In the past few years of my career I came across many people suffering with digestive disorders. Our fast paced lives cause us to reach for convenient foods, which are damaging our gut lining.
I decided to look closer for alternatives to drugs and possible diet changes which may help with those problems. The epidemics of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn are caused by not having enough stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and intestines (not as commonly believed too much acid).
It doesn’t matter how much acid there is in the stomach. Even a small amount can cause serious damage. Unlike the stomach, the lining of the esophagus has no protection against acid. Reflux is caused by an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. Common causes would be overeating, obesity, bending over after eating, lying down after eating, and consuming spicy or fatty foods.
But it is also suggested that low stomach acid can contribute to both bacterial overgrowth (independently of carbohydrate intake) and carbohydrate malabsorption. Therefore it is crucial to restore adequate stomach acid production and eliminate bacterial overgrowth.
So what you can do? Read the 8 points below to find out how you can help your gut:
The theory is that the longer chain carbohydrates (disaccharides and polysacharides) are the ones that feed bad bacteria in our guts, while short chain carbohydrates (monosacharides) don’t. All grains, legumes and starchy vegetables should be eliminated, but fruits and certain non-starchy root vegetables (winter squash, rutabaga, turnips, celery root) can be eaten.
2.Fructose and artificial sweeteners
These have been shown to increase bacterial overgrowth. Artificial sweeteners should be completely eliminated, and fructose (in processed form especially) should be reduced.
High fiber diets and bacterial overgrowth don’t mix. Carbohydrates that escape digestion become food for intestinal bacteria (that is 15-20%). Fibre can also bind with nutrients and remove them from the body before they have a chance to be absorbed.
Another way to stimulate acid production in the stomach is by taking bitter herbs. “Bitters” have been used in traditional cultures for thousands of years to stimulate and improve digestion.
Here is a list of bitter herbs commonly used in Western and Chinese herbology:
- Barberry bark
- Gentian root
- Globe artichoke
- Goldenseal root
- Milk thistle
- Yellow dock
It is best to see a licensed herbalist who can prescribe a formula containing several of the herbs above as appropriate for your particular condition.
Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, raw sauerkraut and pickles are traditional remedies that often relieve the symptoms of heartburn and reflux. They are packed with good bacteria.
6.Drinking during meals
It is also important to avoid consuming liquid during meals. Water is known to dilute the concentration of stomach acid and hence slows down digestion.
Restoring a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria is a must due to bacterial overgrowth. Probiotics protect against potential pathogens and are effective in reducing bacterial overgrowth.
Fermented foods have been consumed for their probiotic effects for thousands of years. Small amounts of yogurt and kefir generally have a much higher concentration of beneficial microorganisms than probiotic supplements do. If possible, make kefir and yogurt at home, because the microorganism count will be much higher otherwise go for organic version.
Another option as mentioned before is to eat non-dairy products like sauerkraut and pickles and/or drink a beverage called kombucha (a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea). It is produced by fermenting tea using a “colony of bacteria and yeast”.
Commercial probiotics contain strains (like Lactobacillus acidophilus) that also produce D-lactic acid, so if you are opting for taking probiotic supplements make sure it doesn’t contain this acid.
Homemade bone broth soups are effective in restoring a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach. Bone broth is rich in collagen and gelatin. It’s also high in a non-essential amino acid that is important for the formation of collagen.
Resources and further reading: