Why Do I Have Heartburn?

Acid reflux is often the culprit responsible for heartburn, however, one of the root causes of acid reflux is commonly misunderstood. As a side effect to stomach acid traveling up from the stomach and into the esophagus, heartburn causes a burning/tingling sensation inside the chest.

It is routine practice for someone who is suffering from acid reflux to be told their stomach is producing too much stomach acid. But, as hinted at, that is not always the case for the patients we see at Hill Functional Wellness. We have found that many of our patients suffer from the exact opposite: too little stomach acid.

This being the case, one can imagine that the issue of low stomach acid would be magnified by the common medical intervention like a PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitor, like Prilosec or Prevacid) Proton-pump inhibitors decrease the stomach acid production which can cause symptomatic improvement on occasion, but does not address the reason why acid reflux is present in the first place. Add this to the fact that there is recent scientific evidence that long-term PPI use increases the chance of developing certain liver cancers, and most people find reason enough to try an alternative approach.

What’s the Solution to Heartburn?

We have been able to successfully treat acid reflux cases and even reverse diagnoses of Barrett’s esophagus for some of our patients. But the first step to solving the problem is understanding what’s going on inside the stomach. Through comprehensive blood testing, the identification of improper balances in minerals and nutrients can point towards a budding or well-established problem.

Lab testing is an important first step in addressing a patient’s heartburn concerns. Understanding the inner workings of the body’s physiology can provide a roadmap to finding a solution for a patient. One prime example would be a patient named Elena, who was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous esophagus due to acid reflux. She was placed on a proton-pump inhibitor by her primary care physician in an attempt to stop acid from traveling back up into her throat. When she came to our office, her blood testing revealed a different story.

(Heartburn is often a symptom of acid reflux.)

Elena’s blood work showed an abnormally low level of chloride in her body. The issue here is that stomach acid production relies on the availability of chloride. Because of this deficiency, her stomach wasn’t able to efficiently digest and break down her food. When the contents of the stomach are not digested to the extent that they are ready to be passed on to the small intestine, there is only one other direction they can go.

Back up.

In Elena’s case, the hydrochloric acid in her stomach was coming back up to the base of the esophagus. We decided to place her on a supportive supplement regimen to increase the hydrochloric acid production within her stomach. Three months after starting the treatment plan, Elena no longer suffered from acid reflux or heartburn, and her esophagus had been downgraded from pre-cancerous after a check-up by her gastroenterologist.

While every case is not like Elena’s, addressing and successfully treating acid reflux begins with looking deeper into the issue. More often than not, though, facilitating the production of more stomach acid is much more helpful than the opposite.

How to Avoid Heartburn

Avoiding heartburn often centers around lifestyle choices. The way we treat our bodies will always produce consequences (either positive or negative!), and can result in adverse events like acid reflux. A helpful way to think about how we should support our bodies is by looking at car maintenance. You wouldn’t put unleaded gas in a diesel engine, nor would you travel 50,000 miles between oil changes.

Therefore, to stop acid reflux before it has the chance to begin is to maintain healthy lifestyle choices. Start with these steps:

  • Support your body’s digestive efficiency
  • Incorporate regular exercise
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Limit other irritating factors like spicy or fried foods
  • Eat fresh foods (avoid processed food products)

Are You Looking for a Solution to Your Heartburn?

If you are suffering from heartburn and acid reflux, or just have questions about your current health status, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at our Tempe, Arizona office, and together we will devise an evidence-based action plan that helps your specific issues.