Good digestion is essential for health so if you have Heartburn, Acid reflux or GERD ( a chronic condition where some of the contents of the stomach flow back up into the oesophagus and irritate it), or if you suffer from bloating, gas and poor bowel habits you need to correct the core problems and maximise your long-term health.
The essentials for good digestion are;
Digestive Enzymes – we should produce enough digestive enzymes but to do that we need sufficient minerals in our diet. This is a problem these days because of intensive farming and processed foods. Eating plenty of fresh vegetables and some raw will help but sometimes it is necessary to take a supplement of plant based digestive enzymes until you are able to increase your bodies natural production.
Sufficient Stomach Acid – without enough stomach acid food particles do not get broken down enough before being passed into the small intestine. The bacteria in the small intestine cannot completely digest the food and it then passes into the large intestine with undigested particles causing gas, bloating, the growth of unfriendly bacteria and constipation. When the stomach is sufficiently acid a thick mucous wall covers the lining as a protective barrier and this mucous also helps us absorb Vitamin B12 and iron. Therefore when people optimise their stomach acid over time, not only does Heartburn and GERD go away because the LES (Lower esophageal sphincter) gets tighter and more controlled as a natural response to correct acidity levels but their energy goes up as well, due to the absorption of B12 and iron.
Good gut micro-flora – the human gut should be populated by more than 100 trillion microbes that are essential to our digestion and absorption, bowel movements and gut motility, development and maintenance of our immune system and maintaining intestinal wall cell barrier (keeping the bad stuff out).
A Healthy diet – traditionally the recommended healthy diet contained whole-grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, good quality proteins such as eggs, organic meat, fish, nuts, peas, beans and lentils. However, some people find difficulty in digesting grains in bread and cereals as well as beans and lentils. This may mean that it is better to leave them out of your diet, at least until your digestive system has fully healed, or to prepare all grains by soaking them first which reduces the phytic acid. Phytic acid locks onto minerals such as zinc, copper, calcium and iron but in the presence of low stomach acid these minerals cannot then absorbed.
Causes of Indigestion, Heartburn, Acid reflux & GERD are
- low stomach acid
- food allergies and sensitivities
- drugs – especially NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), PPI’s (Proton Pump Inhibitors that decrease stomach acid) and other acidity regulating indigestion medicines.
- certain health conditions – ulcers, gallbladder problems, IBS
- poor diet and lack of minerals
- consuming too much sugar, alcohol or refined carbohydrates
- consuming too much coffee or caffeine
Food and drink for healing the digestive tract
- increase vegetables
- increase probiotic foods – yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir
- avoid too much alcohol or caffeine and try teas that aid digestion; fennel, ginger, camomile etc.
- avoid ice cold drinks, ice creams or sorbets
- cut sugar to a minimum
- take Aloe Vera juice 2-4 oz a day
- try Manuka Honey that which has been widely used to combat H.Pylori overgrowth and heal the stomach lining 1 tsp. twice a day.
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar in warm water (possibly plus a tsp. Manuka Honey) before a meal or as a treatment for Heartburn, as acidity signals the Lower oesophageal sphincter to close tightly.
- eliminate food allergens as these cause inflammation and prevent the digestive system from healing. follow advice for Healing your Gut in previous posts.
- don’t drink too much water especially before or during meals.
Supplements to consider
- L-Glutamine – amino acid that heals mucous membranes
- Vitamin U -actually a healing enzyme found in cabbage so eat cabbage and drink cabbage water or take as a supplement like Gastrazyme (available on Amazon) as short term therapy.
- A good probiotic daily plus Saccharomyces Boulardii (this is especially active against bad bacteria and yeasts)
- a good plant based digestive enzyme combination with meals
- a good plant based mineral supplement daily
- occasionally it may be necessary to supplement with Hydrochloric Acid but I am not personally advocating this as I believe that when these other issues are properly addressed and a more normal balance has been restored the body will produce enough stomach acid.
If nothing seems to help then your medical practitioner should be able to organise further investigations such as:-
Endoscopy, H. pylori testing, Barium swallow and IgG food sensitivity testing.