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Do you suffer from heartburn? Before you turn to antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and prescription medications, consider: Stomach acid is necessary for proper nutrient absorption, proper digestion, and to prevent bacterial growth.

Heartburn/acid reflux is due to a lack of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid), not too much. There are two valves in the stomach where food enters and exits, the IN valve (lower esophageal sphincter) and the OUT valve (pyloric sphincter). When you swallow food, it passes through the IN valve and enters the stomach, where stomach acid is released along with other enzymes to break down proteins and inhibit bacterial growth. The food is churned in the stomach with the acid and enzymes until it reaches a low enough pH that it activates the OUT valve to continue the digestive process.

If you are not producing enough stomach acid, the food will churn longer and remain in the stomach for hours until it can reach a low enough pH to pass through the OUT valve. As this food churns, its pH is not lowering as much as it should and the IN valve loosens allowing some of the contents to “splash” up into the esophagus causing irritation, AKA “heartburn.”

We tend to look for a quick fix for symptoms, and rarely look to fix the cause. Antacids will ease the symptoms by neutralizing the stomach acid, so you don’t feel heartburn. In return, proteins are not broken down, bacteria are able to grow, digestion is prolonged, and you will not absorb as many nutrients. Unfortunately, people do turn to prescription drugs to ease their reflux symptoms and become dependent on them, unable to stop. Then nutrient deficiencies, bowel disorders, and general fatigue set in, leading to a new list of prescriptions to fix these problems.

Hippocrates Digestive Compound (hydrochloric acid plus papain) is available.