Acid Reflux 101

acid_reflux

I’ll warn you ahead of time that this will be a long post. I actually shared it on my Coaching page on Facebook as a seven-part series to break it up a little. But, with so many people are dealing with something as miserable as acid reflux, it seems that it’s really worth a little time to get us all educated. Here goes…

 

What’s The Big Deal?

Acid stopping drugs are among the most prescribed in this country. And, the bottom line is that no matter which one your doctor puts you on, or which one you buy off the shelf at the pharmacy, as soon as you go off of it, you STILL have acid reflux. Why is that? Because that little pill doesn’t fix the problem; it just masks your symptoms and makes you think you’re ok, when you’re really not. There’s a fairly simple fix that can get you off those meds that are putting the extra strain on your liver, but first, it’s important to spend a little time on basic education of how your body works so that you can understand why acid isn’t the enemy.

 

pH Is Important

The first thing you need to understand is pH. You may remember from high school biology that pH is measured on a scale of 0-14. Zero is acidic, 14 is alkaline, and right in the middle (7) is neutral. A healthy body is slightly alkaline, and a sick body is pretty acidic. But, pH level varies throughout the body, because each of your various parts have different jobs.

Your stomach is primarily responsible for digestion of proteins. And, in order to do that properly and effectively, its pH must be somewhere between 1 and 3. Yikes! Isn’t that almost like battery acid? Yep, it sure is. In fact, if you were to stick your finger into a healthy stomach, the acid in there would eat the flesh right off your bone. And, that’s exactly how it needs to be to “eat away” those proteins from dinner! So, what about when someone takes those acid-stopping drugs? What happens to all that food they are eating? Does it digest? Or not?

As food enters your stomach, acid and enzymes are released to break down the food so that it can be used as fuel for the body. That seems so simple, right? So why then do we so often complain of indigestion and heartburn? Why do so many people carry a bottle of Tums in their purse or briefcase? If acid is necessary for digestion, why are we always trying to reduce it? And, why is it that the food we eat seems to always be coming back up? And, of course that “battery acid” feels like fire in our esophagus, doesn’t it? Just like real battery acid would burn your hand, when acid from our stomach gets out, it burns, too. And, when it’s an ongoing issue, it doesn’t always have time to heal before the next wave hits.

 

To Digest Or Not To Digest

So back to what’s happening in your stomach: Assuming there’s enough acid available, the food you eat gets digested, and then it enters the small intestine. This is where the nutrients in the food get absorbed into the body. Proper digestion plays a major role in your overall health. So, back to your intestines…there are tiny little protrusions that look like little fingers called villi. These villi actually suck in the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. How are we supposed to get nutrition if it doesn’t stay down there where it belongs?

What should we do? Do we use that acid-stopping drug and not actually digest the food? Or, do we just allow it to keep coming back up into the esophagus and hope that at least some nutrition manages to get to our small intestines? Those are our only two options, right? Well, that’s where standard medicine seems to be leading us, isn’t it?

 

Thank Goodness For The Safety Net, I Think

So, we’re going back to pH. As I mentioned before, the stomach pH has to be very low (around 2) in order to be acid enough to break down food (mostly protein). The pH of your blood must be somewhere around 7.3-7.4 or, you’ll die. Thankfully the body (even yours) was designed with a security net (a buffer) in place. However, your overall pH changes depending on what you put in it: food, water, donuts, fast food, vegetables, fruits. The body tries to use minerals (magnesium, calcium, potassium, etc.) like a buffer. So, if you eat a foods that provide these minerals, they assist your body to regulate pH. (Remember a slightly alkaline body is a healthy body.) But, if you consistently eat junk (Standard American Diet “S.A.D.”), what is the body to do? Most of that food is acidic! Well, your body will fight to survive by activating that security net! So, what happens is that your body is forced to leech buffers (let’s just take calcium as an example). So, the body takes the calcium from your bones in an attempt to regulate pH. And, everyone wonders why we have a nation of low bone density 60-year-olds (translation: Osteoporosis). There shouldn’t be any wondering about the reason now, right?

