The Truth about Heartburn (and why you may want to think twice before taking acid blockers)
Do you struggle with the uncomfortable feeling of acid reflux or heartburn?
Are you relying on antacids or taking a proton pump inhibitor?
If so, you're not alone - Reflux is one of the most common digestive complaints I work with, and antacids are one of the most commonly purchased medications on the market.
While reflux is common, it certainly isn't 'normal', and relying on antacids can often do more harm than good (especially over the long-term).
Today on the blog we're exploring WHY reflux happens in the first place, as well as some of the concerns associate with acid blocks and my favourite natural remedies.
The Difference between Acid Reflux, Heartburn and GERD
That burning sensation in the throat and heart space after eating can be called many things: acid reflux, heartburn and GERD. But what is it, and what’s the difference between them?
Well, to put it simply, both acid reflux and heartburn are the same thing, while GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) is basically the chronic condition of experiencing acid reflux constantly (that means more than twice a week).
Some common symptoms of acid reflux, heartburn and GERD include tightness in the chest, unpleasant taste in the mouth, dry cough that does not go away, wheezing, voice roughness, and a feeling that needs to clear your throat often. Heartburn (aka acid reflux) is extremely common – but contrary to what you’ve probably heard, it definitely isn’t normal, and it is completely misunderstood.
Let’s dive into why so many people experience acid reflux, and some tangible takeaways to help curb that uncomfortable feeling.
Why Reflux Happens
There is a lot of confusion around heartburn and it's generally very misunderstood.
Here’s why: Heartburn is most often associated it with having too much stomach acid, when reality, it is most often caused by too little acid (yep, you read that right!).
Here's what's happening:
When food enters your stomach, your stomach needs to get your food to a certain pH (typically between 2 and 3) before its released from your stomach into your small intestine to continue the process of digestion.
When there’s not enough stomach acid, food sits in your stomach for way longer than it should, and it starts to ferment. This fermentation leads to gas and this gas puts a lot of pressure on the esophageal sphincter, which then leads to acid splash back into the esophagus–hello heartburn.
Having too little stomach acid also means that your stomach has to 'churn' things around far more aggressively to break them down. This can also lead to the acid splash-back associated with heartburn - yikes!
So here’s our big takeaway: heartburn is not caused by too much stomach acid - and popping antacids, which are aimed at lowering or decreasing stomach acid, are actually doing the opposite action we need in the body.