It's all too easy to reach for the antacids and proton pump inhibitors when you have a pain in the gut but the wrong choice of product can make your condition worse in the long run. Identifying the causes of your indigestion so that you can deal with it appropriately will give a better long term outcome. Below I have outlined some of the common causes of that awful burning together with some suggestions on how you can get an improvement.
Indigestion and heartburn are amongst the most common conditions people treat with over the counter remedies. Most people are going to experience the dreadful discomfort at some point in their life (usually as a result of over indugence) but if the problem is recuring you need to get to the bottom of it.
You may know the condition by a variety of terms but for ease we'll stick with the indigestion tag but we are including heartburn as well. Indigestion is a digestive disorder in which partially digested food from the stomach along with hydrochloric acid (HCI) and enzymes back up into the oesophagus. This is known as reflux. HCI has a very low PH, it is very acidic and it can cause damage (and pain) when it comes into contact with the delicate oesophagul lining. This mucous lining or mucosa, unlike the lining of the stomach, is not designed to withstand the very caustic effects of acid.
Acid can get back into your oesophagus when the lower oesophagul sphincter fails and allows acid from the stomach back into your oesophagus. Normally this sphoncter opens to allow food in and then closes immediately. When the sphoincter is weakened however it stays open or does not close well. Again there are many things which cause failure.
It often seems as though fizzy drinks make the indigestion feel better but in many cases they are a cause of the problem. Whenever you drink a carbonated drink the stomach is filled with gas which exerts force on the oesophagul sphincter gradually weakening it and causing it to fail. If you drink fizzy drinks then eliminating them is a good place to start.
Now it may come as something of a surprise that dehydration is a major cause of indigestion. But it makes sense when you think about it. Your stomach floods with gastric juices to digest food but if the inside of your body is as dry as an old bone then gastric juices are going to be in short supply. So many people tell me they never drink any water and just don't get thirsty. That's not because you don't need to drink, it's your body being kind. Your body thinks you are in some desperate situation and that there is no water. Once your body gets the idea that the drought is over your thirst mechanism will be restored.
As a tactic for restoring healthy digestion you need to drink 35mls of water per kilo of body weight. In order to repay the hydration debt you should also add an additional half litre. Start your day with a pint of luke warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice then a pint of warm water half an hour before each meal and do not drink with your meal (it dilutes the stomach acid). When you first start drinking water you will have an increased urge to urinate and it will seem as if you need to go as soon as you have a drink. This is a good thing, its your body getting rid of all the stagnant dirty water that has been trapped inside the cells of your body. All the water in your body should change every six weeks but if you don't put any clean water in then it can't let out the dirty old water. It will take anything from two weeks to three months for this flushing process to complete (but most people will be done with it in two to three weeks).
To further facilitate hydration you also need to supplement with essential fatty acids or eat oily fish three times per week.
We all live in such a mad rush now its easy to end up consuming your food in the same way which is not good. Set aside time to eat and don't do anything else at the same time. Chew each mouthful until its a thick paste before swallowing. Its a good idea to experiment initially and try chewing everything thrity times - that way you will get to see just how quick your mechanism to swallow is fired. Lots of big chunks of food are indigestible.
Although the mainstram medical profession always cite over production of acid as the primary cause of indigestion and heartburn that has not been my experience. Virtually all drugs used to treat GERD, heartburn, indigestion etc neutralise, reduce, suppress or inhibit the production of Hydrochloric Acid (HCI). Its interesting because in the 11th Edition of the Merck Manual published as early as 1966 it states clearly that:
"Heartburn is not due, as formerly believed, to excessive gastric acidity per se as the same symptom often occurs in achlorhydria (which is absence of stomach acid)".
The bottom line and shocking truth, known for decades by alternative practitioners, is that GERD, heartburn, reflux etc are more often caused by lack of HCI rather than too much. I have yet to find anyone with indigestion or heartburn that did ot respond to the detox approach to improving digestion. In Why Stomach Acid is Good For You by Dr Jonathan Wright (MD) and Lane Lennard PhD Dr Wright reports that 90% of patients with GERD showed hypochlorhydria (too little HCI) when testing was done to measure excactly how much HCI they were producing.
