The burning pain in your chest or abdomen that some people call heartburn and others call acid indigestion can cause enough discomfort to interfere with your day-to-day living. We try all types of things to get relief like antacids, milk, hot water and even vinegar! Understanding what’s happening inside us might help to clarify what’s happening and how to fix it.
HOW? The stomach is the 1st place our food goes after it has (hopefully) been well chewed. Enzymes is the saliva begin the process of breaking down the food we recognise as meat, carrot, potato and gravy into vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and amino acids, and this process is completed in a healthy stomach. Ideally, food stays in the stomach between 20 and 40 minutes, churned like a washing machine by the strong stomach muscles, and also exposed to the litres of powerful Hydrochloric Acid that the stomach secretes. The stomach muscles have a thick mucous membrane to protect them from this stomach acid. In this way the food is turned into Chyme and prepared for the journey through the digestive system.
WHAT GOES WRONG? As the very 1st thing you do with food is chew, this is the 1st place things can go wrong.. if you don’t take time to chew properly the food enters the stomach too fast and in pieces that are actually too large. In a healthy stomach it shouldn’t matter, because Hydrochloric acid is strong enough to digest almost anything, so a few bits of unchewed meat and carrot shouldn’t pose a problem..however, in a stomach environment that is less than ideal (all will be revealed in the next pragraph) it is a huge issue.
The second thing that goes wrong and it’s the thing that affects most people and starts doing damage in even little people’s stomachs, is eating and drinking at the same time. Having just mentioned chewing, it’s logical that drinking with a meal will result in washing down half-chewed food. It’s a problem but not the biggest.. that is the fact that your bolus of half-chewed food is now floating in the glass of water you just drank. Not only is the Hydrochloric acid unable to reach it, but that acid has now been significantly diluted. Chyme leaves the stomach through the little valve at the bottom is a spasmodic way; in other words, it doesn’t flow in a continuous stream but leaves in fits and starts. It stand to reason that the liquid is leaving faster, dragging all the acid with it into the duodenum, which has no mucous membrane to protect if from acid like the stomach does. Ow is right! The remainder of the food is churned around in there with no acid to complete digestion and by the time it eventually leaves the stomach it is totally in the wrong form for further digestion, absorption of nutrients etc.
The other thing that can go wrong is that the stomach, in a reflex reaction to antacids, can begin over-secreting Hydrochloric acid. As we do not chew well, sit hunched over our plate and rush off as soon as the last morsel is swallowed, this excess acid often gets trapped near the top, where there is another valve that is only supposed to let food in, is exposed to this excess acid and it, too, has no mucous membrane and yes Ow! again. Long time burning of this valve damages it so that it doesn’t close properly and food doesn’t remain in the stomach and neither does the acid, and you might experience what the kids call a ‘mouth oopsie’ , and you are at risk of developing Barrett’s Oesophagus, where the damage becomes of a permanent nature. Because the stomach is ‘cradle-shaped’, acid can pool in the bottom and most people develop ulcers here, almost always in the same place.
WHENdo the troubles start? For most of us who suffer with heartburn as adults, the trouble began years ago, when we were 18, 12-foot tall and bullet proof. We drank too much, cared less what and when we ate, over excised, slept too little, worked too much. When you ride the tiger you always have consequences. However, a lot of people genuinely start battling only in later years: stomach acid naturally decreases as we age. As the acid decreases, digestion, especially of protein, becomes more difficult. The resulting indigestion is almost always treating with antacids and acid blockers, which only aggravates an already suffering system.
HOW do we fix it? The first step is to determine if the stomach acid is too high or too low. Don’t simply take the prescribed medications- doctors almost never consider low stomach acid. When you experience the heartburn do a once-off test and dring a few tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar. If the stomach acid is too low the vinegar will relieve the symptoms and if the acid is indeed too high there will be an instantaneous flare that you can put out with some milk but at least you will have your answer.
WHO is at risk? All of us! As we age stomach acid decreases. Bigger risk groups then, are the elderly. A-blood groups have naturally low stomach acid. Big Meat and milk eaters- proteins are pretty hard to digest. Junk food, high in sugar, refined flour and a myriad of chemicals is a culprit here. Eating things you know you are allergic or intolerant to puts a big burden on your digestive system. One other consideration is a bug.. a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylorii acan make it’s home in your stomach and cause an ulcer.
Why don’t ant-acids work? If you have ever burnt yourself on your skin you know how horrible a burn can be. It throbs for hours after the initial burn. It gets raw and tender and even the air hurts it. Burns on your skin are prone to infection and need to be cleaned and covered and nursed back to health, and then as the weeks go by and the burn starts to heal it starts to itch. It flakes. It almost always leaves a scar. A burn in your stomach, oesophagus or duodenum is no different to this, except that you can’t cover it to protect it from outside stressors. Burns are painful and take ages to heal, no matter wether they are on our outside skin or our inside skin.
What can be Done? Luckily a lot! eating habits and eating and drinking habits need to be tweaked in order for supplements to be able to accomplish their healing.
Slippery Elm coats the mucous membrane and the ulcer site, giving immediate relief and allowing the burn site to heal.
Siberian Pine Nut Oil also protects and it is incredibly healing, not only to the mucosa but the whole digestive system benefits form this remedy.
Deglyccerrhized Licorice (Dgl) is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and increase the number of mucous-secretin cells in the stomach.
Mastic gum kills Helicobacter Pylori
Look out for these excellent products: Solgar Dgl, The Other Option Siberian Pine Nut oil, Cease Fire Mastic gum and Dgl
Take these steps: *eat slowly *don’t drink for 40 minutes before or after food *choose warm drinks after a heavy meal *sit up straight while eating *don’t lie down after a big meal *avoid known irritants *know wether your stomach acis is low or high and treat accordingly *allow for healing and re-evaluate every 6 months *choose best quality supplements