Apr 24, 2023
People who experience heartburn after consuming a heavy meal are often told that it is due to an excessive amount of stomach acid. However, this belief is not accurate. In reality, up to 90% of heartburn cases result from a deficiency in stomach acid, which causes the esophageal sphincter to relax and permit stomach acid to leak into the esophagus, resulting in acid reflux.

Unfortunately, the prevalent perception that heartburn is caused by an overabundance of acid has resulted in an excessive reliance on proton-pump inhibiting medications such as omeprazole and lansoprazole. Although these drugs can provide temporary relief, studies have demonstrated that they can cause hazardous side effects when used for extended periods.

A research study published in the British Medical Journal discovered that prolonged use of proton-pump inhibitors was associated with an increased risk of kidney disease, hip fractures, and pneumonia. Furthermore, another study revealed that these drugs can raise the risk of developing chronic kidney disease by as much as 20%.

So, how can one address heartburn without relying on proton-pump inhibitors? One method is to focus on lowering stress and promoting healthy digestion. When an individual experiences stress, the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system is activated, which can reduce stomach acid levels and cause the esophageal sphincter to relax, leading to most digestive issues.

Practicing mindfulness, such as through meditation, deep breathing, and yoga, can help to decrease stress and promote healthy digestion. Consuming a healthy diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods and low in processed foods can also help to reduce inflammation and support overall digestive health.

Physical exercise is also vital in encouraging healthy digestion and reducing stress. Exercise stimulates the digestive system and encourages the production of stomach acid.

Furthermore, taking supplements containing antioxidant phytonutrients and digestive enzymes can be beneficial in promoting healthy digestion. Antioxidants help to decrease inflammation and support overall digestive health, whereas digestive enzymes can assist in breaking down food and enhancing nutrient absorption.

Heartburn is seldom caused by excessive stomach acid. Instead, it is commonly caused by a shortage of stomach acid, which causes the esophageal sphincter to relax and leads to heartburn. Prolonged reliance on proton-pump inhibitors for relief can result in dangerous side effects. Instead, focusing on stress reduction, adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and supplementing with antioxidants and digestive enzymes can promote healthy digestion and decrease the probability of experiencing heartburn.

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Wright, J., & Lenard, L. (2001). Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD. M. Evans.

Kato T, Shimizu Y, Tamura Y, et al. Prevalence of hypochlorhydria in Japanese patients with atrophic gastritis: a multicenter study. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. 2020;67(2):109-112. doi: 10.3164/jcbn.19-58

Lazarus B, Chen Y, Wilson FP, et al. Proton Pump Inhibitor Use and the Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(2):238-246.