Heartburn. Indigestion. Acid reflux. These are annoyances that plague millions of Americans. The prevalence of this condition is so frequent that the sales of OTC (over the counter) antacids is in the billions. I even saw Larry the Cable Guy pitching some Prilosec on a commercial, urging that we don’t let heartburn get in the way.
Dr. Cable Guy has it partially right. You shouldn’t allow heartburn to get in your way. However the answer is not to mindlessly pop a side effect laden pill in order to silence your body’s cry for help. Especially not on a regular basis, as even the manufacturers warn to caution long term use.
So what to do? Well, with this situation as with all, the optimal solution is to search for the cause of the dysfunction.
What’s the problem?
A burning sensation somewhere along your upper digestive tract. What’s the cause? Well, if you’re like many pill popping Americans, you may believe the issue is too much stomach acid. Drugs like the aforementioned Prilosec work by inhibiting the production of stomach acid, when in fact too little acid may actually be the issue. Moreover, the issue may have nothing to do with acid volume at all, but rather nervous system dysfunction leading to discordination of the sphincters designed to prevent the back wash of potent stomach acid.
To our first point, a condition called hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) can actually be the counterintuitive root of acid reflux. We need our stomachs to secrete hydrochloric acid in order to protect us from harmful invaders hitching a ride with our food, and as a mandatory early digestive aid. Without it, proper digestion cannot occur leaving one susceptible to nutrient and mineral deficiencies, as well as gut irritation, inflammation, infection and permeability. And if you’ve read any other posts on this site or are up on the current research, you’re aware this can set the stage for a host of issues including autoimmune diseases.
When food is not hit with a proper dose of hydrochloric it begins to go rancid and putrefy in our gastrointestinal tract. The body, in all of its infinite wisdom, tries to refuse this ball of rotting nastiness and directs it towards the nearest exit. Unfortunately due the early juncture that this takes place along the digestive process, this ends up being your esophagus, where it irritates the delicate tissue and causes your classic heartburn.
Now if you chose to go the OTC route you will most likely experience some temporary relief, as it blocks the acid that is normally back washed into your esophagus. Unfortunately all you did was shove a dirty old sock in your body’s mouth as it attempts to inform you that something isn’t right. So what happens? Well, next feeding the symptoms return and you learn to pop another pill as it now becomes your standard appetizer or dessert.
Not to pick on Prilosec, but since Larry gives’er the nod let’s hear some of those potential side effects that increase the longer you rely on them in order to enjoy that funnel cake with Mr. Cable Guy. Those listed as common include headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and flatulence. More serious possibilities include fun things like pancreatitis, hepatic (liver) impairment, gastritis, nephritis (kidneys), and blood disorders.
Most importantly you need to keep in mind that you’re inhibiting the function of the entire digestive process. While this may give you the short lived gratification of enjoying a taste, you are setting yourself up to be nutrient deficient and plagued by the laundry list of possible issues that can occur from that leaky, inflamed gut. So what can you do to break the cycle?
Well, first find a practitioner that is willing to go beyond the knee jerk reaction of prescribing something to decrease the stomach acid. (In many cases supplementing with HCl (hydrochloric acid) actually brings relief.)
You’ll want to undergo a thorough consultation, exam, and perhaps some blood work in order to discover whether the causative factor is something like your thyroid gland, adrenal glands, or based in the brain. You’ll have to be willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to diet in order to heal the gut and identify any possible food intolerances that may be causing constant internal stress and leading to esophageal sphincter dysfunction.
If you suffer from chronic heartburn or another condition that you’re tired of being on meds for;
If you’re tired of feeling like you’re running in circles;
If you’re interested in a natural and holistic approach described in the paragraph above;
if you believe the body is a complex matrix of interconnected systems and not isolated compartments;
if you are sick and tired of being sick and tired; then please give us a call (321) 848-0987. It would be our pleasure to collaborate with you in your journey towards optimal health.