Have you noticed that during independence or end-of-year celebrations, we tend to indulge in more food and drinks than usual?. Only to end up with a terrible reflux or heartburn.
Well, it’s all part of the holiday spirit. However, in Chile, the national holidays often span a week, and the excessive feasting can lead to stomach discomfort and acid reflux or heartburn for many of us. To counter this, the majority of people turn to typical antacids or medications to reduce stomach acidity. But it’s crucial to pay attention to this issue because lowering stomach acidity (essentially raising the pH of gastric acid) may not be as beneficial as it seems and could have negative long-term consequences.
Lowering stomach acidity (in other words, raising the pH of gastric acid) is not good and can have negative consequences in the long run.
Heartburn and Reflux
I used to suffer greatly from heartburn and nighttime reflux. Whenever I consumed heavy carbohydrates, it was inevitable that I’d need some medication to relieve the discomfort. As a result, I always kept antacid tablets or a bottle of fruit salts within reach.
Unfortunately, there’s a hidden danger in relying on these medications. What’s essential to understand is that the stomach needs highly acidic gastric juice, with a pH between 1 and 2 (on the acidity scale where 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline), to perform its digestion job effectively. Gastric juice is even more acidic than vinegar, and this acidity is crucial for proper functioning.
However, those who experience gastric problems tend to shift towards more alkaline levels (less acidic) with a pH ranging from 2.5 to 6.0, especially after overindulging in carbohydrates. At this less acidic level, the stomach’s functionality is impaired, the cardiac sphincter does not close properly and stomach starts to make contractions that push excess food and gastric juices back into the esophagus, causing discomfort and the well-known sensation of gastric acidity, heartburn or reflux (a more accurate term). Consequently, many people resort to tablets with bicarbonate or other chemicals, further increasing the alkalinity of the gastric juice, which may exacerbate the issue.
What is the trap?
The real problem and significant mistake arise when we further alkalize the food and gastric juices, pushing the pH above 6. At this point, the issue of digestion and reflux may not cause pain or burning sensations, leading us to believe that we are better off. However, the reality is that we are only prolonging the digestive process by three times its normal duration. Even though the heaviness in the stomach may subside, the damage continues. Permanently following this approach can have severe consequences, affecting crucial processes such as protein assimilation, calcium, zinc, vitamin D absorption, bile production, and even thyroid function. My personal experience with this matter led me to investigate extensively.
While antacids or proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole, ranitidine, or famotidine might offer temporary relief during special occasions like national holidays or the end of the year, relying on them regularly can cause unimaginable harm to one’s health.
Let me share that I’m not conveying this as a doctor or scientist, but as someone who lived through it firsthand. For years, I was dependent on famotidine, ranitidine, and various antacids, and it took a toll on my body. You can find the whole story in another post I wrote some time ago.
What is the recommended course of action then?
Indeed, the solution may appear contradictory, but the key is to restore the stomach’s acidity to its highly acidic, normal pH. Achieving this requires time and patience. Personally, I found great success with organic apple cider vinegar. Incorporating a tablespoon of it into my meals, even using it as a lemon substitute in salads, made a significant difference. Kombucha became a part of my diet, replacing other beverages, while I also introduced homemade Kefir to my breakfast routine, all very acidic meals. As a result, stomach acidity and reflux became a thing of the past without me even realizing it.
Today, it’s been years since I last suffered from reflux. Admittedly, I’m more mindful of what I eat and avoid excesses, but I’m not perfect, and occasional indulgences happen. If I do experience any discomfort, I turn to a glass of Kombucha or some water with a tbsp of apple cider vinegar, giving my stomach time to readjust to its acidic pH. In other words, I endure the discomfort briefly, and it’s manageable.
Additionally, there are over-the-counter supplements like betaine hydrochloride (betaine HCL) that can assist with these issues by increasing the stomach’s hydrochloric acid levels and aiding digestion. Bile salts are also helpful when there’s insufficient bile to break down fats consumed.
For those dealing with frequent reflux, I strongly recommend seeking advice from a functional medicine doctor who can address the root cause of the gastric problem. Settling for mere antacids that mask a deeper issue isn’t the solution. Reflux is not normal and can be effectively healed.
Wishing you a delightful holiday season ahead!
With great love and gratitude to all the sources of information and wisdom
that have allowed me to reach this knowledge and share this information!