In my practice I talk about digestion ALL the time. It’s one of the places I start with everyone. Why? Because this is where the outside world meets you. I always get puzzled looks when I say this because we really don’t think about the body like this. What do you mean, my digestive system is outside of my body? Yes, technically your digestive system is inside you, BUT it’s a place to process the outside world.
Think about your digestive system for a minute, it starts with an opening at your mouth and ends with an opening at your butt, like a hose. A hose running through you, the stuff inside that hose, is the outside world and it’s not until the food goes through the hose that it’s able to enter into you.
In my last article I talked about why it’s important to chew your food. In this article, I’m going to focus a little further down to the stomach. So many people that come to me have issues directly related to the digestive system, they have symptoms of heartburn or indigestion and many are on or have been on Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) or other acid blocking medications. They are told that because they have these symptoms, they have too much acid and it needs to be decreased.
Let’s think about this for a minute. When do we start having symptoms like this? Typically, we start getting light nudges from our body in our late 30s and it winds up getting worse as we get older. If heartburn was an issue of too much stomach acid, wouldn’t children and teenagers have heartburn and indigestion?
The fact is that by your mid twenty’s your stomach acid naturally decreases, this is a normal part of aging and can set the stage for heartburn and indigestion and lead you to think that you have too much acid.
So what’s happening to give you heartburn?
At the top of the stomach, there is a doorway called the lower esophageal sphincter. This doorway opens and closes to allow food to go in and keep the food in the stomach. If the stomach does not have the proper acidity, this doorway can open when it should be closed. As food inside the stomach is being processed, a little bit of acid can splash out of this doorway onto cells that aren’t capable of handling acid. This is the feeling you get when you have heartburn.
Your stomach is meant to be acidic. It’s meant to be the place where the chemical breakdown of food happens, it also is meant to protect you from pathogens, bacteria and viruses. If you are taking medications to decrease your stomach acid further, you run the risk of nutrient deficiencies, parasitic infections, H. Pylori and an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria. These medications can be helpful to reduce pain and esophageal inflammation, but they don’t address the underlying cause.
What can do to assist your body in healing?