October 2014 – Indigestion Eating You Up?
Indigestion Eating You Up?
Digestive issues are rife – I see lots of clients who suffer from what is commonly referred to as acid indigestion or digestive discomfort, as well as acid reflux and heartburn.
If you listen to the television ads, or even your doctor, you will reach from some form of antacid medicine – usually bought over the counter or in a supermarket – which is designed to suppress the levels of stomach acid, and thus reduce the discomfort—but beware! By doing this you may be making the problem worse in the long term.
If you are 40 and over, or have a highly stressed lifestyle, it is highly likely that the problem is rather one of too little stomach acid, not too much. How so? Well, this is one of the major misconceptions of modern medicine, which has been leapt on and promulgated by the pharmaceutical companies which make billions each year out of it. Let me explain:
Not only do we produce less and less stomach acid and digestive enzymes as we get older, leading to ever increasing digestive problems, but part of the stress response in the body also shuts down production of these enzymes. The result of this is that food is not going to be broken down properly, leaving you unable to absorb all the nutrients out of it. You feel heavy and ’full’ long after you have eaten, often bloated and uncomfortable, with flatulence, burping and heartburn being commonplace. In addition, rich foods may cause you problems, or you may belch after eating.
We need high levels of stomach acid in order to break down the protein bonds in food so we can access the amino acids they contain. In addition, many vital minerals such as magnesium, can also only be broken open by strong stomach acid, so by taking medications which ‘damp down’ and dilute levels of stomach acids we are setting ourselves up for both amino acid and mineral deficiencies, no matter how much of these our diet may contain.
So what is causing the discomfort? Basically, poor levels of stomach acid and digestive enzymes means food sits in a fermenting lump in your stomach. Food sitting for any length of time in the upper part of the stomach can weaken the valve from the oesophagus into the stomach, leading to contents re-gurgitating when lying down, or maybe you have a hiatus hernia (many do that are undiagnosed and un-treated) and this is the underlying cause of your heartburn and acid reflux.
As stomach acid levels are not high, the message often doesn’t get sent to the pancreas and liver to produce the alkaline bile and digestive enzymes needed for the next stage of digestion in the small intestine, so things sits in the stomach longer than they should and even when they do move on, are again not properly digested to release the all-important nutrients.
True acid indigestion where levels of acid are so strong they start to burn the mucous lining of the stomach tends to be a problem encountered by very few people, and usually those in their 20s and 30s associated with an ‘A’ type personality.
Gauging whether your problem is too much or too little stomach acid is easy – a simple trick is to take a dessertspoon of lemon juice when you get the symptoms. If they get worse you will know that your problem is too much acid, if they improve, it is too little acid. Or if swallowing all that lemon juice doesn’t impress you, think about when you start to feel the discomfort. Is it ½ an hour or more after you’ve eaten? If so, too little acid is likely to be the issue.
So what can you do to try and get your digestion rebalanced – particularly if you rely on medication or antacids to get a good night’s sleep undisturbed by griping stomach pains. It is simple, little by little you work to strengthen levels of stomach acid, either by taking apple cider vinegar before every meal, or a supplement such as betaine, and you also take a general digestive enzyme supplement with your meal. This will ensure that ALL your food can be broken down, the nutrients accessed and absorbed. Your digestive discomfort will ease and your general health will begin to improve as your body gets the full benefit from what you are eating.
So don’t let eating quite literally become a pain—there is a solution!