Anyway, the body makes this executive decision to allow your bones to weaken so you can survive. (Here’s a helpful hint: if there is extra calcium in the diet, there will be no bone thieves. And, no, I am NOT talking about drinking more milk. You can drink 100 glasses of milk a day and you still won’t ever have enough calcium for a solution. So, should you supplement? Absolutely! But, those little chocolate chews on the shelf at Wal-Mart aren’t gonna do it. Real food does a body good, and those of us who eat a balanced diet do a great job of getting some of the nutrition we need. But, no, we don’t get it all. And, yes, I do supplement my food with a quality calcium twice per day because I have no intention of dealing with infusion Osteoporosis treatments like my mother. No thanks.

So, right about now, you think that I’ve totally jumped off the acid reflux train, but you would be wrong.

 

A Pill For Every Ill

We’ve discussed the body’s safety net, and how that safety net to keep the body alive can cause the body to leech important minerals that we really do need to keep other areas healthy. I gave the example of calcium being leeched from your bones and the high incidence these days of osteoporosis (Coincidence? I think not.). See, the junk that you eat alters your body’s pH, and it’s not just causing your bones to crumble, it’s also causing that acid reflux (and that’s why you’re reading this post in the first place, right?). So number one on the list (Yes, I know you don’t want to hear this), but you simply must start eating better! Specifically, you need to add alkaline foods to your meals so that your body can be healthy. Alkaline foods are fruits, veggies and greens. Second, get rid of the boatload of coffee (very acidic) and the processed foods and you’ll go a long way towards correcting your body’s pH, and avoiding that whole “leeching” process…just the thought of it makes my skin crawl a little! Medications are also very acidic. So, obviously, the smart choice is to do everything in your power to not need them. Now, if you’re already on them, you might want to start researching ways to actually solve your medical issue rather than just blindly covering it up with an (expensive) drug (The average American spends about $1,000 per year on Rx drugs. Think of all the other things you could do with an extra grand!). Now, that’s not to say that I’m completely against all medications, or that we don’t occasionally need one to help us. But, I do believe that an Rx shouldn’t be your first line of defense. Do your kidneys and liver a favor and limit your use so that when you REALLY need one, they aren’t already overworked. But, I digress…let’s get back to strictly acid reflux.

 

Better Listen To Mom

Your stomach doesn’t just use acid to break down food. It also uses enzymes. These enzymes are “special,” and they are naturally found in foods like…wait for it…VEGETABLES. Oopsie. Maybe Mom really did know what she was talking about when she told you to eat your veggies? Guess we should have listened, huh? Maybe if we had, there wouldn’t be so many of us fighting heartburn, indigestion and reflux nowadays.

Here’s the bad news: we only have a limited supply of these “special enzymes” (unless we are replenishing them regularly through the foods we eat). So, when you decide to have that deep fried Snickers bar at the state fair (or for those of us here in Houston, at our wonderful annual Livestock Show & Rodeo where we can get everything imaginable dipped in batter and fried), those “special enzymes” need to show up en masse to get you through it. Have you ever heard someone say, “I just can’t eat ___ like I used to”? Yep. “Special Enzymes.” Gone. Sucks, huh?

I’d be willing to bet that you didn’t hear your grandfather saying things like that until he was pretty old. But, you probably heard your father say it at a much younger age. And, you likely started saying it even younger. So, what gives? Well, Grandpa ate more real food. He had enough of those “special enzymes” to last pretty much for his entire lifetime because he was constantly replenishing them by eating all sorts of fresh veggies…maybe even straight from his own garden (even if Grandma was cooking them with lard, he was still eating lots of veggies). So, today, we’re not so lucky. We’ve run out, and acid reflux ensued. Now what?

 

So How Do I Fix It?

Well, there’s not an instant fix. Especially not one that you get from your Pharmacist. You just can’t do that much damage to your body and think that eating a few veggies will fix the damage. Don’t lose heart, eating vegetables now will absolutely help…and help dramatically. But, we need to actually fix the acid production and get some more of those special enzymes back and ready to do their job. I really hate to the the bearer of bad news, but if those special enzymes aren’t there, other enzymes that run all of your other body systems and support the work of your organs aren’t left alone to do their jobs. Nope. They get called in as substitutes for the MIA special enzymes. So, you can see how acid reflux really does put your entire body in danger.

