Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Causes of Heartburn

I especially enjoy the commercials for heartburn. They all tend to say you can eat whatever you want if you take this pill everyday. Most doctors, except Naturoapthic ones, tell you the cause is too much acid. The cause of heartburn is actually the opposite.

Lets first understand how the stomach is supposed to work. The stomach is acidic when empty. When we eat food and even before we swallow it, the stomach starts producing acid to digest the food. The acid production continues until the acid level is sufficient to digest what you have eaten. After the food has been broken down by the acid, the stomach allows the food to pass through the pyloric sphincter on its want the the duodenum and small intestine. The stomach will continue emptying as long as there is food digested properly to pass through on to the small intestine.

Where the problem comes in when the stomach acid produced is not sufficient to digest the food. The food will then stay on your stomach for a longer period with the stomach trying to digest it by producing more acid but there is not enough. The natural response of the stomach is that if something cannot pass it must come back up. Hence heartburn and esophageal reflux. By the way, gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is not a disease, but a condition that can be corrected. This is why the dinner you had at 6pm is still on your stomach at 10 or 11 pm when you went to bed and why you have to sleep sitting up.

If then you take antacids that decrease the acid more, then you are getting in the body's way of properly digesting the food you ate. You also then cannot break down proteins, absorb B vitamins or minerals. Without stomach acid these nutrients cannot be broken down or absorbed.

The common side effects of antacids are; constipation, no appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, confusion, high calcium and low phosphates in the blood leading to other problems like osteopenia. And, milk-alkali syndrome is becoming increasingly more prevalent.
The common side effects of proton pump inhibitors are headache, diarrhea, constipation, muscle aches, vertigo, malaise, dizziness, dry mouth, dry skin, nausea, vomiting, rash, confusion, and fatigue.

Other main causes of heartburn are what you may be eating. Many things cause the esophageal sphincter to relax allowing the contents of the stomach into the esophagus. Coffee and caffeinated beverages, sodas, chocolate, and tomatoes decrease the sphincter pressure. Milk and dairy causes delayed stomach emptying and increases acid production because milk actually neutralizes acids into alkaline. So, your stomach needs to produce more acid than usual to digest dairy foods. Other foods that can contribute to heartburn are meat, alcohol, hot sauces, spicy foods, fried foods, fatty foods, rich foods, salty foods, sweet foods and sugar.

The way I work is by actually helping your body restore healthy levels of stomach acid and repair the lining so you can digest your food and absorb your nutrients properly. If you or know anyone who is having to take antacids or proton pump inhibitors, please have them call me.

in Health and Service,

David Hogg, ND
Naturopathic Wisdom
1101 South Winchester Blvd.
Suite E157
San Jose, CA 95128


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