Stomach acid & GERD

Stomach acid & GERD

We see lots of adverts promising to help people with indigestion, GERD and reflux – usually they are offering some form of antacid. Why is this so common and what causes it?

Let’s look at two factors: putrefaction and stress, then how they relate, and then what to do.

Putrefaction. Think a wonderful Jersey summer: think picnics on a hot, humid day, think tuna mayo sandwiches or devilled eggs left out in the sun…. think of that food beginning to ferment and putrefy… well, that’s what happens in your stomach, which is essentially a hot and humid sack, if this part of your digestive process is not working properly.

When food enters your stomach, acid is added. Until a high level of acidity is reached, the food will not be released into the first part of the small intestine.

This doesn’t always happen as quickly as it should.

Trapped food doesn’t just sit there quietly, but starts putrefying and fermenting. When fermentation happens, bubbles are formed… and they go up into your food pipe (oesophagus or gullet).

That’s what causes that burning. This hurts you and harms your gullet walls.

And, when the food finally leaves your stomach, you’re getting a putrefying mass entering your small intestine – urgh!

The effects of that are another story for another time.

Why might this low acid status be happening? One common cause is stress.

Back in the cave-dwelling days, when you were being chased by an animal, your body will have shunted all its resources into making your flight or fight bits work as well as possible.

This will have included stopping digestive processes, including production of stomach acid. Once back in safety and relaxed, digestion would start again.

Scroll forward to 2019: the stresses we have are different and much stress is internalised rather than being run off. Stomach acid production can fall consistently low and we can build up a spiral of heartburn, indigestion, stress and ill health.

Antacids give immediate relief, but actually exacerbate the problem.

So, let that acid in! Eat sitting down and when relaxed; eat real food, including bitter salad leaves; chew food properly; add apple cider vinegar to meals; avoid ‘grazing’; and look at ways to decrease your stress, including simple measures like walking outside and deep breathing.

Employers, you can help by giving space and time for employees to eat properly; you will all benefit.

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Jacqui Carrel is a gut health nutrition consultant; you can contact her on

The Acid Question – Jacqui Carrel – JEP 400 words – 03 April 2019

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