Now that Valentine’s Day is passed and the tempting treats out of eye sight, I thought it was a great opportunity to focus on the importance of our digestive tract and on how body absorbs nourishment. Last week, we looked at tools to keep your heart healthy during the month of February. Now, let’s look at how to keep that loving feeling-minus the heartburn.
The Organ that Doesn’t Like to “Feel the Burn”
Heartburn, a common term for acid reflux, is used to describe a burning sensation felt in the upper chest, just behind the breastbone. It usually occurs after a meal and worsens when lying down or bending over. Heartburn is thought to be caused by excessive stomach acid, hydrochloric acid (HCL) to be exact. It results when the lower esophageal sphincter, a circular band of musculature between your esophagus and stomach, relaxes abnormally or weakens. This causes stomach acid to flow back up into your esophagus verses into the small intestine.
Generally, this un-cozy feeling is considered “normal” if it occurs two times a week or less. In fact, approximately 20% of the adult population experiences it at once a week or more. However, when this unwelcome sensation becomes more frequent and acid continues to reflux up your esophagus, inflammation in its lining or the stomach can result in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Conventionally, the treatment is suppressing the stomach’s acid production by prescribing histamine-2 antagonists or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These drugs work by slowing down or preventing the formation of HCL. So, you may be thinking, “inflammation stopped, heartburn gone, end of story, right?”
Similar to blocking cholesterol by statin medications, blocking the body’s enzymatic pathway in digestion can have consequences. HCL is secreted for a variety of purposes such as: the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, maintenance of proper microorganism ratio (including H.pylori), and the assimilation of vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, overproduction of stomach acid is not the only cause of heartburn, other causes should be ruled out such as a hiatal hernia or too little stomach acid. You read that right- heartburn or reflux can be caused by too little HCL. Here’s how:
- HCL kills pathogen overgrowth in your stomach, such as H Pylori. Without this anti-septic pH property, fermentation byproducts from microbial overgrowth can result in the stomach or small intestine. This can lead to gas and irritation, which can mimic “heartburn.”
- The esophageal and pyloric sphincters are triggered by acidity. If there is not enough acid, the esophageal valve relaxes or the pyloric valve will not open, and contents are regurgitated back up the esophagus.
There are also some reports about the health consequences of long-term use of PPIs, which have been associated with increased fracture risk and chronic infections. Also, if one’s stomach acid gets too low, decreased absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B12, and vitamin C can occur. Low calcium can perpetuate weakening of the bones and can lead to other issues, such as Vitamin D deficiency.
One will also have a hard time breaking down proteins as well and assimilating them without the digestive support of HCL. Due to the fact that proteins are needed to rebuild vital tissues, balance metabolism and blood sugar, assist in the formation of neurotransmitters, and are the building blocks of important cell signaling molecules, a lot of downstream symptoms can manifest.
You may be thinking your bypassing the complications with calcium carbonate supplements?
Unfortunately, these chewy tummy tamers may be creating an imbalance in the calcium and phosphorus ratio in your body, which prevents bone matrix mineralization. This can also create skeletal issues.
So, what to do if you feel the chest-burn?
Read the continuation of my blog for tips for healthy digestion here.
Essential Oils Highlight
Fennel for Menstrual Cramps
Recently, researchers studied the effect of a combination of fennel/vitamin E or ibuprofen in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, a condition of painful menstrual periods. The study included 68 female university students and took place over two months. It was a double-blinded, randomly assigned cross-over study. The study concluded that the mean peak pain intensity was lower at the first, second, third, sixth, and forty-eighth hours in the group that had used combination of fennel extract/vitamin E with statistical significance at the first and second hour.
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Masoomeh Nasehi, Fahimeh Sehhatie, Vahid Zamanzadeh, Abbase Delazar, Yousef Javadzadeh, Bahman Mohammady Chongheralu. Comparison of the effectiveness of combination of fennel extract/vitamin E with ibuprofen on the pain intensity in students with primary dysmenorrhea. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2013 Sep ;18(5):355-9. PMID: 24403936
Peppermint EO references: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/search/gmi/peppermint
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