Heartburn and other digestive discomforts like indigestion, sour stomach and bloating afflict millions of people each year. In fact, over 100 million people in the U.S. each year suffer from heartburn – and nearly 25 million people suffer from heartburn every day. The stomach releases gastric acid to naturally activate digestive enzymes that are needed to break down food and nutrients during digestion. A muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) keeps the gastric acid and active enzymes secured in the stomach. If the LES is relaxed or weakened, gastric acid can seep back into the esophagus, causing irritation that we know as heartburn. Traditional antacids neutralize heartburn by raising the pH level in the stomach in order to stop the release of gastric acid.
Newer classes of drugs such as proton pump inhibitors (PPI) altogether shut down the stomach pumps that release gastric acid for up to 24 hours. Halting gastric acid inhibits digestion and can cause abdominal discomfort such as constipation and also deprive the body of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and lipids.