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I shout at the TV a lot because adverts drive me bonkers. If it’s not the Actimel ads promoting friendly gut bacteria (despite the products containing high levels of sugar that actually feeds bad bacteria), it’s the cosmetic adverts promoting youth as if being a woman past 35 is something to be ashamed of. And don’t get me started on the shaving adverts…
But there is one type of advert that makes me fume above all others. And that’s acid ingestion and heartburn adverts.
Many of us know acid related indigestion, heartburn or dyspepsia from first-hand experience. The assumption is that there is always too much acid in the stomach. The adverts with the cartoon firemen soothing away the burning fire in our guts only reinforce that 'heartburn = too much acid'.
But here’s the problem. Numerous studies show that the incidence of heartburn increases with age, while stomach acid levels generally decline with age. If heartburn were caused by too much stomach acid, we’d have a bunch of teenagers popping Gaviscon instead of the elderly. But the reverse is true.
When food arrives in the stomach and the body does not have the correct levels of HCL or enzymes, is it panics and throws the little acid it does have to the top, which causes heartburn. Taking an acid suppressant only makes this situation worse.
According to Dr Wright, author of 'Why Stomach Acid is Good For You', when stomach acid is measured in people suffering from heartburn it is almost always low, not high.
"When we carefully test people over the age of forty who’re having heartburn, indigestion and gas, over 90 percent of the time we find inadequate acid production by the stomach."
My own clinical experience supports this. So far every client I've seen with heartburn or acid indigestion has responded well to enzyme or hydrochloric acid supplementation.
Hydrochloride is not our enemy. It plays an important part in digestion as well as helping our immune system by destroying the harmful parasites and bacteria that are ingested with food. When people are on acid suppressants for a long time, this can have serious immune and digestive implications as well as creating problems with small intestine absorption and lower bowel conditions like IBS.
Dr Emmanuel, Consultant Gastroenterologist at University College Hospital, London, said on a recent BBC Radio programme
"Suppressing acid so completely can interfere with our digestive processes; with the way we absorb certain vitamins such as Vitamin B12 (which is important for blood cells and nerve function), but also minerals like calcium, which of course is a big issue in the Western world in terms of osteoporosis and risks of bone fracture."
So what can you do if you’re unsure whether you have low or high stomach acid? There are a few ways to explore this.
Try an at home test with bicarbonate of soda or a home test with lemons. Alternatively, you can come and see one of our practitioners who can identify whether you have an imbalance and recommend ways to correct it.
Laura Knowles is a Nutritionist, Kinesiologist, and Yoga Teacher at the Balanced Wellness Clinic in Havant near Portsmouth. Loves blogging about the really important stuff - life, love, vitamins and poo.See my profile