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  • Writer's pictureLiz Riesen, RD

Heartburn and Poor Digestion, What's the Cause?

Many people with poor digestion, poor absorption, or other chronic symptoms unknowingly have low stomach acid production (hypochlorhydria) or achlorhydria (lack of stomach acid).

Heartburn is a common symptom for both high stomach acid and low stomach acid. If food sits in the stomach too long because of a lack of acid to break it down, the food will often "reflux" back up into the esophagus, just like it does in cases of too high stomach acid. If misdiagnosed as high levels of stomach acid, a person may start to take an acid suppressant (PPI). This type of medication will further deplete levels of stomach acid.

Other common symptoms of low stomach acid include:

  • feeling full quickly

  • feeling uncomfortably full for hours after a meal

  • constipation

  • diarrhea

  • undigested food in stool

  • oily or loose stools from fat malabsorption

  • vitamin deficiencies

Symptoms are your body’s way of communicating. Treating the root cause is the only way to heal the body and stop the symptom – this is never a “quick fix” but a guided regimen.

Low stomach acid puts us at risk for other health consequences:

Food Sensitivities

– Proteins that are not properly broken down are more likely to cause damage to our intestinal lining and create an antigenic response from our immune cells that lie just outside our gut lining. This leads to food sensitivities.

Nutrient Malabsorption

– Stomach acid is necessary for our stomach to break down animal proteins and extract vitamin B12. It is common for people to start avoiding animal meats because they cannot properly digest without sufficient stomach acid. Other commonly depleted nutrients are iron and calcium.

Pathogen Infection from our Food

– Stomach acid helps sterilize our food by killing off potential infecting pathogens, such as parasites, virus, and harmful bacteria.

Bacterial Overgrowth

– Without stomach acid to kill off bad bacteria, they will feed on undigested proteins in the intestinal tract leading to an overgrowth. These bad bacteria prefer fast, simple sugars and will often cause GI distress when diet changes to an increase in fiber.

Want to know if your digestion is optimal?

Work with a health practitioner who will take all aspects of your health into account including your symptoms, health history, medications, supplements, diet, environment, and lifestyle.

Want to have testing completed?

As a Registered Dietitian, I work with clients to dig deeper and determine what is underlying and contributing to their symptoms. I work with you every step of the way to treat and heal your body naturally. If you are interested in working together, or you have questions regarding working with a dietitian, get in touch with me. I'm happy to help!

Stay Healthy, Comfortable, and Confident!

Liz Riesen, RD


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