Smorgasbord Health Column – Family Health A-Z – Acidity in the digestive system – Acid Reflux – Triggers and Diet by Sally Cronin


Although the focus has been on Covid this last year… there are still other health issues that have not gone away. Many are improved with simple treatments and dietary changes and in this series I am going to look at some of the more common issues.

I know that many of you who follow the blog will have seen the following post before but for those new to Smorgasbord, I hope you find useful.

Acidity in the digestive system – Acid Reflux – Stomach Acid, Hiatus Hernia Triggers and Diet

If you suffer from Acid Reflux it is usually not easy to pinpoint the source as it can be the result of issues along the upper digestive tract and also the way we eat our food… For example if you normally bolt your food without chewing sufficiently and coating the food in saliva, the digestive process is not begun until it gets to the stomach.. which is too far along the tract to be effective.

If you suffer from acid reflux regularly and are downing antacids to reduce the effects you are throwing gas on the fire..

The Body is pretty impressive when it comes to processing food but even in struggles with our modern diet.

You usually do not get acid reflux from eating freshly cooked meat, poultry, chicken and vegetables even with a bit of fat on them.

The problem is the amount of processed foods we douse our foods in before putting in our mouths and then not leaving long enough for sweet desserts or even fresh fruit.

Sugars don’t mix well with meats, especially late at night as the body struggles to digest a Vindaloo curry and a couple of glasses of red wine or beer. If you lie down to try and sleep following this combination, the body won’t be able to cope and acid reflux is likely from a mild belch to a very uncomfortable and painful sensation at the top of the stomach or a burning sensation in our oesophogus.

If you suffer from acid relux often then I suggest reading about the process and making sure that you are eating with your body in mind and taking your time.

The digestion of our food starts before it even enters our mouths.

Actually the digestive process starts in the nasal passages – remember how it feels to smell fresh baked bread, the BBQ or a curry. The saliva starts to build up in your mouth – which is why we call it ‘mouth-watering’. As soon as that process begins – we are ready to eat and digest the food. Interestingly enough, people who have a reduced or non-existent ability to smell rarely become obese!

Food has to be chewed before it is presented to the rest of the digestive tract. The tongue will roll the food around the mouth so that the teeth can begin the process of breaking it down into manageable pieces.

One of the key elements of efficient digestion is how we chew our food. Most of us eat far too quickly, not allowing the teeth to produce small enough pieces of food or our saliva and enzymes to carry out their part in the process.

Chewing slowly has the added benefit of allowing a message to get through from the stomach to the brain to tell it that you are full and to stop eating. This not only helps us maintain a healthy weight but it also reduces the stress and pressure on the digestive system.

N.B If you have elderly relatives it is important to make sure that they have regular dental care and if they have dentures they fit properly. The inability to chew food means that they will tend to drop certain foods from their diet and begin to suffer from nutrient deficiencies, particular B vitamins that are in whole grains and meats.

The salivary glands

The salivary glands at the base of the tongue produce an enzyme called ptyalin that digests starch and a chemical called Lysozyme that sanitises the food to prevent infection both in the mouth and the digestive tract. It is hard to believe but the human adult will produce in the region of 1½ litres of saliva per day consisting of mucous and fluid. It is important that the mouth is kept very moist not only for comfort but to enable us to deal with dry foods allowing it to be chewed more easily. It is also essential once food has been chewed, to ease the next stage of the digestive process when food is swallowed.

There are a number of salivary glands positioned in the mouth the largest being the parotids, in the neck, just in front of the ears. The glands that excrete the most saliva are under the jaw. These are the submandibular glands. And finally, under the tongue in the floor of the mouth are the sublinguals. The amylase enzyme produced by these glands converts the carbohydrate we eat into disaccharide sugars for further processing later in the stomach and intestines. (If you want to witness this in action, wave a cooked sausage in front of a dog’s nose and place their jaw over a basin!)

The oesophagus

The oesophagus takes the food down into the stomach by a series of rhythmic contractions of its extremely effective muscles called peristalsis. At the other end of the oesophagus is a sphincter, which opens and closes the opening into the stomach and prevents food from returning upward to the mouth.

