First, I'll start with a "normal" scenario, and then point out where danger is in suppressing acid and how to fix the real problem.
The whole process of digestion starts even before you take a bite. The thought of food, even smelling it as it cooks in anticipation increases the digestive enzymes secreted in your saliva, (like Pavlov's dog) and also triggers the stomach to secrete more acid, to prepare for digestion. The circular muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus is called the lower esophageal sphincter, and it is controlled partly by the levels of acid in the stomach. With low acid, the sphincter is relaxed. High acid, tight sphincter. This makes sense because if there is high levels of acid in the stomach there is probably food there, so you would want to close off the opening to prevent the food and acid from working it's way out the top and damage or "burn" the esophagus.
So what happens when an acid suppressing drug is used? The levels of acid decrease in the stomach, but you still have to eat. But how is the body supposed to digest and break down food without one of it's main tools, stomach acid? Well it can't, at least not very well. For example, many minerals like calcium and iron are only absorbed when there is enough acid levels in the stomach. If stomach acid levels are low, minerals can not be absorbed. If this make "TUMS with Calcium" sound a little ridiculous, you get the idea. I don't have to tell you the long list of problems that can result from low mineral levels: brittle bones, weakened immune system, weakened heart and cardiovascular system, poor sugar handling, etc. So this idea of inadequate stomach acid is no little matter. It is of huge importance when trying to get back to the basics of health. If you cannot digest and assimilate nutrients, you will never reach very high levels of health and vitality. Period. It's often been said that health begins in the gut.
An effective natural approach to resolving heart burn or acid reflux usually includes improving digestion, not shutting it down. To do that many people have experienced relief by taking diluted apple cider vinegar (with mother) in the morning or before meals. Instead of ranch dressing on your pre-meal salad, how about a little vinegar and olive oil?
Setting aside a legitimate amount of time to eat instead of eating on the run is vital as well. If you are never sitting down to relax and eat, even if just for meal time, then it will be very difficult for your body to muster the resources, including stomach acid and digestive enzymes, to make the most of what you are eating.
Sometimes though, more needs to be done to put the digestive system back on track. That's usually when people come into our office and for them we utilize several approaches to restoring normal digestion. These may include nutritional products, dietary recommendations or healthy lifestyle modifications. All of our approaches are both cost effective, powerful, and time tested. If you want to find out more, call the office anytime and I'd be happy to speak with you, or, you can schedule yourself a complimentary consultation with me.