What causes heartburn?

Did you know that the acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades? It has to be though. The mouth is the gateway to the gut and any parasite, pathogen or ‘bad’ bug can easily gain entry into the gut and cause all kinds of havoc if you don’t have enough hydrochloric acid in your stomach to ‘nuke’ them.

The problem we have nowadays though is that many more people are taking acid-suppressant medication to reduce the amount of acid in their stomach because they suffer with heartburn and acid reflux, and this puts them at risk of getting gut problems due to parasite infestation and bacterial infections.  I talk more about this in my blog ‘THE DANGERS OF TAKING LONG-TERM ANTACID MEDICATION’ here.

It comes as no surprise to me that cases of indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux are on the increase.

When I was training as a colon hydrotherapist many years ago, I remember reading one of the course text books and coming across this phrase:

‘Generally speaking nowadays most people eat too much, too late and too fast.’

But what does this mean exactly. Well it means some of us eat far more food that our digestive capacity can cope with. We eat too late in the day, when we may not have sufficient HCL and enzymes to enable efficient breakdown of the food, and we eat it far too quickly.

If you’re in a restaurant or cafe and people are eating, what do you notice?  One thing I notice is how large the portion sizes are and how quickly some people eat their food. There doesn’t seem to be any pleasure in the food they are eating as they bolt it down (Northern phrase for eating too quickly) as quickly as they can so that they can either get back to work, pick the kids up from school, go shopping, go to the gym, or whatever other task or job they are thinking about, when what they should be doing is concentrating on the food that’s on the plate in front of them.

Digestion begins as soon as we smell food. Messages are sent to the brain via the sensory nerves in the nose, and the brain responds by sending messages to secrete saliva in the mouth. Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase and this enzyme helps begin the process of digestion, in particular breaking down carbohdyrates.  When the food is swallowed and gets into the stomach, it is mixed with mucous, HCL and enzymes, and as it’s passing through the stomach into the first part of the small intestine, enzymes from the pancreas, and bile from the gall-bladder are further added to the mix.

If you are eating too quickly, not chewing properly, then you are, more than likely, swallowing large pieces of food. When I’m working in my digestive health clinic and carrying out colon hydrotherapy treatments, I often see undigested food coming down the outlet pipe, and that’s when I know that the person I have on the couch is simply not chewing properly.  Remember that our stomach doesn’t have teeth. The teeth in our mouth are there for a reason, to chew, to masticate, to mash and break food down until it’s like baby food, then you swallow it.  This takes the strain off the rest of the digestive system, also allowing for more nutrients to be absorbed as the chyme (fancy name for partially digested food) is passing through your small intestine. The small intestine will find it difficult to absorb and assimilate nutrients from food if the pieces are too large.  You may have a very good diet, but you may as well eat rubbish if you’re not chewing properly, because those nutrients will not be passing through the gut and getting to the liver.  It’s the liver’s job to transport those nutrients to wherever they are needed in the body, but if you’re not chewing properly, it can’t do its job!

“Well thanks for the simple anatomy and physiology lesson Linda, but what’s all this got to do with my heartburn,” I hear you ask. I shall elucidate and it’s really, really simple. You are overworking your stomach. Think about it.  You are eating late in the evening, after 8pm, great chunks of meat, potato, vegetables and these are not being chewed properly. You’re swallowing them, and confess, some of the pieces probably feel quite uncomfortable as they are being pushed down your oesophagus (fancy medical word for ‘food pipe’) due to the size of them. Then they drop into your stomach. This is going to make breakdown of the food in your stomach much more difficult because in the evenings, we tend to eat the largest meal of the day. Let’s face it, you’ve probably skipped breakfast, had a bit of lunch, so you come home from work, and you are starving!  You pile your plate with whatever it is you’re having for dinner, and because you are so hungry, you eat it quickly, thinking “I need to eat this quickly so that I can sit down, relax, and watch my favourite series on Netflix, before I have to go to bed.” But then you’re lying in bed, bloated, uncomfortable, with indigestion, heartburn or acid reflux, and unable to get to sleep. You get more frustrated because you know that you have a busy day at work tomorrow, sorting out the kids, sorting out the parents, and this creates more anxiety exacerbating the symptoms.

The solution is simple. Just chew, chew, chew. Aim for chewing each mouthful no less than 20 times, longer if it’s red meat.  Ensure each mouthful is thoroughly mixed with saliva so it’s picking up those important amylase enzymes that begin the process of digestion.

Do bear in mind that in people over the age of 50 it is common to suffer with bloating after meals, indigestion, heartburn and/or acid reflux.  Our organs of digestion age just like the rest of us does and production of HCL and enzymes can slow down.  Many people find that taking one of my vegan, plant-based Digestive Enzyme tablets before meals goes a long way to helping more comfortable digestion of food without the embarrassing excessive gas, absorption of key anti-ageing nutrients and reduces the bloating and discomfort that often accompanies eating.

Try chewing more for a month, and let me know if your indigestion, heartburn or reflux improves, oh and don’t drink water with your meals if you suffer with any of the aforementioned, as the water may dilute your own HCL and enzymes and you need these to be in concentrated form to be most effective.