The stomach

The stomach forms a balloon or sac and is the widest part of the digestive tract. The oesophagus enters through the oesophageal sphincter and exits through the pyloric sphincter at the entrance to the duodenum.

Like most of our organs the stomach is made up of specific layers that play a role either in its physical functionality or its chemical contribution to the digestive process.

The external layer of the stomach consists of layers of muscles lying in longitudinal and circular directions to ensure maximum flexibility and strength. This muscle layer is lined with a membrane called the epithelium housing the gastric glands that will produce gastric juice. This juice is a mixture of acid and enzymes without which we would be unable to process food at all or extract the vital nutrients we require to survive. Normally we would produce in the region of 3 litres of gastric juice a day which is perfect for a normal diet but inadequate for the majority of people who eat in excess of their daily requirements on a regular basis. If food is not processed thoroughly it can lead to complications as it enters the intestines causing constipation and in some cases blockages.

Acid reflux and chronic heartburn

Most of us have experienced heartburn at some point in our lives, usually following a really good night out but for many people this digestive problem is a daily occurrence.

The most common cause of heartburn, is acid backing up into the oesophagus from the stomach. Normally this would be prevented by a flap, the Lower Oesophageal Sphincter (LES), at the bottom of the digestive tract that allows food into the stomach but prevents partly digested contents from returning back up into the tube.

If it happens occasionally after a particularly heavy meal or too much alcohol then it is not a major problem but if it is happening frequently then you should go to your doctor and ask him to check for any physical reason for the problem.

The most common symptoms are a feeling that food is caught in the throat producing a choking or gagging reflex. The throat might feel tight and there is a burning in the chest, which could be accompanied by difficulty in swallowing and breathing difficulties.

Apart from a faulty oesophageal sphincter there is a possibility of a hiatus hernia. Hiatal or hiatus hernias are also known as diaphragmatic hernias. They occur when the upper part of the stomach is above the diaphragm, the muscle wall that separates the stomach from the chest. When the muscle tissue around the hiatus becomes weak, the upper part of your stomach may bulge through the diaphragm into your chest cavity. The diaphragm helps the LES keep acid from coming up into the oesophagus. So when a hernia is present, it is easier for the acid to come up.

In this way, a hiatus hernia can cause reflux or heartburn.

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This malformation can occur in people of any age and most people over 50 have a small one but it is a more common problem in women and anyone who is overweight.

The typical symptoms are a chest pain just below the breast bone that develops over the period of a few minutes. Some say that it mimics what might be a heart attack, usually it will pass in a few minutes but it can last for 15 minutes or longer. It is very painful and if you have been experiencing this regularly then you should go to your doctor to have it checked.

It is more likely to happen after eating a large meal, topped off with a sugar dessert that has increased the acid in your stomach. Lying down is not a good idea as this makes it easier for the acid to build up and push the top of the stomach through the sphincter as the bottom of the oesophogus.

Try pushing down firmly just below the breast bone and if that eases the symptoms it might well be a hiatus hernia.

There are some foods that have been identified as possible triggers for frequent acid reflux and heartburn attacks and these are:

  • Citrus fruits (not lemons)
  • Caffeine based drinks – such as coffee, tea and soft drinks
  • Fried or fatty foods
  • Onions
  • Spicy food
  • High sugar intake such as a rich dessert after a heavy meal

If you are a long term sufferer of heartburn and acid reflux, then it is a good idea to eliminate all of the above for two to three weeks and see if there is an improvement by monitoring your symptoms carefully and writing them down each day. That way it is easier to identify if there is a particular food outside of these that is causing you a problem.

Eat little and often to prevent overfilling your stomach at any one time and do not drink excessive fluids immediately before or during a meal.

Take a gentle walk after eating and don’t lie down for two to three hours after eating.

This means eating earlier and it might be helpful to lie slightly propped up in bed when sleeping.

Peptic ulcer

A peptic ulcer is a sore or hole in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Look away if you are squeamish.

