Reflux Redux

Two new members this week tested deficient in stomach acid, and reported that they have reflux.  According to an osteopath of my acquaintance, reflux can be caused by either high or low stomach acid. The high stomach acid scenario is well known. On the other hand, low stomach acid is often confused with it. There has to be sufficient stomach acid to cause the valve to close and, if not, then reflux occurs. As you can imagine, giving stomach-acid-reducing substances to people with already low acid is a disaster in the making. Low stomach acid not only promotes poor digestion but also allows organisms that should be destroyed to survive and invade the rest of the digestive tract.

So what can a person do? You can find various strategies for dealing with low stomach acid. One is to take a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar just before a meal. If that causes any burning sensation, then it is too much or something else is wrong. If not, and your reflux is less, then you are on your way. European ‘bitters’ or stomach-lining-irritating herbs like those in the mint family are other strategies.

When I was first ill, I was prescribed the maximum of three betaine hyrdochloride with pepsin before each meal. The protocol at that time was to start with one betaine before meals. If no burning in stomach, then try two before meals. If not burning, then try three. If burning occurred at any stage, I was to reduce the dose. Now that my vitamin and mineral status has improved, I’m producing enough stomach acid that I don’t have to do that.

Low stomach acid usually means that there will be lots of other deficiencies because of the poor digestion. This seemed to be the situation with the two new members. It’s a nasty spot , spiralling downward. A few years ago, another member had a two-edged problem, low stomach acid plus an area of very irritated digestive tract. Phew! How to negotiate that? She’s done it but it’s taken 4 years.

The older we get, the more chance there is that our stomach acid is reduced. There is no sense spending good money on vitamins, minerals and other supplements if they will not be digested. And what about food? If stomach acid is low, it would be an idea to have meals in the most digestible forms. Betaine hydrochloride might be #31 on our test kit list but it is #1 to consider.

I wonder if one reason the French with their wine do better because they are acidifying their stomachs. I wonder if a factor in the success of the Mediterranean diet is the amount of herb in the mint family such as basil, oregano, etc. which also prods the stomach into producing acid. Nothing is simple but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep informing ourselves and trying to improve our self-care.

I’m off for my walk — another aid to digestion — besides the fact that I want to look at flowers and waves and trees.

Diane Dawber

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