Functional Medicine – What causes poor digestion and Heartburn.
In Functional Medicine digestion is one of the most important body functions that needs to be working correctly. Without proper digestion you can’t absorb the nutrients and use them for your metabolic processes. The first part of digestion takes place in the mouth. This is where everyone can help their digestion, it’s called proper chewing. When the food enters the stomach, the stomach releases hydrochloric acid to help break down the food, especially proteins. According to “Guyton’s Textbook of Medical Physiology”, the pH of the stomach should be between 1.0 and 3.5. The older we get the less stomach acid produced (higher pH). If your pH rises above 4.5 this will not stimulate the small intestine to release secretin. Secretin causes the pancreas to release sodium bicarbonate into the small intestine neutralizing the acid food contents (chyme), therefore you end up with slightly acidic chyme in your small intestine that causes heartburn, and can ultimately lead to a duodenal ulcer. A simple test to see if this modifiable factor of aging is causing your heartburn, is to mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a couple ounces of water and drink it after you eat. If this stops the heartburn, then you know you have a low stomach acid level.
A lack of stomach acid has been associated with food sensitivities. A study of the use of medications to reduce stomach acid has been found to increase food allergies. The FASEB Journal, 2005 stated, “we have demonstrated that anti-ulcer drugs, such as H2-receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors, promote the development of immediate type food allergy toward digestion-labile proteins in mice…Thus, the relative risk to develop food-specific IgE after anti-acid therapy was 10.5 (95% confidence interval: 1.44-76.48).” Medications will do this but if your body doesn’t produce it’s own stomach acid you will increase your risk of food allergies.