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People of any age can get an ulcer and women are affected just as often as men. The major cause of a peptic ulcer is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H.Pylori) and it is estimated that over 60% of us over the age of 60 have it, in varying strengths, in our stomachs.

The bacteria weaken the protective mucous coating on the walls of the stomach and the duodenum or small intestine. Acid from the stomach is then allowed to reach the delicate lining underneath the mucous where it irritates the tissue causing a sore or ulcer.

H.Pylori secretes an enzyme that neutralises the stomach acid allowing it to survive and reach the lining and its spiral shaped cells are perfect for burrowing through the mucous and tissues.

The most obvious symptom of an ulcer is a dull ache that is usually intermittent and is most noticeable three or four hours after eating a meal. It can occur when the stomach is also empty which is why many sufferers experience an attack in the middle of the night. Often the act of eating will relieve the symptoms particularly if the food is alkaline forming, rather than acidic, and I have put together a list of foods that are either alkaline or alkaline forming in this chapter.

If the problem is not diagnosed and treated then the symptoms can become very much worse with weight loss, bloating, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.

It is important that if the pain becomes very sharp and persistent and there is blood in either stool or vomit that you seek emergency treatment immediately as it could indicate that the ulcer has perforated.

Normally if you have H.Pylori it is treated with antibiotics but you can help reduce the efficiency of the bacteria by including anti-bacterial foods and herbs on a daily basis. One of the alternative therapies that I recommend for Candida is grapefruit seed extract and this taken three times a day before food can be effective. Onions, garlic, shitake mushrooms, Aloe Vera and green tea are also excellent.

Raw Cabbage Juice

If you are in for a culinary treat! Raw cabbage juice has quite the reputation for sealing peptic ulcers. I have experimented when I have had acid on a regular basis some time ago, and I have to say worked well. However, because of the potential dangers of a peptic ulcer, if you have severe pains in the stomach, do not hesitate – go straight to the Doctor.

As an alternative to antacids which I will cover later in the post, cabbage juice for me is the preferable option.

Recipe.

If you do not have a juicer, Wash three large cabbage leaves and chop finely, added to half a litre of cold water in a blender – blend well – strain the juice off and keep in fridge. Drink about 6 oz., 30 minutes before eating lunch and dinner. It takes about 3 days for the acid to subside.

The pulp actually is quite tasty with a little seasoning and a bit of butter to go with your dinner….Plenty on the web about cabbage juice so I suggest you explore.

Antacids.

Whilst we all reach for these when we have had a heavy night of eating and drinking, or in some cases before, they should never be taken long term. Even the FDA who can be slow to react to potential hazards issued warnings. There is an increased risk of bone fractures and dementia – antacids are typically made from the following ingredients – Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), calcium carbonate, aluminium hydroxide, magnesium carbonate and/or magnesium hydroxide – some of which can affect bone density and you should be careful if you already have kidney and liver problems.

There are also concerns for over use of antacids in the digestive process. If you reduce your gastric acid below an optimum level, you are going to reduce its digestive efficiency and this means that food is entering the intestines in the wrong consistency – apart from causing intestinal health problems the nutrients will not be extracted at this stage of the process either. This leads to nutritional deficiency and the diseases associated with that.

  • For the occasional heartburn, keep some bicarbonate of soda on hand – one teaspoon in warm water.
  • I find that drinking peppermint tea between meals helps me but everyone is individual and you will have to experiment with both diet and lifestyle.

Milk is sometimes recommended to line and reduce the acid in the stomach, but after a couple of hours the milk will turn rancid and add to the acid burden.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2021

 

Thanks for visiting and I am always delighted to receive your feedback.. stay safe Sally.

 

Turning Back the Clock serialisation – Chapter Two – Acid Balance in the body


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CHAPTER TWO – ANTI-AGING AND A HEALTHY BODY REQUIRES THE CORRECT PH BALANCE.

Health and energy and long life all begin with a correct pH balance. The pH balance refers to the acidity or alkalinity of every living organism. The scale for measuring this balance is called Potential for Hydrogen or pH balance and each system or organ has its optimum balance for health. The scale goes from 0 to 14 with 7.0 being neutral with anything above 7 as alkaline and anything below 7 being acidic. Each step up or down is ten times the previous which means that even a change of .1 will have an effect on your body.

