The antacid Nexium, or the purple pill, ranks 3rd on the list of drugs that Americans spend the most money on and comes in 5th as the most prescribed drug in the world!!! That means there’s a LOT of heartburn, gastric reflux and indigestion happening on the globe!
Acid reflux and heartburn can happen for many reasons: stress, gluten intolerance, other food sensitivities, over eating, eating too close to bedtime, bacterial over growth, increased abdominal fat or as a reaction to very specific foods such as spicy or fried foods, citrus or tomato-based foods and certainly to alcohol, caffeine or cigarettes.
While most of us logically assume that acid reflux is a situation of too much acid, evidence clearly shows that these same symptoms can be coming from a condition of not enough acid production! Yes, that’s right. The parietal cells of the stomach when functioning normally would produce acid primarily during times of digestion in order to break down our ingested food. But when unable to produce acid normally these cells sometimes produce acid in fits and starts, at the right time and the wrong time and in small or large amounts. Some people are so lacking in acid production that they will no longer have that burning feeling but they have very poor digestion.
Lack of stomach acid opens the door to a whole list of issues which include gas and bloating, bacterial overgrowth with special mention of H-Pylori infection (the bacteria known to cause ulcers), mood disturbances, pulmonary problems and numerous nutrient deficiencies such as B12, calcium, magnesium, zinc and protein, all of which require the presence of acid for proper absorption.
CHICKEN OR THE EGG?
Here comes the tricky part……low acid production can result in a zinc deficiency but a zinc deficiency can result in low acid production! Turns out that the production of adequate hydrochloric acid in the stomach is dependent on normal zinc levels as well as Vitamins B1, B6 and the amino acid histidine.
So poor stomach acid production causes a Zinc deficiency which, in turn, causes poor acid production. But which one comes first? Sometimes it’s hard to say…….for example, scenarios where gluten intolerance and stress coexist share a combined contribution to both diminished acid production and zinc malabsorption, each one aggravating the other!
As much as antacids may control the symptom, they don’t get to the source of the problem. There are no long term studies to date that show long term use of antacids is safe! Meanwhile, the list of adverse effects of antacids is long and includes angina, ulcers, pancreatitis, irritable colon, liver disease, anemia and more.
Perhaps what you need if you suffer from acid reflux is to work with a nutrition professional to help you find out if you have food intolerances, zinc deficiency and learn strategies to control your stress. Adding zinc and magnesium for the latter 2 conditions might be all you need!