Indigestion and heartburn are uncomfortable, burning, sometimes painful sensations felt in the stomach area, shortly after a meal. In MOST CASES this is from an irritation of the stomach lining, but could be a heart attack symptom, which should be ruled out. Chronic indigestion can lead to “reflux” which is a very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous experience of the
stomach contents backing up into the esophagus. The most common treatment for this condition is a drug called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), such as Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid, etc. PPI’s shut off the natural production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, therefore reducing the total acid content and calming the indigestion. This contradicts the way the stomach and digestive system are designed to work. The naturally produced hydrochloric acid is necessary to begin the digestive process. The stomach churns the acid and the food then passes it into the small intestine where the presence of the acid triggers the gallbladder and pancreas to release strong enzymes to further digest the food. A person using PPI’s will not
have the needed acid to trigger this process and might have compromised absorption of needed nutrients. A recent study showed long term use of PPI’s led to an increase risk of bone fractures, thought to happen because they caused a reduced absorption of calcium (Arch. Intern Med 2010;170).
A more natural solution to this problem is to make your stomach MORE ACIDIC by supplementing with betaine hydrochloride, a natural form of stomach acid. Contrary to popular belief, my experience (personal and professional) has shown that indigestion and reflux occur because the stomach has too little acid not too much. As we age, we produce less stomach acid and when we eat there may not be enough in the stomach to have complete digestion so the stomach contents putrefy and generate what I call food acid. This food acid leads to the symptom of reflux and indigestion. If you take betaine hydrochloride with the
meal you are enhancing the digestive process and the bolus of food will move into the small intestine as nature designed.
My personal experience: I take a betaine hydrochloride based digestive aide with every meal. If I don’t, I will have indigestion and reflux. I can relieve these symptoms by using a PPI, but I choose not to risk having the potential detrimental side effects.
Caution: Treating indigestion and reflux with PPI’s or the natural approach of betaine hydrochloride should only be done under the supervision of your physician or health care provider.