For example human blood stays in a very narrow pH range between 7.35 and 7.45. If the balance goes either side of this there will be varying symptoms of disease. In fact if the pH level drops too much below 6.8 or above 7.8 the heart can stop.

This illustrates how critical this level of acidity and alkalinity is for our health.

If you already have a health problem

If you have a health problem you are very likely to be acidic. Some of the early symptoms are acid after eating, acne, panic attacks, cold hands and feet, food allergies, bloating, mild headaches and fatigue. Sound familiar?

More acute symptoms are cold sores, depression, migraines, asthma, hives, and urinary infections (urine pH should be between 7.0 and 7.2. Under 5.3 you cannot absorb vitamins and minerals), hair loss, fungal infections and numbness and tingling.

Advanced symptoms are the diseases such as Crohn’s disease, MS, Leukaemia, Peptic ulcers, Cancer (thrives in a balance of 4.5 to 5.0), Hodgkin’s Disease, Tuberculosis, Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoporosis.

For example, an aging problem that both men and women are likely to experience is osteoporosis. One of the primary causes of osteoporosis is a lifetime of eating too much daily protein and refined sugars. This is very acid forming and necessitates the body continually pulling calcium from the bones to buffer this acidity. Animal protein is somewhat worse than vegetarian protein foods, but all exert an acidic effect. Eating a diet high in processed foods that contain a high sugar content also results in an increase in high acidity.

Too much acid will decrease the energy production in the cells and the ability to repair damaged cells. The body is unable to detox heavy metals and allows tumour cells to thrive. It will also cause a depressed immune system leaving the body wide open to infections.

As we age, we gradually dry up at the cellular level. As we get older cells get thicker. As a result the amounts of vital nutrients and oxygen brought into them declines while the amount of toxins and metabolic waste products increases. The end result is loss of youthful cell function and the start of degenerative diseases and a steady aging process.

What causes too much acid in the body?

An acidic balance occurs from eating an acid forming diet, stress, toxicity in our environment and lack of absorption of alkaline forming minerals. If the body cannot get enough alkaline forming minerals such as calcium from the diet it will borrow from our reserves, namely the calcium stored in the bones which leads to osteoporosis.

All food is burned to an ash in the body. Food ash is neutral, acid or alkaline depending on the mineral content of the food. To be considered alkaline forming the minerals sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium are predominant. If it is acidic forming the ash will contain sulphur, phosphorus and chlorine.

To be healthy the body needs to be in the ratio of 4 – 1. Four parts alkaline and one part acid.

Just because a food is acid to begin with does not mean that it is acidic forming once it has gone through the digestive process. For example, a lemon is citrus and acidic but the ash it produces is alkaline.

There are some physical causes for an acid build up in the stomach that can then lead to a disruption in the acid balances in other systems of the body. Eating too much at one time can result in inadequate processing in the stomach. We are all familiar with that overstuffed feeling that we get when we have eaten too much. If you eat too fast you can compound this problem and the stomach is simply not large enough nor can it produce sufficient processing power to deal with the amount of food in a short space of time.

We have also lost the art of relaxing after a meal, rushing around trying to cope with modern life does zero for the digestive process. I am sure that we can all remember when we were children that we were never allowed to swim or run around for at least two hours after a main meal. Digestion takes a great deal of energy and if you divert that energy towards vigorous exercise, food is not processed properly leading to stomach cramps and increased acidity.

Eating plan for acidity/alkaline balance if you are already experiencing high acidity related health problems that are making you feel older than you are!

It is important that you eat regularly and moderately to provide you with the nutrients that you require and to allow your body to process those nutrients to make them as accessible as possible for your body.

Your main meals are breakfast, lunch and dinner with three snacks in between depending on your energy requirements. The older we get the less we need to snack between meals especially if they are sugary in nature. Main meals should consist of some wholegrain or vegetable carbohydrate, animal or plant protein and a small amount of healthy fats. Always chew food slowly and if you put your knife and fork down between each mouthful you should be eating at the correct pace. If there is someone in your family who always finishes their meal after you then make it a point to slow down so that they finish first.

