Why Negronis are better for you than Tums
I confess. This post is about acid reflux. But that doesn’t make for a super sexy headline. I promise I will loop back to cocktails though so keep reading.
Heartburn, or acid reflux, is the most common digestive issue in the United States. The leading drugs used to treat acid aim to neutralize or stop the production of stomach acid. The problem is that stomach acid (HCL) is crucial to healthy digestion and what they don’t tell you is that even though the drugs provide temporary relief, they fail to address the fundamental root cause of heartburn.
The long-term use of these drugs can reduce the secretion of stomach acid to near zero, creating dependency on antacids as well as other health issues including osteoporosis, depression, IBS, pneumonia, gastric polyps and even stomach cancer. Tough pill to swallow for us but not so much of a concern for the $14bn antacid drug industry.
What causes acid reflux?
Firstly, acid reflux is not the food police ready to punish you for having coffee for breakfast, spicy fajitas at lunch, and a late night curry. It is a way to alert you to the fact that your digestion is off.
Most people have been led to believe that acid reflux is caused by too much stomach acid. This isn’t true though. The pain you experience is not because you have too much acid. It is because your stomach acid is somewhere that it has no business being.
So why does it hurt? Between the oeshophagus and the stomach there is a one-way valve, which under normal circumstances only allows food to go downwards. There are times however when undigested food causes gas and congestion. This is often a byproduct of too little stomach acid which is not allowing for the correct breakdown of food. The gas forces the stomach contents back up through the valve and when the stomach acid hits the sensitive tissues of the oesophagus it causes discomfort and pain. If left to go on for too long, this can even lead to painful micro-lesions and the weakening of the valve.
5 steps to managing acid reflux more sustainably
Step 1: Repair the damage
A simple tea like Marshmallow Root and Chamomile can work wonders in terms of repairing the delicate membranes that coat your oesophagus. You simply put 1 cup of a 50:50 mix of Marshmallow Root and Chamomile to sit overnight in 1 quart of cold water. In the morning, strain it, and drink it throughout the day for 7 consecutive days.
Step 2: Increase stomach acid production
If all this trouble stems from too little stomach acid, how do we get it back up?
1) Every morning upon waking, take the magic combination of: 1 tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar + juice of half a lemon + 1 tsp honey + ¼ cup warm water.
2) Take “bitters” 20 mins before meals. Like cocktail bitters? Well, if that’s what you have, yes. Bitters were put into cocktails for taste but also to aid digestion either before a meal as an “aperitif” or after the meal as a “digestif”. The bitter taste on our tongue triggers the production of digestive enzymes and HCL in our stomach. Ideally though, you’d want to get some medicinal digestive bitters like my absorption formula.
3) Eat more bitter tasting food. Channel the European in you and start including bitter greens in your salads like dandelion, chicory, arugula, watercress, endive, radicchio, and a simple vinaigrette (3 parts olive oil, 1 part vinegar, salt and pepper).
Step 3: Soothe the nervous system
Our guts produce the hormones that govern our happiness. If our brain is for thinking, our stomachs are for feeling. No digestive troubles can truly be separated from emotional upset. “Bitters”, in addition to releasing enzymes, also help people let go of pent up emotions. They help soothe and dispel anxiety. So take some time to ponder which emotions you are not taking the time to digest.
Step 4: Repopulate the gut with good bacteria
If someone has been on antacids for a while they are probably experiencing some form of bacterial dysbiosis in their gut. Taking a 2-week course of high quality probiotics can prove beneficial as well as supplementing the diet with fermented foods like apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut or Kimchi.
Step 5: Eat mindfully
When we prepare food, or can smell it cooking, our body has the time to start secreting the digestive enzymes it needs to break down the meal. These days, most of us eat breakfast on the go, lunch at our desks and dinner entertained by Netflix. At best we are simply distracted, at worse we are stressed and in full “fight or flight mode” when we are eating. Our body doesn’t even realize it is supposed to be digesting.
Two small things can make a huge difference.
1) Chewing. We tend to forget our stomachs don’t have teeth.
2) Stepping away from the screens while we eat. Stop multi-tasking and take the time to acknowledge your food as it is about to become part of you. This food is a gift from the whole Universe, the Earth, the Sun, the rain and much hard human labor. It deserves 10 mins of your undivided attention.
If you want more recipes and rituals to keep you healthy in a stressful world, please sign up to the monthly newsletter.