What Causes Heartburn?

Many doctors believe that when patients complain of heartburn that the cause is gastric hyperacidity and they need to prescribe medication to suppress the stomach acid. In reality there is no such thing as too much stomach acid. It’s a fact that if you suppress stomach acid the symptoms of heartburn will disappear. But this can cause damage and put stress on the rest of the body. The reason stomach acid is produced is to maintain a balance and overall health for the body. Stomach acid production is a natural process and shouldn’t be overridden by medication.

The body is a very complex system and has a delicate balance. Health begins at the cellular level. New ones are replacing existing cells all the time. Some within days and others it takes several years. The cells are dependent on the water and food we eat and the quality of our food and water will determine our health. The gastrointestinal system is where our food and water is absorbed and thus is the foundation of our body.

People with bad gastrointestinal characteristics all have a common habit that leads to an accelerated depletion of enzymes. Habitual use of tobacco and alcohol, overeating, stress, eating foods with additives and medications all can exhaust large amounts of enzymes. Other causes are eating foods with toxins, and exposure to electromagnetic radiation, which leads to free radical formation.

Stomach acid is important to kill the billions of bacteria that invade the body through the stomach. If the acid is suppressed then bacteria containing strong toxins can enter the body. Stomach acid suppression also suppresses pepsin. Stomach acid or hydrochloric acid and pepsin activate enzymes so this means the enzymes are also suppressed which leads to indigestion. Insufficient stomach acid also makes it difficult to absorb iron, magnesium and calcium. This is why people who have had their stomachs surgically removed are always anemic…they can’t absorb iron.

Female GI Tract Enhanced Radiograph
Female GI Tract Enhanced Radiograph

Suppressing stomach acid disrupts the balance of bacteria in the intestine, which will cause a weakened immune system. The majority of bacteria in the intestine are neither good nor bad, but are intermediate bacteria. This means that when good bacteria in the intestine multiply then the intermediate bacteria become good bacteria. If bad bacteria multiply in the intestine then the intermediate bacteria become bad bacteria.

If stomach acid is suppressed then enzymes can’t be activated and this results in undigested food passing into the intestine. The undigested food decomposes and abnormal fermentation takes place.

The more antacids you take the more damage to your body occurs. Heartburn and acid reflux occurs when acid backs up into the esophagus. When stomach acid builds up in the esophagus people unconsciously swallow and their saliva, which is alkaline, washes down the stomach acid. When you overeat it’s difficult for the acid to be washed back down and it causes erosions in the esophagus. To prevent heartburn all you need to do is to not overeat or overdrink and cut down on smoking and coffee.

Certain foods can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which prevents stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus. Among the foods that could do this are alcohol, coffee, fatty or spicy food, chocolate, peppermint, tomatoes, and citrus fruit. Calcium supplements could also cause the sphincter to relax. Drugs that could have this effect are diazepam, theophylline, oral contraceptives, and the chemicals in tobacco. Adequate predigestion of foods will have a profound effect on heartburn.

The stomach mucosa contains tiny projections called villi that secrete stomach acid. By suppressing stomach acid the villi become shorter and shorter. This is called mucocal atrophy. As the atrophy progresses the gastric mucosa becomes thin and inflamed. A stomach with atrophic gastritis is a perfect environment for the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, and these bacteria will worsen the inflammation. This could ultimately lead to stomach cancer. H. pylori infection is very common in the United States.