If you suffer from gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation, or any other digestive problem, traditional doctors will recommend drugs like Donatol, Nexium, Mylanta, or Kaopectate. And natural health practitioners will recommend remedies like chamomile, peppermint tea, fish oil, or charcoal pills.
Almost any of these remedies will provide some relief — as long as you continue to take them. But stop using them, and the problem will usually come back. Why? Because all these treatments — natural and conventional — merely address the symptoms. They don’t address the root cause.
So how do you find the root cause? In almost all cases, the root cause of digestion problems is one or more of the following:
• food sensitivities
• low stomach acid and/or low digestive enzymes
• yeast overgrowth
Fortunately, I have some very easy ways to correct all of these problems. And, most of the time, you can knock out your digestive problems in less than a month.
The Surprising Cause of Digestion Problems
One of the most common causes of digestive problems may surprise you. Most people think the cause of acid reflux and heartburn is too much stomach acid. But actually, the reverse is true. Too little stomach acid and stomach enzymes cause far more problems than too much stomach acid. Here’s why:
As we age, we don’t produce these enzymes and acid as well. So we don’t digest our food as well. The result is gas, bloating, acid reflux, and heartburn.
The easiest way to find out if you lack enzymes is to buy a bottle of digestive enzymes from your local health food store. The most popular brand is Beano. But there are others. Take the enzymes for a week or two and see if your symptoms go away. If so, you know that was the cause of your problem. This is one case where you may have to take the enzymes on an on-going basis. However, you don’t have to take them all the time — only when your stomach problems arise. And the longer you take them, the less you’ll need.
If your symptoms don’t clear up, then you may not have enough stomach acid. This is a lot more common than you might think. About 70-80% of acid reflux sufferers don’t produce enough stomach acid.
Here’s an easy way to determine if your digestive problem is too little stomach acid. The next time you have heartburn, gas, or bloating, simply take a teaspoonful of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. If your problem clears up, it means you don’t have enough stomach acid.
If the problem is chronic, I suggest you talk to your doctor about a technique that makes diagnosing and treating this problem much easier. It’s called the Heidelberg Capsule System, and here’s how it works:
The patient simply swallows a plastic capsule that’s about the size of a vitamin pill. Inside the capsule is a transmitter. Once inside the patient’s stomach, the capsule measures the pH level (acidity) and transmits the information back to a receiver attached to a computer.
The capsules are single-use and pass safely through the patient’s system in the normal course of digestion. (The Heidelberg Capsule System shouldn’t be used with any patient who has a history of intestinal blockage.) They can tell your doctor if you’re not making stomach acid or if you’re not making enough.
If the capsule measures a low acid reading (a pH of 4 or higher), then you know your stomach has low acid levels that need to be treated.
But even if the test shows you have enough acid, you’re still not in the clear. You still have to confirm that your stomach is actually good at producing acid. To do that, have your doctor give you bicarbonate of soda to neutralize the existing acid. Then have him test again to see how long it takes for the stomach to re-acidify.
If you’re producing enough stomach acid, it should take about 10-15 minutes for your stomach to re-acidify. But some people can take an hour or more to re-acidify. These people aren’t making enough stomach acid.
Once you’ve determined the problem, the solution is very simple. You can simply take betaine hydrochloride (most products will have Betaine HCl on the label) to normalize your stomach acid levels. Betaine hydrochloride is readily available at health food stores. In fact, many manufacturers include it in their enzyme preparations. So you may be able to take one product to resolve two issues.
More Problems With Low Stomach Acid
Stomach acid doesn’t just help you digest your food. It also protects you from all sorts of nasty bugs. In fact, your digestive system is your body’s first line of defense against foreign invaders. So low stomach acid is a real health problem. And many people who have low stomach acid also have these bugs in their gut.
One of the most common bugs to infiltrate your digestive system is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). You may have heard of the link between H. pylori and ulcers. But this bacteria is linked to other digestive disorders as well.
An H. pylori infection is one of those problems that seems almost insignificant at first. It’s more of an inconvenience than a health issue. That’s because the early symptoms can be relatively minor.
But, left untreated, an H. pylori infection can lead to gastritis, acid reflux, and ulcers.
The typical symptoms of an H. pylori infection are a nauseous, boring kind of discomfort. It’s almost like a strong hunger pang in the pit of your stomach. It’s usually eased somewhat by food. And gets worse when you don’t eat anything at all.
This “gnawing” sensation indicates an inflammation of the stomach. And it can eventually lead to an ulcer.
Diabetics have a similar gnawing problem. But there’s a difference between H. pylori’s nausea and hunger pang and the kind blood sugar problems can cause. With blood sugar problems, you usually feel weak and run-down. But with an H. pylori infection, you don’t get that weak feeling. You just get the gnawing in your stomach.
Because the symptoms don’t seem severe at first, people don’t seek treatment for an H. pylori infection until it has led to real problems, such as an ulcer. And, due to widespread antibiotic resistance, most doctors now use a multi-drug approach.
Regimens based on the antibiotic drugs Clarithromycin or Metronidazole — and sometimes both — are fairly common. Some of these regimens, which can involve as many as four drugs taken together, are fairly effective — wiping out H. pylori in 80% or more of the cases.
The drawback, of course, is that these antibiotics also wipe out the good bacteria in your gut. But I’ve found the use of antibiotics is entirely unnecessary. In fact, you can easily wipe out H. pylori without any drugs — in just two weeks.
You may have heard that garlic, onions, licorice, cinnamon or New Zealand “Manuka” honey, can treat an H. pylori infection. While all of these substances may inhibit bacterial growth and reduce symptoms for a while, none offers a cure.
Here’s what works for my patients:
First, eliminate any stress you can. Reduce — or eliminate — your intake of coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol. Also avoid NSAIDs.
Next, take a combination of cabbage juice and cayenne pepper. Both of them kill H. pylori. Scientists have proven both kill the bacteria in the lab and in patient studies.
I recommend an ounce of cabbage juice and one capsule of cayenne pepper, three times a day on an empty stomach. You’ll probably have to juice the cabbage yourself — cabbage juice isn’t a popular product. But it’s easy to do using a juicer. You can also buy a cabbage juice extract from the health food store. Take 20 drops in some water. You can buy cayenne pepper in capsule form at most health food stores.
This combination almost always eliminates the infection in 7-10 days. So I tell people to use it for two weeks, just to be sure.
I also recommend you take a supplement called mastic gum. Mastic gum is made from a Mediterranean shrub. It heals the stomach lining and, at the same time, gives immediate relief of the symptoms. Amazingly, it can even reverse the damage done by NSAIDs.
But mastic gum does more than that. It also kills the H. pylori bacteria. So it’s doing double duty. And combined with cabbage juice and cayenne pepper, this powerful combination has provided relief for every one of my patients who has tried it.
Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg of mastic gum a day. It’s available as a chewing gum or as a wafer in most health food stores. I recommend you take both the wafer and the chewing gum. The wafer will take care of the bacteria in your gut. And the chewing gum will kill any H. pylori you might have in your mouth. H. pylori is a common cause of periodontal disease. And swallowing the bacteria from your mouth can cause recurring infections in your gut. But the chewing gum usually clears up this problem right away.
There you have easy solutions to one of the most common causes of digestive problems. In upcoming issues, I’ll discuss more causes of common digestive problems – and give you more great solutions that really work. And I’ll show you a unique way to prevent digestive problems that you’ve never heard before.