Dr Neil Gardner, Gleaner Writer
Have you ever experienced that familiar heartburn sensation after eating one of your favourite foods? Well, before you go out and purchase some antacids or take an acid blocking medication think twice; the problem might not be too much stomach acid, but too little.
At the end of the oesophagus, just at the opening to the stomach, there is a ring of muscle, called the lower oeso-phageal sphincter, that controls the passage of food into the stomach. Acid reflux is typically due to a failure in the proper closure of this sphincter, due to a problem with the sphincter itself or a hiatus hernia. This allows the stomach acid to enter the oesophagus, which does not have a protective lining like the stomach, resulting in the characteristic heartburn.
All glands and organs of the body, including the stomach and sphincters are under the control of the autonomic nervous system, which has two modes. The first is the 'rest and digest' mode, in which your digestive system is most active resulting in an increase in the churning activity of the stomach and digestive enzyme secretion, including stomach acid, which facilitates a tighter closure of this sphincter.
The other is called the 'fight or flight' or stress mode, which increases activity of the muscles of your arms, legs, heart and lungs, but shuts down digestion, reduces digestive secretions and relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter. This mode is an emergency mode and is designed to be active only temporarily, during periods of stress.
With this in mind, is it a good idea for us to keep eating lunch at our desks at work or ordering fast food and eating in traffic and then popping an antacid to quench the burn?
When you stop acid production or neutralise the acid in your stomach it causes hypochlorhydria or low stomach acid. Without the trigger of enough stomach acid, the whole digestive system suffers and the potential for causing many other health issues including osteoporosis increases - women beware.
Resistance to infection
Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestines, lower resistance to infection from ingested patho-gens, increased susceptibility to gastric cancers and reduced nutrient absorption are only some of the effects of low stomach acid levels. The domino effect is diminished absorption of calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamin B6 & B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, niacin and protein.
Chiropractic adjustments to the spine have a direct impact on the autonomic nervous system including the regulation of the function of the digestive system and as such may offer a drug-free option to persons suffering from acid reflux and other digestive issues.
It is far better to prevent the situation that causes digestive issues in the first place, than to have to find a way of dealing with its consequences. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Neil Gardner, DC, DACNB Diplomate, American Chiropractic Neurology Board, Chiropractic Neurologist, Gardner Chiropractic & Neurology Ltd. Website: www.gcnjamaica.com. Phone: 876-978-1050-1/876-622-9241/ 214-432-5464 (From the USA)