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Burn, Baby, Burn: A Remedy for Heartburn

Updated on May 17, 2009

Burn, Baby, Burn

This is an excerpt from an article I wrote about heartburn a couple of years ago.

You've eaten dinner and only a few minutes seems to pass before your enjoyment of the meal turns to disappointing discomfort. The antacids are in your pocket (ahem, Dad... hope you're reading this) and you pop 'em. They look like candy. They don't taste bad. And they help! They really help! It's not like I've never taken a TUMS before, but what I've learned this evening reminds me why nothing should ever be a constant habit, a chronic consumption...

Antacids block acid from forming and they also contain minerals. Don't let the "extra calcium" fool you into thinking that this is a good thing! What makes you think that the calcium is going where it needs to go to do your body good? More likely it's not being processed properly at all and settling into tissues where it can cause a lot of build-up and damage. The stomach absorbs minerals with hydrochloric digestion process, but remember, in taking those antacids, you've limited that production of acid and so you're not actually breaking down and absorbing minerals, nor are you extracting and breaking down proteins, or killing off microbes (bugs). Your body can't accomplish these crucial tasks without hydrochloric acid. This acid also stimulates the pancreas to produce the rest of the needed enzymes for proper digestion of food... why are we stopping all of this from happening?

Right. Heartburn.

It doesn't feel good does it? Burning in the chest, sometimes all the way up to the throat. I bet you've been told it's because you have excess acid, huh? That must be why it's trying to come back up your esophagus! Actually, 90% of heartburn cases are caused by LOW-stomach acid! Without enough acid in your stomach, putrefication takes place (it's as ugly as it sounds), which causes the indigestion, burning sensations, gas, and bloating.

Some things to note: Hydrochloric acid begins to decline at age 30. People over 50 years of age have half the hydrochloric acid than they used to. Obviously, this means we need more, not less. Also, your stomach acid might be low because of H. Pylori, a bug that nestles inside the stomach (50% of people's stomachs, by the way) which causes further putrefication.

A convincing reason to put those antacids on a shelf for emergencies only (we don't want to burn the esophagus away if you are having a rough bout of heartburn!) is that 50-70% of people on antacids are more likely to have heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Let's not give our heart more distress...

What else can you do? Well, (keep your TUMS nearby, Dad, but consider this) there are a number of things!

  • * Get tested for H. Pylori. Your doctor can prescribe the test. If you have it, kill it (AFTER healing your digestive tract with Bentonite Clay, or GI Revive, or L-Glutamine). You can kill it without the three antibiotics your doctor would prescribe. Consider oregano, mastic gum, wormwood, and aloe.
  • * Try a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before meals. Adding the acid will help aid your digestion and you may not have a need for the antacids after eating. I had a friend who would actually take the vinegar when heartburn hit and she would feel better before she had put the cap back on the bottle.
  • * You can take hydrochloric acid capsules before eating and notice any sensations that occur. If you experience burning, then you have acid in your stomach already. If you don't feel burning, you probably don't and this will help you digest food more comfortably (and properly).
  • * Gentian - a.k.a. Bitters - this is Chinese medicine. They taste horrible. They are incredibly acidic. And studies have shown them to do wonders for people with heartburn.
  • * Limit liquids during meals. Why do we drink so much at the dinner table? We should drink throughout the day for hydration but when we're eating we don't want to dilute the acid in our stomach.

Read: Why Stomach Acid is Good for You
by, Jonathon V. Wright, PhD

Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition
Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition

Beautiful fresh perspective on food, health, and dis-ease.


Don’t take HCl if you:

  • Have a history of peptic ulcers or gastritis
  • Take NSAID’s (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), cortisone drugs, or other medications that might cause a peptic ulcer

The Update!

I’ve learned a little bit more since then and have some questions as well as updated information.

I still think that testing for H. Pylori and taking either vinegar or hydrochloric acid tablets are great choices and I think we need some more information.

Why? Well a low pH level (acidic) is required in the stomach for so many reasons. In order to break down food, acid is needed. It is also needed for sterilization (not allowing bacteria to grow), assimilation of calcium and zinc, and for proper release of vitamin B12. As our stomach acid decreases with age, so does the ability of our body to absorb the powerful nutrients of the food we eat, no matter how healthy!

Why don’t we know about HCl and it’s value? Medical students aren’t even taught about hypo chloridia (the inadequate production of stomach acid) and how it can be treated with natural therapies. They are taught about hyper chloridia (excess production of stomach acid) and how to treat them with profitable over-the-counter, patentable drugs. Shame. Of course it only makes sense that a stomach that’s been producing acid for 30 or 40 years would produce less, not more. Jonathon V. Wright, PhD, makes a great analogy; he asks the powerful question: If a headache goes away with aspirin, does that mean we had an aspirin deficiency to begin with? No… So antacids that relieve symptoms do not mean that we had excess acid to begin with. Oh and those antacids increase the inability to absorb all those minerals, vitamins, and trace elements that our bodies desperately need.

And, how much acid? I have been reading (and highly recommend) the book Digestive Wellness by, Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., CCN. She talks about the amount of HCl acid to take and it doesn’t match up with what I can find in my sources for high-quality herbs and medications. She says to start a meal with a 1-10 mg. capsule of betaine hydrochloric acid. The lowest I’ve found is 250 mg. That’s frightening, especially to clients who are wary of trying it. Other research shows that 1-10 “grains” of HCl is what’s commonly suggested. A grain is a different measurement and 10 grains is equivalent to about 638 mg. So, a person should not exceed 10 grains (or 650 mg) of HCl per day. And to alleviate fear, here’s the antidote. If you take HCl and you experience burning (let’s say you started with one (1) tablet at breakfast and then two (2) at lunch, and at dinner you tried three (3) and you experienced burning sensations), know that you’ve reached your level for HCl needs and stop the burning immediately by drinking one (1) teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in water or milk.

Another interesting aspect of heartburn is from the Asian perspective, such as Paul Pitchford talks about in his beautifully written book, Healing with Whole Foods. He says that carrots actually treat indigestion and eliminate the putrefactive bacteria in the intestines. How can you incorporate the healing power of carrots into your life? Consume at least 6 ounces of carrots daily, or drink 1-2 cups of carrot juice, eat carrot sticks, puree into a soup to aid digestion, and try to consume on an empty stomach to benefit from the nutrients. Do not consume more than 4 cups daily as kidneys may become weakened from the sweetness, and hair loss is possible.

As usual, my method of healing addresses real, whole, natural foods and lifestyle changes first, before using modern medicine with all of its side effects. Consider these resources and also, these suggestions to help your body digest, absorb, and age healthily!

Be Well.

Theresa Singleton, MA is a holistic nutrition and wellness coach, specializing in gifting women with the freedom from dieting: forever! Get more free resources at


Betain Hydrochloric Acid (2007). PeaceHealth: Dedicated to exceptional medicine and compassionate care.

Lipski, Elizabeth (2005). Digestive Wellness. The McGraw Hill Companies, NY.

Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books, CA.

The Stomach (2008).

Wright, Jonathon (2001). Why Stomach Acid is Good for you (excerpt).Vitamin Research Products:


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