Did you know that digestion begins before you even put food in your mouth?
It begins with the sight and smell of food; a signal to release enzymes in your mouth. Lingual lipase begins breaking down fats and salivary amylase starts the breakdown of carbohydrates. The release of these enzymes in turn signals the release of hydrochloric acid (HCl), pepsinogen, mucous, and intrinsic factor. The secretion of HCl lowers the stomach’s pH between 1 and 2, which is needed to activate pepsinogen to break down proteins. HCl is also protective against bacteria that may have entered with food, and is responsible for closing off the lower esophageal sphincter. The closing of the lower esophageal sphincter keeps gastric contents from being passed back up into the esophagus, also known as acid reflux. Intrinsic factor is important because it allows uptake of vitamin B12 in the ileum, a part of the small intestine.
Let stop for a minute to discuss acid reflux because so many people suffer from it. When the pH of the stomach isn’t acidic enough, you will experience stomach contents coming back up into the esophagus. This is called hypochlorhydria. The stomach contents are still acidic, which is why it causes heartburn, the burning sensation in the esophagus. Unfortunately, the common response to this is to take antacids, which give temporary relief, but only serves to make the problem worse in the long run if they are habitually taken. The pH of the stomach needs to be lowered enough so that the lower esophageal sphincter will close.
I bet you’re wondering how to fix the problem.
It’s recommended to temporarily eliminate or reduce the following food and drink from the diet, as they have a tendency to cause acid reflux: spicy foods, tomato, citrus fruits, peppermint/spearmint, chocolate, alcohol, and acidic beverages. Let’s be real, most of us drink way more coffee than recommended, myself included! Try to cut down the amount of coffee you’re drinking when trying to control acid reflux. Try a trial of betaine hydrochloride, I prefer using Zypan by Standard Process because it also contains pepsin and pancreatin. As you are eating your meal which includes protein, take 300 mg. If you do not feel a warming sensation, take 600 mg with the next meal. Increase with each meal until you feel a warming sensation, then reduce that number by 1 pill/capsule. For example, if it took 3 pills to feel the warming sensation, reduce to using 2. I do not recommend exceeding 4 pills per meal. As you use this supplement with meals, when you start to get a warm sensation again, continue reducing the amount taken until you’re completely weaned off the supplement. It’s not necessary to take it long term. Do not chew this supplement and only take it with food. Avoid drinking a lot of water with your meals because it dilutes the acid in your stomach that you need to digest your food.
It’s also important to consider that the position of the stomach can be a cause of acid reflux. A hiatal hernia is when a small portion of the stomach is pushed through the diaphragm’s opening. Often times, hiatal hernias can be manipulated back below the diaphragm. This is called a visceral manipulation, which can be performed by chiropractors. It’s important to also improve the tone of the diaphragm in conjunction with the manipulation to prevent the hernia from recurring. You can suspect that you have a hiatal hernia if you experience symptoms of burping, indigestion, reflux, or pain right below the ribcage inline with your bellybutton. It can be caused by pregnancy, getting hit in the abdomen, obesity, or vomiting.
You can also try a home remedy by drinking a big glass of water on an empty stomach. Standing, raise up on your toes and drop down hard onto your heels. You’re using gravity to jar the stomach down. Perform 8-10 times in a row.
To summarize, there can be chemical and physical reasons for acid reflux. It can be caused by too little acid in the stomach and results in the inability to close the lower esophageal sphincter. Solve this by modifying your diet and increasing the amount of digestive enzymes with meals. If you suspect a hiatal hernia, I recommend getting checked out by your chiropractor. Before scheduling with your doctor, call to make sure they perform this procedure.