don’t Automatically Reach for the Pill

Acid reflux and heart burn are not pleasant feelings. They make us uncomfortable, and it often hurts. 

What we usually do is take a proton pump inhibitor, such as prilosec, prevacid, and nexium or antacids. These pills, however, can make symptoms worse. Sure, they help temporarily, but wouldn’t you rather have a permanent fix? 

So, what is acid reflux? 

At the beginning of your stomach, there is a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter should close when food enters your stomach. When it does not close properly, acid produced by your stomach moves up to your esophagus. 

However, acid is not a bad thing! Acid helps digest the food we eat and provides an acidic environment to control the number of bad parasites and bacteria. Digestive enzymes are also needed in order to digest food, and the enzyme that breaks protein down specifically needs acid. 

Often, when you feel that you have heartburn or acid reflux, it is not automatically because of too much acid, but insufficient acid. If you do not have enough hydrochloric acid in your body, you may have difficulty breaking down food. A more alkaline environment promotes bacterial overgrowth, which puts pressure on the stomach. This pressure will open the lower esophageal sphincter and acid will come back up.  

Acid is also needed for Vitamin B12 absorption. Those who have taken antacids or proton pump inhibitors are at great risk for anemia. 

How can you decrease heartburn without the purple pill? 

Probiotics are gut-friendly foods like fermented things such as kombucha, sauerkraut (not your typical store brand) yogurt and keifer – this helps to restore friendly gut bacteria, which decreases bacterial overgrowth. Remember bacterial overgrowth puts pressure on your stomach and opens up your lower esophageal sphincter. 

HCL with pepsin – this is a supplement that is sold in health food stores. This supplement provides acid and helps to digest protein. Don’t take this if you have an open ulcer! 

Also eating a diet excessive in carbohydrates stimulates bacterial overgrowth.