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It is an unmistakable sensation that consumes your entire focus. As it slowly climbs up your throat, the burn begins to intensify and every swallow – every moment – feels on fire.
You eat more cool foods. Doesn’t work.
You drink more water. Doesn’t totally work.
You take antacids. Ahhh, relief, but only for a bit until is comes back full force.
Heart burn. GERD. Acid Reflux. However you name it, it is just not comfortable.
And, you may be thinking that it will never go away and this is something you are destined to relive over and over – every burning moment – asking yourself, ” Is there any way I can get rid of the burn completely?”
There most certainly is! But first, you need to understand what is actually going on…
What Causes Heartburn
Conventional wisdom has kind of misled you. You probably have been told or read somewhere that if you experience reflux or heartburn it is because you have too much stomach acid (also known as Hydrochloric Acid or HCL). This is actually not true. For proper digestion and gut health, your stomach needs to have the stomach acid in order for it to regulate symptoms such as acid reflux, IBS, leaky gut, and other gastrointestinal problems. And that stomach acid should be within a pH range of 1.5-3.0 — super acidic. If your stomach acid raises above a 3.0 pH, you can have some real problems!
Let me put on my practitioner hat for just a moment (this is super important to know!)…
HCL is essential as a first line of defense in gut health – it defends your body against pathogens, bacteria, parasites and it helps to properly digest your food.
When your body is relaxed, HCL is released into the stomach, breaking down the fats and the carbohydrates and the proteins of your food. This helps your food’s nutrients be absorbed. But it does more than that…
When the food mixes with the stomach acid and enzymes and other digestive secretions, it will reach that optimal range of pH (1.5-3.0), allowing the foods to move into the small intestine to continue on it’s digestive journey.
Problems pop up when there isn’t enough stomach acid. The pyloric sphincter – the valve that releases so the food can move into the small intestine – doesn’t want to open. This leads to food just hanging out in the stomach way longer than it should. Eventually, it sends the food back up the other way and, since it was just in a bath of stomach acid, it can burn the esophagus. This is the burning sensation you are feeling.
Heartburn is actually caused by too little stomach acid!
Common issues of low stomach acid look like:
- Bloating, belching, or gas immediately after eating
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Seasonal allergies
- Nutrient deficiencies such as iron (anemia)
- Chronic fatigue
- Immune weaknesses
- Weak or cracking nails
- Dry skin or eczema
- Chronic yeast infections
And, of course, heartburn/acid reflux!
You may be asking, can I just take an antacid and fix the problem? They help in the short-term, but in the long-term they are not helping the root cause — your digestion. Acid-blockers, acid suppressors (i.e., Tums), and PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) work in the short-term because they lower the acidity in your stomach and neutralize the acidity in your esophagus, so that when the food starts to come back up, the burn is gone or lessened. Now, your already low stomach acid is compromised even more and your symptoms are only masked, rather than fixed. As Shaggy on Scooby-Doo would say, “Zoinks!”
What Causes Low Stomach Acid?
Life, my friends. Living life in our modern world makes it super easy to lower your stomach acid and create some real digestive distress! Some of the most common reasons are:
- Chronic stress
- Processed food, such as sugar, wheat, dairy, and refined carbohydrates
- Regular use of NSAIDS (such as Ibuprofen)
- Mineral deficiencies
- Environmental toxins, such as pesticides and chemicals in beauty supplies
- Stressed thyroid and adrenal glands
But don’t lose hope — you CAN get rid of that heartburn. Here are a few of my favorite ways to calm the burn and start feeling chilled out again:
- Slow down your eating AND chew your food. This is probably the very first rule of thumb! Did you know that your digestion actually starts in the brain? It does! And, if you are eating in a fast, stressed state, then the proper enzymes and the correct amount of stomach acid are not going to be released. Bringing yourself into a parasympathetic state (calm and relaxed) will allow your body’s natural digestive cues to begin and your stomach better able to release the food as described above.
- Eat whole, natural foods. Try avoiding a lot of processed foods and refined sugars. These foods will upset the pH of the stomach acid and place extra stress on the body. Remember, healthy digestion does not like to be in a stressful state!
- Get your stomach acid to a 1.5-3.0 pH. How do you do that? Take 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) with a little bit of water before each meal. This will help stimulate stomach acid production. You can also take 1 dropper full of digestive bitters (i.e., Urban Moonshine) before and after each meal. Bitters are very gentle and stimulate the stomach to produce the proper amount of stomach acid. If you’ve eaten your meal and you get heartburn, take a your bitters to reduce the heartburn.
- Drink plenty of water. Water helps your organs to function properly and they help in the digestion process. Stay hydrated to offset heartburn in the first place!
- Eat more gut-nourishing foods. Try foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented foods/vegetables, bone broth, collagen, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter or ghee.
- Eat more gut-soothing foods. The gut also needs soothed and this can help with bloating and decreasing gas. Try foods such as ginger, fennel, peppermint, raw honey, or aloe vera. You can even use essential oils in those forms to get some benefits.
You are not destined to live in the burn forever, but when it does rear it’s ugly head, ask yourself WHY and allow it to be a way for you to dive deeper in healing the root cause!
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