Low HCI production has far reaching consequences in terms of overall health and wellbeing. Low HCI results in electrolyt deficiency which in turn inhibits enzyme production which in turn further reduces the ability to digest. And if you can't digest the food you are eating then you are not going to get very many nutrients from it. The net result is poor metabolism of nutrients, disruption of homeostasis and the development of degenerative diesease conditions.
On an empty stomach (i.e. when you have not eaten for 4 hours) place a teaspoon of bicarb of soda in a small glass of water and drink the lot. If you have sufficient stomach acid you will start to burp in around 5 minutes. No burping, your stomach acid is low.
Lots of factors interfere with our production of digestive enzymes especially stress, age and diet. Stress shuts off your digestion completely. People don't realise just how limited our responses to stimuli are. Your body has no way of telling the difference between the stress of being chased by a hungry tiger and you being stressed at work, it only has the fight or flight response. Digestion takes around 30% of our energy so no point wasting energy digesting food when the primary requirement for survival is escape from said hungry kitty. Under stress therefore digestion shuts down and so does your elimination functions (except for the bits that are ready to go which accounts for the saying I **** myself when people are scared) so that both ends of the same tube are now on strike. So you need to deal with the source of the stress - even if that means finding a new job. But in the short-term you can improve your digestion with Well Digested - a broad range of digestive aids to really pep your digestion up. And its not only good in the case of stress. If your diet is lacking in nutrients or you are over 30 (production of digestive enzymes can start to reduce from around age 30).
Candida is relatively common owing to the over use of antibiotics and it can have a devastating effect on digestion. Read the section on Candida Albicans for more information.
The following are also major causes of indigestion so check thelist and see if any apply to you:
- Eating too much
- Weighing too much
- Eating when upset
- Chocolate Peppermint
- Eating too quick
- Going too long without food
- Spicy foods
- NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen), brochodilating drugs used to treat asthma (ephedrine, theophylline, albuterol), some blood pressure medication (calcium channel blockers and beta blockers,valium and Demerol Drugs that irritate the GI Lining (NSAIDS, tetracycline, the antiarrhythnic drug quinidine, potassium chloride tablets and iron salts
- Fatty and fried foods
- Lying Down After Eating
- Bending from the waist, heavy lifting, straining to poo, pregnancy (all increase the intra-abdominal pressure)
- Swallowing lots of air when eating
- Chewing gum
- Coffee, tea and other caffeine drinks
- Tomato based foods, citrus, raw onions, garlic, black pepper and vinegar
I was at University in Australia in the 90s and read about a study reported in The Age in Melbourne. Doctors had discovered an amazing treatment for abdominal pain and discomfort with a very high success rate. Astonishingly, 78% of male patients who had presented to their doctor with indigestion and other abdominal issues got complete relief by simply buying trousers with a waistband which was 10cm bigger. So tight clothes are another issue to consider.
Smoking reduces the production of saliva , salivary IgA (an antibody) and Salivary Epithelial Growth Factor (SEGF) which helps repair the intestinal lining. Both IgA and SEGF serve as a proitective barrier against damage to the oesophagus. Smoking also weakens the Oesophageal sphincter.
Food sensitivities and allergies are common causes of indigestion and heartburn. The most common food sensitivity which often results in indigestion is dairy. Its worth trying eliminating dairy and go on to have a food sensitivity test if eliminating dairy does not bring significant improvement in symptoms. Food Sensitivity Testing is available at detox.
So by now you have identified some possible causes of your digestive ills and can start working towards really healthy digestion.
1. Eliminate all possible causes of indigestion from your diet.
2. Hydrate (don't forget the pint of warm water half an hour before a meal)
3. Supplement with Well Digested
4. Book a food sensitivity test is symptoms have not improved in two weeks