NEVER Do This if You Have Heartburn or Acid Reflux…
Do the conventional treatments for heartburn really work?
For almost a hundred years, people have relied on antacids to quench these feelings of fire in the belly. Today products such as Tums, Tagamet, Maalox, and Mylanta produce sales of more than a billion dollars per year.
More recently folks have turned to PPIs and prescription drugs that block the production of stomach acid. Prevacid and Nexium are among the top-selling drugs in the country. Medications like these are now among the most widely prescribed in the United States, producing more than $13 billion in sales annually.
But consistently taking these acid suppressors over time as a way of managing symptoms is a horrendous idea. PPIs have been implicated in nutrient deficiencies, yeast overgrowth, and other conditions that can lead to serious health problems.
Fortunately, there are other, much better (and much healthier) options.
The Role of Acid
Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is responsible for activating enzymes in the stomach that then allow us to break down the proteins that we’ve eaten. With limited HCL, those enzymes are not activated and the proteins are not broken down. Result? Badly impaired digestion.
Stomach acid stays in the stomach and builds up, so we end up with more acid in our stomach that can potentially reflux back up into the esophagus, producing heartburn or GERD.
Most bacteria can’t survive an acidic environment, so killing off acid production creates nirvana for bacteria. Without acid to kill them off, they have a party and reproduce like rabbits. Bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and small intestine can lead to a host of symptoms, including gas, constipation, diarrhea, and even infections.
Overgrowth of bacteria can also interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12 and can interfere with the proper digestion and absorption of fats and sugars.
And low acid can contribute to food allergies. Why? Because if we don’t have enough acid in our stomachs to digest food, we can’t adequately break down foods, and we develop what’s called a leaky gut.
With a leaky gut, incompletely digested food particles escape back into our system. Our immune cells go, “Hey, what’s this? We don’t recognize these dudes,” and then proceed to attack what they perceive as “foreign invaders.” This can easily be the birth of a food allergy.
What’s Wrong with Acid Suppression? A Lot…
The problem isn’t that there’s too much acid—the problem is that the acid sometimes goes to the wrong place, flowing back—or “refluxing”—into our esophagus where it can really burn the delicate tissues.
This reflex reaction may in part be due to a muscle in the lower part of the esophagus (called the LES, or lower esophageal sphincter) that is weakened or stops working correctly. As long as the LES stays closed like it’s supposed to, you’re good to go. No heartburn symptoms, no burning.
And here’s the kicker: Heartburn can also occur—in fact, it frequently does occur—when hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach are too low!
Keep in mind that a healthy gut and optimal digestion depend on adequate acid in the stomach. Acid promotes the digestion and utilization of critical nutrients and amino acids, not to mention vitamin B12, folic acid, and calcium.
If there isn’t enough acid to trigger the activation of the important digestive enzyme pepsin, you’re out of luck. Your digestion is impaired and with it, your body’s ability to extract healing nutrients from your food.
So while it may bring temporary symptom relief, acid suppression isn’t the answer. There is a far better way to promote the digestive process and support the lower esophageal sphincter so it works properly.
With a few changes in your diet and with the use of safe, effective supplements you can support healthy digestion and gut function and produce improvement in a wide variety of symptoms and health conditions.
Step One: It Starts with Food
The first thing you want to do is eliminate known triggers that cause the LES to pop open inappropriately (allowing any amount of acid, even a little, to bounce back into the esophagus). Foods that can weaken or relax the LES include chocolate, tea, coffee, tomatoes, spicy foods, onions, citrus fruits and juices, alcohol, and tobacco.
Step Two: On to Enzymes and Probiotics
I recommend a digestive enzyme supplement that also contains HCL. The most common form of HCL supplement is called betaine-HCl, a combination of betaine—a product derived from sugar beets—and hydrochloric acid.
Probiotics, also known as “good bacteria,” are wonderful for promoting healthy digestion. Probiotic bacteria favorably alter the intestinal microflora balance, inhibit the growth of harmful organisms (like Candida albicans, or “yeast”), promote good digestion, boost immune function, and increase resistance to infection.
The next time you experience heartburn, take one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. If the heartburn goes away, you are probably deficient in HCl. You can continue to use apple cider vinegar and water with meals (slow sipping). If the heartburn gets worse after sipping the vinegar, you may have an excess of HCl.
We’ve sorted through dozens of HCL and probiotics supplements and are thrilled to recommend the cream of the crop to you below.
Digestzymes by Designs for Health
This is one of our top-selling and most popular digestive enzyme formulas, a wonderful mix of enzymes together with hydrochloric acid (in the betaine- HCL form).
Note: If you currently have an ulcer, HCl is not recommended. Work with our nutritionist Julie Haugen to find an HCl-free formula that’s right for you.
Probiotic Supreme by Designs for Health
This is the product we commonly recommend when beginning a trial of probioitcs. It has 15 plus billion CFU’s (colony forming units), a measure of viable microbes in a probiotic, per capsule. It has an advanced patented delivery system to ensure delivery of the highest number of live organisms to the intestinal tract. And it is released over an extended time frame so it only needs to be taken twice per day. Overall, a great product.
Heartburn TX by Vital Nutrients
Heartburn TX by Vital Nutrients is one of our top-rated products for heartburn. It contains l-glutamine, an amino acid that is very healing for the gut, as well as the soothing botanical aloe vera. It also contains gamma oryzanol, an anti-inflammatory extract from rice bran, as well as the anti-inflammatory nutrient n-acetyl-glucosamine. Finally, Heartburn TX contains deglycrrhizinated licorice, which sooths the tissues of the stomach and esophagus.
We believe so strongly in these three supplements ability to support digestive health…