After a heavier than normal meal always try and relax for at least half an hour before moving around and certainly leave at least two hours before rigorous exercise.

Drinking a small cup of peppermint tea after a meal will aid digestion and it is better to eat fruit as a starter rather than a dessert as it digests much quicker than any other food. If you eat fruit within half an hour of a heavy meal it can cause a disruption to the digestive process.

Intermittent Fasting is also a way to allow your digestive system to process foods thoroughly over sixteen hours whilst you eat within the other 8 hours. If you are not hugely active then eating two main meals with a small amount of fruit as a snack is quite easy to get used to and has been shown to reduce the risk for diseases such as diabetes.

Foods that should be avoided.

Foods have different acid and alkaline properties. Some are acidic in the mouth but form alkaline ash; others are so heavily processed that they will turn to acidic ash in the stomach. If you suffer already from acid reflux or peptic ulcers you should follow the following recommendations as strictly as possible. This also applies if you have some of the more common degenerative diseases such as arthritis as an acid environment is perfect.

If you would simply like to ensure the correct pH balance in your body then you can adopt a 60/40 approach and ensure that acid forming foods are only included in your diet once a day. If you suffer from any chronic diseases then for the next six weeks I suggest you follow these guidelines. Make a note in any change in symptoms and if you find that they have improved then this ratio is something you might like to stay with longer term.

Very, very acidic ash forming foods that should be totally avoided are

All soft drinks, More than a cup of coffee per day especially with cream and sugar combined, alcohol in general but particularly cheap wine and beer, refined sugars in commercially produced white flour bread, cakes, sweets and biscuits and artificial sweeteners.

Salt should be used very sparingly, as it is acid forming as well as raising blood pressure.

Very acidic forming foods that can be included 20% of your daily diet are:

Chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, lamb, beef, pork and other lean proteins.

Oranges (nectarines are okay)

Moderately acidic forming foods that can be included up to 30% of your daily diet.

Wholegrains, brown rice, corn, oats, lentils, walnuts, rye, wholegrain pastas, sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, good quality wines, organic fresh coffee, yoghurt, milk and cheese. Slightly Acidic cranberries and all the beans.

ALKALINE FOODS THAT CAN BE INCLUDED FREELY EVERY DAY. (note that although some of these fruits contain natural fruit sugar they are alkaline. If however you are pre-diabetic or diabetic then you sould limit your fruit intake to one piece per day. Also avoid high sugar juices and instead substitute vegetables.

Figs, olives, apricots (dried as snack three), avocados, carrots, Spinach, Cabbage, Dates (three on salads), kiwis, limes, raspberries, strawberries, asparagus, bananas, celery, beetroot, melon, lettuce, parsley, pineapple, pomegranate (if available) nectarines, cherries, grapefruit, tomatoes, cucumber, cauliflower, lemons, string beans, peaches, mushrooms (shitake if not too expensive), watermelon, courgettes, apples and pears.

Are most fruit and vegetables alkaline forming?

Yes they are which is why I so often encourage people to move to a much higher level of vegetables and moderate fruit content in their diet. Ideally 80% of your diet should be unprocessed, fresh and preferably raw foods. However we are not going to go that far to begin with so I have set a 20% guideline for animal proteins, 30% for grains etc. and 50% for fruit and vegetables.

Some other neutral foods that you can use in moderation in the 20% field are the oils and butter and milk. These are classified, as neutral but should be used carefully if you are hoping to lose some weight.

What about sauces for foods? It is much better to make your own sauces from natural ingredients. It is the sugars in processed sauces that cause much of the acid effect. You can use olive oil or a little butter on vegetables and make salad dressings with olive oil and herbs. I find now that sauces, unless they are very light have become very cloying and take away the natural taste of the food.

PUTTING THE PLAN INTO PRACTICE.

lemons

A really good alkaline start to the day is the juice of half a lemon in hot water. Despite being an acid fruit, lemons are alkaline forming and also get your intestines moving.

