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Reflux – a sour taste in your mouth

Whole Naturopathy / Digestion  / Reflux – a sour taste in your mouth

Reflux – a sour taste in your mouth

Whilst most people will experience reflux with extreme fullness occasionally, often with overeating (think Christmas day!), some people experience this daily.

What’s going on?

In healthy digestion, food enters the stomach via the oesophagus through a valve called the lower oesophageal sphincter, which opens only to let food in, then it closes again. Reflux occurs when this sphincter opens at other times and lets food or stomach acid through, often causing a burning pain in the oesophagus or an acid taste in the mouth.

Why stomach acid is so important?

The acid in your stomach plays a very important role in breaking up foods, killing bacteria (along with other foreign substances like bugs 😊). The stomach is an amazing organ in that the acid can destroy human cells and will burn anywhere else in the body, but the lining of the stomach prevents it from destroying the stomach itself.

The problem with antacids

What most people do when they have reflux, is to take an antacid. This makes sense, of course, since at first glance, the problem is too much acid in the oesophagus. What can happen here though, is that further problems develop because they haven’t treated the cause. The acid is really important in breaking up foods and low stomach acid can lead to reduced digestion. This means that the food sits in the stomach for longer, placing increased pressure on the sphincter, which in turn can lead to increased reflux.

What you actually want to do, is be sure that your stomach has enough acid, strengthen the sphincter, and heal the oesophagus if it has been damaged by the acid. Another important point is that your body produces less acid as you age, so extra care is required as time goes by.

How to increase acid production

Stomach acid is produced when your nervous system is in ‘rest and digest’ mode as opposed to ‘fight or flight’ mode, which I have talked about previously.  So eating in a calm environment when you’re not in a hurry is a great starting point. Your body will also produce more acid when you think about food or smell food. This happens when you walk past a restaurant, smell the food and your stomach starts gurgling – it’s increasing the stomach acid ready for digestion. Another thing you can do this by stopping work or other distractions 15 minutes or so before eating and think about and smell the food you are about to eat.

What else can I do?

Sometimes it can be helpful to add acid by drinking lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in a little water just before you eat. Be careful not to drink too much water with meals though, as this can dilute the acid in your stomach and make digestion harder, you’re best to drink water away from food by 1 hour. Bitter herbs can stimulate your body to produce more stomach acid and are best taken 15-20 minutes before eating.

If you get really stuck, or are already taking medications to reduce your stomach acid, it can be helpful to take digestive enzymes with food so that your body has lots of acid with meals to digest them, then low acid in between. This can also help with other digestive issues such as fullness or pain. There are also some great herbs to heal the lining of the oesophagus if it has been damaged by the acid.

If you can follow your way to the cause of your health issues, you can go much further with your treatment. If you need help in choosing the right digestive enzymes or further support, contact us.


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