Everyone’s had a case of heartburn—it’s one of the most common digestive issues people experience. Eating too fast, too much, or the wrong thing can lead to nausea, pain, and some temporary discomfort.
Also called acid reflux, heartburn occurs when stomach acid makes its way up past a tight gate that it shouldn’t, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The acid irritates the esophageal walls, which are not equipped with the lining to handle it, causing symptoms of heartburn to kick in. Once in awhile, it’s no biggie. But if it’s happening regularly, say two-to-three times per week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
It stands to reason that GERD would be the result of having too much stomach acid. But the very opposite might be true. For example, most cases of GERD affect older Americans, but the older you get, the less stomach acid you’re likely to produce.
Too little stomach acid can lead to GERD because it leaves food left undigested and nutrients unabsorbed. This can lead to bacteria forming around the unabsorbed food, which can venture into places it shouldn’t, like your esophagus. Creating more stomach acid, which can be done naturally, may help quell your symptoms and reduce the impact of this nasty, uncomfortable form of indigestion. You can create more stomach acid by:
- Eating slowly and chewing thoroughly: The digestive system kicks into gear the moment you smell food. When you take your first bite, stomach acid and digestive enzymes go into production, but they need a little time. By eating slower, taking smaller bites, and chewing thoroughly, you allow your body more time to get ready to digest and absorb nutrients.
- Limit processed foods: Processed foods and sugars can lead to inflammation and decrease stomach acid production. On the other hand, fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods encourage more stomach acid production.
- Eat fermented foods: Fermented foods like kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut can help stimulate stomach acid production and improve absorption.
- Eat ginger
Treating GERD or reducing the frequency of acid reflux requires a multi-faceted approach, but creating more stomach acid could be for you. There are many causes of the condition, and low stomach acid is just one. If you feel like you may have GERD, talk to your doctor about a holistic approach to treatment.