Lisa is a qualified Nutritional Therapist. She has been practising nutrition for 12 years across a broad spectrum of health conditions. She has a special interest in Rosacea, and her research, together with handson experience, led to the writing of her thesis entitled “The Nutritional Management of Rosacea”.
This week I will be covering a digestive complaint that appears to be one thing when in fact, in the majority of cases, is the exact opposite. It is not difficult to understand that treating such a symptom in reverse is a temporary measure and ultimately compounds the problem!
What Is This Digestive Complaint? Acid Reflux!
A common misconception is that Acid Reflux occurs because there is too much stomach acid resulting in typical symptoms like indigestion, belching, and ‘heartburn.’ A traditional medical diagnosis of these symptoms is “Excess Stomach Acid” and General Practitioners (GP’s) often prescribe antacids or even proton pump inhibitors (a drug that stops the acid-producing cells from working).
Some individuals use over the counter remedies to save a trip to their GP, but antacids of any type, may or may not resolve the unpleasant symptoms, and will frequently require the dosage to be increased to achieve the same results, or an increase in the frequency of dosing. They do not however eradicate the problem.
So what is the most common cause of Acid Reflux?
The most common cause of Acid Reflux is Low Stomach Acid Production (Hypochlorhydria). Let me explain! At the top of the stomach (a muscular bag) there is a ring muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES). It opens to allow food in via the oesophagus (food pipe) and closes when the stomach is full and very acidic. The acidity is thought to be a trigger for this muscle to shut tight (very tight).
When the stomach is full, it continually churns up the food. If the lower oesophageal sphincter is open, even a little, the food mass would back up into the oesophagus, and be quite uncomfortable (acid reflux). Hydrochloric acid (human stomach acid) is a very strong acid, and if it were to be applied directly to the skin, it would burn quite severely.
The oesophagus is more alkaline and therefore would burn severely if the acid that is refluxing were as strong as it should be. When it is weak, the oesophagus does not get ‘blistered / burned’ necessarily, but it would cause quite a high level of discomfort – especially when lying down.
This is assumed to be, and even GP’s diagnose it as high stomach acid when in fact it is the opposite! In some prolonged cases a diagnosis of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) may be determined by the GP. This is a more accurate description of the problem because it means “a digestive disorder that affects the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) which causes heartburn or acid indigestion.”
Like many medically diagnosed conditions, a diagnosis of GERD is closer to the truth in most instances, but it is a simple label and not a means of eliminating the cause.
Is Stomach Acid Important?
Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) plays a significant role in the digestive processes and is one of the first lines of defence against bacterial organisms in and/or on food. HCl is essential to the correct breakdown of foods to liberate the vitamins and minerals within. HCl is crucial to the breakdown of dietary proteins in the digestive cascade. HCl stimulates the release of an exclusive carrier protein necessary for the transportation of a large vitamin molecule called Cobalamin or vitamin B12 for short (B12 is crucial for brain and nervous system function as well as the formation of red blood cells).
Insufficient stomach acid results in reduced absorption of this vital vitamin. The Rosacea sufferer commonly experiences anxiety, depression, paranoia and fatigue which may all be due to vitamin B12 deficiency.
Proteins, like all foods, must be broken down into a form the body can utilize. Proteins are critical molecules for every single cell in the body; they are necessary for growth, repair, movement, enzyme synthesis, hormonal health and immune defenses such as the production of antibodies.
Where insufficient dietary protein is fully digested, the body will resort to breaking down your muscles to supply the protein molecules necessary for survival.
Low stomach acid may cause intestinal permeability and therefore play a significant role in the development of food sensitivities / allergies which are also a common occurrence in those with Rosacea.
To gauge what your HCl production is you can perform a simple home test The instructions can be found on the following link (scroll down to the heading “Home Test To Assess Stomach Acid Levels”): http://www.nutritionalessence.com/simple-home-testing
A significant percentage of my clients presenting with Rosacea have insufficient production of HCl, and it is one if the first areas of digestion to support. My most common recommendation is a digestive enzyme and HCl complex supplement with their daily meals. However, individual analysis is often the best initial step, to assess if the stomach lining is inflamed. In this case there are several prior steps to undertake before supplementing with HCl.
Tip: digestion begins in the mouth; the stomach does not have teeth!
This Week’s Quote:
“Healthy Skin Begins Within – Good Digestion, The Best Beautician Money Can Buy“ – Kellen Brugman