Ok, here’s a shocker for you: Acid Reflux is NOT that the stomach produces too much acid. Instead, it’s that the stomach normally produces too little acid! Are you sure? YES!

So why is it that when you drop a brick of food in there, the stomach mass produces acid, and then…well, up it comes? Yuck! Well, it’s because the stomach isn’t producing the RIGHT amount of acid. When it works properly, that acid will stay put right there in the stomach and do its job (unless, of course, you have a hiatal hernia…but, stay tuned, because what I’m about to tell you might take care of that, too). Now, hear me clearly, I’m not offering you a “cure” (because I’m never allowed to say that!), but I can, and will, absolutely “assist you to reach your optimum health.”

Let’s get one thing out of the way right here and now: “producing the right amount of acid,” does NOT mean taking TUMS, Zantac or whatever the drug of choice is for your doctor. Rather, it means calming everything down, so the body is allowed to heal itself. It also means that perhaps if the inflammation is under control, just maybe that hernia will correct itself.

What’s a hernia?” you might ask. Well, imagine the stomach has a long tube sticking out of it and that tube goes up into your throat. That tube is the esophagus. At the spot where the tube joins with the stomach there’s a little valve. And, it’s that valve’s job to allow food in and then close so that the acids and special enzymes can do their job (and, when closed, it keeps the acid IN the stomach). BUT if the stomach pushes up a little in to that tube, that valve can’t close and then, acid can travel up into that esophagus. Yikes! BIG PROBLEM!! You see, the cells that line your esophagus are different from the cells that line your stomach. They aren’t made to withstand that ACID. So, when acid comes in contact with them, those cells burn and scar and can end up becoming cancerous.

So, the goal is to keep the acid IN the stomach to digest the food and allow you to absorb nutrients so you don’t starve. Did you know that you can eat like an absolute pig, but if you don’t digest and absorb the nutrients, your body will NOT be healthy? As a society, we have so many who are eating themselves all the way to obese malnutrition! Crazy, isn’t it?

If you turn off the acid, how the heck are you breaking down the protein. If the protein isn’t broken down, and ends up in your gut undigested…well, my friends, then we are talking a body without nutrition AND the open door for autoimmune issues (like RA, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, MS…you get the picture…not good).

So, as I said when we started this discussion, with acid reflux, as with all disease, if you treat the cause WHILE you lessen the symptoms, you will create a solution that will last forever.

So, how do we fix it? It’s a two-step process:

     Step One: Clean up your diet! Eat foods without labels.

     Step Two: Use appropriate supplements to clean up the mess.

I use a very concentrated Certified Aloe Vera supplement to reduce inflammation and be kind to that esophagus. At the same time, I also use a special digestive enzymes to help the body to break down food. As these enzymes do their job, the stomach can begin to produce a normal amount of acid. So what we are really doing is re-training the stomach, giving it a bit of a break at the same time, and starting the healing process. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s not usually a long, drawn-out process, either.

Now, those of you who know me know that I don’t often make sales pitches. But, I will actually do that here…for three reasons:

1. You need the stuff that will work, and playing eenie-meenie-miney-moe with what might work, or could work, or promises to work just isn’t smart when you’re suffering;

2. You understand that this is an issue not to play around with; and

3. I have had people start to get better and when they run out of what I use with my clients, they go grab something off the store shelf to fill in the gap (they’ll tell you that it doesn’t work)

So, yes, I can absolutely provide a way for you to purchase the two supplements that usually do the trick. You’ll feel better almost immediately, but really cleaning up the mess generally takes about 3 to 6 months. Now, with all of that said, I still won’t break my rule of never posting a product name without a individual discussion with the person who might need it. Why? Well, I simply can’t take the chance of someone buying it and not taking the proper dosage to address their individual needs (yes, I work one-on-one with each of my clients for what their bodies need). So, if you’re suffering and want to move to a more optimum level of health, contact me with your symptoms and history so that I can begin to help.

 

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Tom Gibson