Is acid reflux your problem? Are you sure?
You may actually have something called “hypochloridria” or low stomach acid. Many people believe they have too much stomach acid that causes their acid reflux, but in fact, the opposite is often true.
As we age, our poor gut health catches up to us; as a result, we don’t produce as much hydrochloric acid (HcL) in our stomachs as we need to properly digest our food.
How could it be low stomach acid if it burns?
When we try to digest our food without enough stomach acid, the stomach holds it longer, trying to break down the food in the bolus (the mash of food in the stomach). However, the food that was broken down first starts to ferment, because it is sitting in the stomach too long. This creates an off gassing, which raises to the sphincter leading to the esophagus.
If some of that fermented, acidic gas gets into the esophagus, it hurts like crazy, it burns, so we call it acid reflux. But it isn’t caused by too much stomach acid, but rather by too little stomach acid.
So how do I stop it?
First you need to support your stomach with some additional hydrochloric acid. Luckily, that is a cheap and easy fix with some Betain HcL supplements; you can take these with your meals, especially ones that have protein in them (protein is the hardest to break down). Betaine comes from beets as well as some other vegetables, but you may also think about adding lots of beets to your diet for long term support. To add extra kick to your digestion, I suggest taking digestive enzymes with betaine HcL; these are common and can be found in many places that carry supplements.
How much should I take?
I like to start slow and build up to an amount where you don’t experience the burning. If you find taking one capsule isn’t enough, take another one. If you find you have taken too much, simply put some baking soda in water and drink that; it will balance out the HcL immediately. In fact, if you don’t find relief from adding HcL, you may be one of the minority that actually do have high stomach acid; in that case you can drink this baking soda mixture whenever you feel “acidic”.
But wait, there’s more!
Many people find relief simply by drinking apple cider vinegar in water with their meals, or anytime during the day. Some people prefer to drink it in warm water, as a tea, with some honey; others add it to room temperature water. It all depends on what tastes best to you. Most important, though, is to get the right kind. Braggs is my favorite brand, but just make sure it is organic with a “live” culture, also called the “mother”. This is important, so don’t skip this step. It’s not the acidity you are trying to get, but the live culture in this product.Braggs
Start with a teaspoon, and work your way up to perhaps a tablespoon. More is not necessarily always better in this case, just have enough for it to do its work. Keep it moderate, and go by how your stomach feels.
If you are chronically struggling with stomach issues and want to try all of these suggestions together (sounds like something I would do), go slow and play with them. You may want to try one at a time, to see how they work for you, before putting them all together.
Long term fixes:
There is always an underlying reason why things go wrong in your body. To simply stop the symptoms is not enough, you need to search deeper and find out how you got there in the first place. Here are some other easy things to work on while you are learning more about your body:
Chew your food thoroughly. Your digestive system starts in your mouth, you need to allow those digestive enzymes in your mouth to start the process. When people gulp down their food, it skips this step entirely. Also, when it isn’t broken down into small enough particles, then it makes more work for your stomach acid, which is barely able to do its work in the first place!
Don’t eat fruit with other foods, except vegetables or in a smoothie. Fruit breaks down quickly, and if it is sitting there waiting for the other food to digest, it will start to ferment. This is also a common cause of bloating and gas.
Eat smaller portions and try not to snack, unless you are very active. The body needs that time to digest the food, and we have a tendency to make it work so hard, it can’t do a good job, and we pay the price for that.
Long term goals:
I urge you to do more research on what your body is telling you. The body is amazing, it takes almost everything you can throw at it, but only for so long. It takes time for the body to show signs of damage, so if you are getting signals from the body that something is wrong, it is already in need of some serious repair. Please pay attention and start giving it what it needs. It has served you well your entire life, isn’t it time to treat it right? Your health is your most valuable asset. You could be rich in money, family and friends, but if you don’t have your health you can’t enjoy any of it.