Most people believe heartburn or acid reflux is caused by too much acid in the stomach.  While this is true for some, most people experience chronic heartburn or acid reflux because they are lacking acid in their stomach. How does this work? The answer is simple.


The environment in your stomach is very acidic. The acid your stomach produces pre-digests your food. Food is only allowed to pass on into the small intestines once it is pre-digested enough. In people lacking stomach acid this process takes more time. Because the food sits longer in your stomach it starts to ferment/putrify. This process creates gasses that go up through the sphincter-muscle of the stomach into the esophagus. Because the stomach environment is still very acidic these gasses will also be acidic and irritate the lining of the esophagus. This will cause a sensation of heartburn.


In a different scenario heartburn is caused by food being forced back up from the stomach into the lower part of the esophagus. Often the cause is lack of stomach acid. The food is not digested enough so the sphincter in between the stomach and small intestines does not open. If the stomach tries to pass its contents on through force they might spill out of the top of the stomach causing acidic irritation. Both scenarios can, over time, cause hiatal hernias.


Acid reflux is usually caused by lifestyle and is a simple problem that most people remedy the wrong way. Antacids or proton pump inhibitors will neutralize the acidic irritation outside the stomach but they will also cause the stomach to produce less acid, which sets you up for a vicious cycle of increasing indigestion.


For people already taking antacids it is important to know that even if their true cause for acid reflux and indigestion is a lack of stomach acid, they can not stop taking their medication cold turkey. It is usually advised to reduce them gradually to avoid severe rebound symptoms. Otherwise the problem may end up being worse than before you started taking the medication. It is very effective to support this process through supervision of a qualified alternative healthcare practitioner.


Lack of stomach acid is called hypochlorhdyria and can lead to:

  • Heartburn
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Sense of “fullness” after eating
  • Bloating/belching
  • Heliobacter Pylori infection leading to stomach ulcers
  • Flatulence immediately after meals
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea, and/or constipation
  • Mineral deficiencies
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency leading to fatigue, poor memory/concentration, depression
  • Itching around the rectum
  • Weak, peeled, and cracked fingernails with ridges


Common causes of hypochlorhdyria are:

  • Stress
  • Drinking with you meals (especially sodas but also water)
  • Antacids/proton pump inhibitors
  • Lack of proper nutrient absorption
  • Vitamin/mineral deficiencies
  • Chronic gastritis
  • Certain autoimmune diseases
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Age
  • Heliobacter

If you found this post helpful or interesting I would love to hear what you think or answer any questions you might have. Please let me know.

In part 2 of this article I will discuss simple strategies to improve your digestion, curing your acid reflux.


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