The Myth of Heartburn
Millions of Americans suffer from heartburn or GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease). One of the most important and overlooked factors in treating heartburn is HCl or hydrochloric acid.
HCl is produced in the stomach and is absolutely essential to proper digestion. Nature designed it to not only kill pathogens like parasites and bacteria but also to break down our food for absorption and assimilation in the body.
The conventional paradigm says that heartburn or GERD is caused by too much HCl. Antacids and acid blocking medications raise the very acidic pH of the gastric juices which relieves the burning sensations associated with heartburn. However, they fix the symptom not the cause.
The underlying dysfunction is actually TOO LITTLE hydrochloric acid. Long term use of these medications can alter the natural gastrointestinal environment and have been linked to higher risks of gastric ulcers, gastric cancers and a whole host of chronic conditions.
So what causes low levels of HCl?
- Excess refined carbohydrates
- Excess alcohol
- Nutrient Deficiencies
Why is heartburn caused by too little HCl?
Because HCl is essential to the breakdown of food, decreased levels will result in incomplete digestion. Food will not be broken down properly and can sit too long in the stomach. This can cause a backward flow into the delicate lining of the esophagus, which unlike the stomach, is not made for HCl and thus the burning sensation known as heartburn or GERD.
This maldigestion can cause problems further south in the digestive process as the small and large intestines are now burdened with undigested food. Inflammation, bloating, constipation, dysbiosis and food allergies can all result but ramifications can go well beyond the digestive system itself.
The Mental Health Connection
If proteins are not broken down properly into amino acids, neurotransmitters are not properly made impacting our mental health. Thus, correcting HCl deficiencies may help with things like depression, learning disabilities, ADD and even autism. Much has been written in recent decades about the gut-brain connection. As Dr. Alan Gaby put it,
“Big Mac (bad food) + Zantac (acid blockers) = Prozac (depression)”
There’s a list of chronic conditions that research shows may also be linked to low HCl levels:
- Skin conditions
- Chronic fatigue
- Autoimmune disorders
A Natural Solution
Here is where Nutritional Therapy comes in. Step one is to correct poor diet choices such as highly refined carbohydrates, excess sugar consumption, over eating, excess alcohol and hydrogenated fats. Beneficial steps include drinking more water, aloe vera juice, cabbage juice and various herbs and bitters such as ginger and chamomile.
Next is to supplement with HCl during meals. This can greatly aid digestion. Please see a qualified practitioner for dosing instructions. Other supplements may help as well such as digestive enzymes, probiotics, L-glutamine, B vitamins and zinc which are necessary for HCl production and other vitamins that help soothe and heal the gut lining. This simple and natural therapy will help a majority of digestive complaints and may in fact help seemingly unrelated issues as discussed above.
- Why Stomach Acid is Good for You by Dr. Jonathan Wright
- Gut Solutions by Drs B. Watson and L. Smith
- The Nutritional Therapy Association
About the Author:
Craig Fear became certified as an NTP in May of 2008. He specializes in digestive disorders, weight loss, chronic fatigue and detoxification. His private practice, Pioneer Valley Nutritional Therapy is located in Northampton, MA. Craig educates his clients about the importance of supporting local sources of agriculture and chose the Pioneer Valley of western MA specifically for its rich agricultural character and strong ties to small scale, sustainable farms. Craig is a volunteer with CISA, the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, a non profit organization dedicated to connecting its communities with local food and agriculture. His website is www.pvnutritionaltherapy.com. He is also available for phone consultations as well. You can contact him by email email@example.com or call 413-559-7770.
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