Heartburn is a common condition that results from what is claimed to be an excess amount of acid in the stomach. Billions of dollars are spent each year on over-the-counter remedies for this condition.
Increased acid production in the stomach is usually attributed to the expansion of the stomach wall that results from eating an excessive amount of food. Symptoms of excess stomach acid are not caused by a particularly low pH of the secretions. The most common causes of heartburn are the failure to reduce the rate of secretion, which results in a large quantity of gastric juice, and a delayed emptying of the stomach.
Heartburn can also occur if the mucosal lining of the stomach is not able to protect the stomach wall from the acid. The stomach needs mucus to protect itself from the acid- and protein-digesting enzymes. Two commonly used herbs that enhance the body’s ability to produce mucus and protect the gastrointestinal tract are Slippery elm and Marshmallow root.
The major goal of both prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies is to reduce or eliminate the production of hydrochloric acid and protein-digesting enzymes. These products relieve symptoms but severely compromise normal digestion and interfere with the delivery of nutrients to the body that is necessary to maintain health.
Antacids prevent digestion in the stomach and transfer the entire stress of digestion to the pancreas. Plant enzymes, on the other hand, relieve the pancreas of some of its digestive burden by reducing the amount of pancreatic secretion required. The digestion accomplished by plant enzymes occurs early enough in the digestive process to trigger a reduction in this secretion. Thus, plant enzymes have the ability to lower stomach acid secretions without compromising the digestive system.
By Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.