(NaturalNews) Do you suffer from heartburn? Before you turn to the antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and prescription medications, make sure you actually need them. Stomach acid is necessary for proper nutrient absorption, proper digestion, and to prevent bacterial growth. If you rely on medications to ease the pain, you may be setting yourself up for future problems.
How the stomach works
For the vast majority of people, heartburn/acid reflux is due to a lack of stomach acid (HCl), not too much. There are two valves in the stomach where food enters and exits, the IN valve (lower esophageal sphincter) and the OUT valve (pyloric sphincter). When you swallow food, it passed through the IN valve and enters the stomach where stomach acid is released along with other enzymes to break down proteins and inhibit bacterial growth. The food is churned in the stomach with the acid and enzymes until it reaches a low enough pH that it activates the OUT valve to continue the digestive process.
Why most people suffer from heartburn
If you are not producing enough stomach acid, the food will churn longer and remain in the stomach for hours until it can reach a low enough pH to pass through the OUT valve. As this food churns, its pH is not lowering as much as it should and the IN valve loosens allowing some of the contents to "splash" up into the esophagus causing irritation AKA "heartburn."
Treat the cause, not the symptoms
Americans need a quick fix for symptoms and rarely look to fix the cause. Antacids will ease the symptoms by neutralizing the stomach acid so you don't feel heartburn. In return, proteins are not broken down, bacteria are able to grow, digestion is prolonged, and you will not absorb as many nutrients. Unfortunately, people will turn to prescription drugs to ease their reflux symptoms and become dependent on them, unable to stop. Then nutrient deficiencies, bowel disorders, and general fatigue set in, leading to a new list of prescriptions to fix these problems. See this cycle?
Want to find out where you stand? The next time you have heartburn, take two to three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in four ounces of water (drink carefully). If the apple cider vinegar alleviates your symptoms, you are one of those people who have low acid production. Not a vinegar fan? Try a warm four to eight ounce glass of water mixed with unrefined sea salt (table salt won't work). There are some cases in which a person actually does need an acid inhibitor. These people truly produce too much stomach acid or have a condition that leads to acid reflux like a hiatal hernia. If you are currently taking a prescription medication, DO NOT stop taking it cold turkey; consult your physician on reducing your dosage gradually to eventually eliminate it.
Disclaimer: Apple cider vinegar is a weak acid; it can cause a burning of the throat if you drink it straight (in some people). Mixing it with water will make it easier to drink. After you drink it, rinse out your mouth twice with warm water to prevent any effects on your teeth.
About the author: Dr. Daniel Zagst is a chiropractic physician at Advanced Health & Chiropractic in Mooresville, NC. He has a BS in Professional Studies of Adjunctive Therapies, Doctorate of Chiropractic from NYCC, and an Advanced Certificate in Sport Science and Human Performance. Find out more at www.dzchiro.com