The second instalment of “Offensive Health” by one of our Affiliated tutors, Austin Burn-Jones. The book is a very accessible and easy to read guide to key areas of our health and wellbeing. Later this year we will be bringing you a one day course, based on the book.
Chapter 2 – Acid vs Alkaline & Reflux
Dump those anti-acids & laxatives
In recent years there has been much talk about ‘Alkalising the body’ as we are apparently ‘too acid’. The obsession with reflux and stomach acid has confused the issue further, with the general public being sold a plethora of ‘Anti-acid’ medications for indigestion, heartburn and reflux.
Within the digestive system there is a deliberate process that starts at a high acidic level (pH 1.5) to break down proteins and heads slowly downwards towards very slightly alkaline (pH 7.5) in the gut for nutrient absorption.
Just like a compost heap it is a delicate matter of keeping the decomposition process just right. A perfectly operating compost heap is warm, breaks down easily and smells ‘slightly sweet and healthy’. A poorly working heap on the other hand becomes just a smelly pile of rotting stuff, which is most unpleasant. The human digestive system works pretty much in the same way.
Blood on the other hand is not about breaking down nor decomposition. It is tightly regulated and hovers just above Neutral pH at between 7.35 – 7.45.
Anti-acids are big business, and the more you take them, the more you are likely to need other medication soon, as quite frankly it completely screws with your natural digestive process. Recent research has confirmed the madness that has been fuelling the ‘reflux revolution’. Ultimately it comes down to Human Biochemistry 101 – the basic stuff we probably all learnt in 1st year Biology, but which for some reason the medical mainstream forgot to learn, or maybe chose to ignore.
When we are in ‘Digest and Repair’ mode i.e. relaxed, our stomach is in just the right position to produce lots of acid to start the process of breaking down the proteins and digest a lovely lunch, which is then passed on to the small intestine where enzymes will break down the carbohydrates etc. Lots of energy is used in the production of these stomach acids, as well as a host of carbonates to protect the stomach lining from the acid. This is why sitting quietly at the dinner table is considerably easier for the body than ‘eating on the run’.
Alternatively, when the body is in ‘Fight or Flight’ mode i.e. Stressed, it shuts down the digestive system because, if we are ‘running away from that Lion’, perfect digestion is not a top priority – running like hell is! Hence all energy reserves go to running NOT producing ‘energy expensive’ stomach acid.
Let me repeat this: Stress means you are not producing stomach acid.
This is the very crux of the matter when it comes to the standard practice of diagnosis and treatment of reflux – it quite simply does not make any sense!
In fact the chances of you producing too much acid even when you are not stressed is as rare as hen’s teeth.
“But I get terrible acid after I eat” I hear you cry.
Yes, indeed you will, but it’s not the body that is doing it, it is the rotting food that has not been broken down properly. What is happening is that there has not been enough acid to breakdown the proteins in the food you have eaten, so when it gets passed to the small intestine the ‘lunch’ is still in a ‘mostly food’ state, which means that it is going off and rotting in the gut. This rotting produces acids and gases which gurgle up back to the stomach and quite often much higher, which can be most unpleasant. So quite naturally you head for the medicine cabinet and break open the Milk of Magnesia or Gaviscon, Rennies etc which will cool that acid down – symptomatically it works a treat, hence why it is such a successful business model.
Unfortunately by neutralising the ph balance of the stomach we will be causing a domino effect. The food will continue to rot. Because it is still in its ‘food’ state it means that a vast majority of its ‘available nutrients’ are not available for the body to absorb. It also means that any allergens that may have been present in the original are also still present as they were not destroyed by the stomach acids. As the food is not broken down properly it will also mean that the rotting food will continue to produce acid and gases through the system which will upset the natural acid/alkaline balance in the gut, which will long term cause harm to the ‘microbiome’ gut flora which are so vital to good health. All these things are likely to add up to flatulence, IBS and constipation (and much more) as well as possible nutritional deficiencies as the body becomes less and less able to access the nutrition from the food.
We should be increasing acids not neutralising them.
“So what about Ulcers?”
This is yet another symptom of a poorly managed and understood digestive system. Fortunately in recent years this has become a much less common problem as was in the last century up until 2010.
Stomach ulcers were always believed to be synonymous with stress and stomach acids – which in one sense they are, but not in the way that was thought.
As stated, if we are stressed, then we don’t produce acid in the stomach. This has a twofold problem. The first is, as previously mentioned, that we aren’t able to break down our food properly. The second is that, under normal circumstances, bacteria and other nasties are kept at bay in the stomach by the presence of these acids, however if we are not producing acids as we are stressed, then the bacteria can build up and become a problem. In particular it has been found that a certain type of bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori has a field day when stomach acids drop below a certain level. One of the key problems is that it proliferates and eats away at the stomach lining.
A stressed person goes on holiday….
This is when ‘not being stressed’ creates the ulcer. As when we calm down, our stomach then produces the acids again. Unfortunately the stomach lining is now damaged by the bacteria and is no longer ‘Acid Proof’ so the area that the bacteria have eaten away suddenly becomes inflamed due to the acid, and bingo we have an ulcer.
It was always thought that it took months for ulcers to form, whereas it is now understood that it can take as little as 48 hours, and if treated correctly, can be sorted in no time – whereas hitherto patients were struggling for years with ulcers and in some cases having completely unnecessary surgery because the treatment was the opposite of what was actually needed.
As counterintuitive as it might sound, the quickest way to resolve acid reflux effectively and long term is to address the lack of acid being produced in the stomach, by increasing it. The source of the problem will most likely be lifestyle and/or job, which long term will have to be dealt with in some way or any treatment plan will just be a short term fix.
The most effective starting point is going to your doctor and having a chat. If he/she starts breaking out the Antacids, tell them to get up to speed or go get a different Doctor. Then go and seek someone who will help you resolve the problem permanently.
The most likely course of action, which in my experience tends to get the most effective results, is that they will check for the ‘offending bacteria’ and, if positive, you will be given a course of Antibiotics (yes I know, I know, but in this case they will do the job it says on the tin) to knock them on the head. After that, in the case of ulcers, a treatment of an amino-acid called Glutamine is often prescribed to help the stomach repair quicker (the cells of the stomach are some of the fastest repairing anyway). Then comes the time to kickstart those stomach acids. This is often done by some tablets that have a combination of Digestive Enzymes coupled with Betaine HCL – which, if you hadn’t figured it out, is a form of hydrochloric acid similar to that found in your stomach.
Initially patients baulk at the very thought of this, but within a few days they get to experience the results – invariably problems that, in some cases, have been the bane of their lives for years, are resolved in a matter of weeks.
Often the simplest solutions get the best results – it just takes a bit of savvy.
So What Now?
Pause….. – Stopping for a few moments prior to eating meals actually gives the stomach and digestive system a little time to prepare for food. It helps the Body and Mind to move from ‘Fight or Flight’ to ‘Digest & Repair’ mode.
Excerpt from ‘The Offensive Health Book’ by Austin Burn-Jones – available at www.thebodycurious.co.uk/books