Rotating your foods is always a good idea as most of us can build up an intolerance to foods that we eat every day and this can have an acidic effect on the body. I have given you some guidelines for rotating certain foods such as carbohydrates to not only get the maximum benefit from them but to also minimise any intolerances you might have.

CARBOYDRATES. SHOULD BE 30% OF YOUR DAILY INTAKE.

wholegrainsThe latest word from some of the experts in the field of nutrition is that you should drastically limit your grains in your diet. There is certainly evidence to suggest that a high intake of refined grains are not beneficial and lead to health problems. However, there is one very good reason for that. They are industrially produced and contain little nutrition, too many additives and usually a lot of added sugar. If you eat a great deal of cookies, processed white bread, certain breakfast cereals and cakes you will be ingesting sugars which are highly acidic.

A proportion of your diet should include wholegrains that have been minimally processed so that you obtain all the nutrition including B-vitamins that are stripped when refined. You also need the fibre they contain and by eating wholegrains you can reduce your protein levels and help reduce their acid content.

Suggested Carbohydrates

Whole-wheat or wholegrain bread, whole-wheat Pitta breads, shredded wheat, whole-wheat pasta, Rye Crisp breads, Pumpernickel, mashed parsnip. Cornflakes, Corn Tortillas, Porridge oats, sugar free muesli, Brown Rice, oatcakes, potatoes.

As you will see I have grouped these together in approximate wheat, corn, rice and oat days with the occasional potato thrown in. If you have a wheat intolerance only eating it every 4 to 5 days may well help you with any related allergy symptoms.   Your body is designed to remove toxins from the body efficiently provided you are only eating them every four or five days.

PROTEINS AND FATS. ROTATE THESE SO THAT YOU ARE ONLY HAVING THEM AT LEAST 3 OR 4 DAYS APART. SHOULD ONLY BE 20% OF YOUR DAILY INTAKE. We need protein and also some acid forming foods in our diet otherwise the balance goes too far the other way. We also need healthy fat and apart from extra virgin olive oil, lean protein with a little fat is not harmful. If you do not suffer from arthritis or acid digestive problems, eating a little more lean protein should not be a problem.

salmon

Lean meat beef, lamb, fish both healthy fat varieties such as salmon and white fish, chicken, turkey, Feta cheese, eggs etc.

Try to have red meat only once a week.

Try to get organic if you can but good quality anyway.

Use olive oil for cooking and on bread wherever possible.

Use butter as a spread rather than hydrogenated margarine.

For snacking eat walnuts (14 per day), almonds, Seeds such as pumpkin (all unsalted).

Use avocado a couple of times a week as a vegetarian alternative. You can also use tofu but watch any fat it is mixed with.

Avoid salted processed meats such as bacon and ham except for once a week.

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES. MINIMUM 50% OF DIET. RAW WHENEVER POSSIBLE.

Eat what you like from the list of alkaline forming foods above.

If you like to drink fresh fruit juice, unsweetened are best – they are available freshly squeezed in the supermarket or make at home, but need to be drunk on the day. I do suggest especially if you are trying to lose weight that you dilute with some sparkling mineral water, halving the sugar content. Most fruit juices are made with the higher sugar variety including oranges which burns to an acid ash. I suggest going with vegetable juices such as carrot.

Drink plenty of water, herbal teas etc. and what you like from the list of alkaline forming foods above.

N.B The above guidelines are suggested to reduce your acidity especially if you are already experiencing related chronic diseases such as arthritis. After six weeks you should experience more energy, better skin tone and less of the aches and pains we associate with getting older.

Make a note of your symptoms such as joint pain, headaches, lack of energy at this point and then make a note of how you are feeling each week. I would be interested to get your feedback at the end of the six weeks.

Thanks for dropping by and sorry for the long Chapter.. Chapter One can be found here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/turning-back-the-clock-serialisation-anti-aging/

©sallygeorginacronin Turning Back the Clock 2016.

Please leave your comments and hit a few share buttons.. would be grateful and thanks. Sally