If you're one of the millions suffering from the discomfort of these often agonising symptoms, you might have tried a range of medicines and endured their side effects, but as any GP will tell you, a lot of these medicines are only suitable for short-term use. Many throw themselves at natural remedies, however, this is not always the solution to fix the problem as some simply create a barrier to coat the intestinal wall for a soothing effect, providing only short-term relief. Either way, you're not getting to the route of the problem.
What are ammonia and ammonium?
Ammonia is present in some foods, particularly fermented foods such as cheese and wine. It is also a by-product of protein breakdown in the body. This is why high protein diets can be an issue for people with kidney disorders as they are unable to effectively eliminate ammonia from the body. Ammonia is also transported from the intestines to the liver via the portal vein, where it is detoxified by the liver using bicarbonate taken from the stomach.
Some infections with specific bacteria can cause unusually high levels of this toxic substance. The reason for this is that ammonia can be produced in the gut via secretions of various bacteria. On the one hand, some bacteria secrete an enzyme called urease which releases ammonia from urea, a substance that is present in the gut, and on the other hand, there are bacteria which secrete short-chain fatty acids that contain hydrogen atoms. Through protonation, the ammonia then takes up a hydrogen atom from short-chain fatty acids, converting ammonia to ammonium.
Bacteria such as Helicobacter Pylori secrete the urease enzyme to create ammonium and raise the stomach's pH level, acting as a protective shield for the H. pylori by neutralising the acid in the stomach. The mucosal lining of the stomach has also been shown to be quite viscous, "like a soft toothpaste or petroleum jelly," says Professor Bansil, an expert in gels and gelation. Studies have shown that the ammonium created from H. Pylori is also responsible for 'liquifying' the mucosal lining of the stomach, allowing the bacteria to propel itself forward with it's rotating flagella and bury itself into the exposed stomach wall with its corkscrew-shaped body. Once it's made itself at home in the stomach wall, it engages in the production of histamine in addition to ammonium and can cause a multitude of problems.
Although ammonium is essential to life and the body's overall pH balance, too much can cause problems in the liver and kidneys. Too much ammonium in the blood is dangerous and when this happens, it can become neurotoxic (toxic to the nervous system).
You must remember that ammonium is a waste product. Your liver processes it into urea making it water-soluble so it can leave the body via urine - it's also the reason why urine smells bad! However, many of us may struggle to process this waste product especially if the liver and kidneys are not functioning properly. Excess ammonium has shown to lead to an array of psychological problems including confusion, tiredness and brain fog as well as an upset bowel due to the inflammatory effect on the intestinal lining.
The role of ammonium and bicarbonate in recurring heartburn and digestion
Firstly, ammonium is alkaline so it will neutralise any gastric acid it comes into contact within the stomach. This leads to low levels of acid in the stomach and causes non-acid reflux as food is not digested properly. As a result, food is pushed back up towards the throat allowing even a small amount of gastric acid to make its way back up the oesophagus and cause that burning sensation and the unpleasant taste in the back of your throat.
Secondly, instead of being used up to counteract acid, bicarbonate is diverted away from the stomach and used by the liver to detoxify ammonium via urine. This leaves excess acid in the stomach which can lead to recurring heartburn.
When too much ammonium is present in the body it can cause recurring heartburn. In addition, histamine also plays a role in activating gastric acid. Excess histamine in the digestive tract can lead to an over-production of acid, therefore causing a recurrence of heartburn. Those with histamine intolerance are more likely to be affected by this.
What is histamine?
Histamine is often discussed, but most people usually associate it with seasonal allergies. A lot of the information and research on histamine is not widely known about in the public nor in the NHS, where many GP's and doctors may disregard the notion of histamine intolerance entirely. It is, however, something that can cause a whole host of problems. From its involvement in an overactive immune response and autoimmune conditions to digestive discomfort and IBS symptoms, it has now proven to play a key role in inflammation in the intestines linking it directly to a leaky gut.
Histamine is made out of the amino acid histidine. It belongs to a group of amines, all of which have many functions within the body. Some of the main roles for histamine are as follows:
Neurotransmitter- Neurotransmitters are the way in which our nerves communicate with each other. They are the 'quick action' signals which cause an effect such as inflammation, often within milliseconds.
Gut function- Histamine triggers the release of stomach acid, pepsin and intrinsic factor1. These are necessary for the correct amounts for proper gut function and gut health. Good health starts in the gut with good digestion and optimum stomach acid which destroys pathogens.
Immune function- Histamine is released by immune cells (basophils and mast cells) in the body to make your blood vessels more permeable. This allows other immune cells to migrate to a specific site in your body. Histamine triggers an inflammatory response, and too much histamine can cause problems such as hay fever and urticaria as well as autoimmune conditions.
Due to the many histamine receptors in various parts of the body, an overload of histamine caused by a reaction from the immune system can present itself in many different ways such as skin reactions, urticaria, asthma, and other histamine modulated symptoms. Opportunistic bugs such as candida, which release mycotoxins to spread, begin to thrive in the intestinal tract as the conditions become favourable for them. Bad bacteria, toxicity, immune reactions, gut dysbiosis, absorption issues and chronic fatigue are all signs that the gut, particularly the small intestine, has become leaky. Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto's disease are also directly linked. With a leaky gut, unwanted food proteins are absorbed and mimic certain body tissues. The immune system then confuses the actual body tissues for the unwanted food proteins and launches an immune response on the body tissues, a fate inescapable even if you're vegan!
Could MANC® be the key to reducing ammonium and histamine?
MANC® (modified and activated natural clinoptilolite) is patented for the binding and removal of ammonium, histamine, heavy metals, aluminium, cadmium and further biogenic amines from the body. MANC® is a negatively charged particle derived from volcanic ash, which could be an important breakthrough for leaky gut syndrome and histamine associated symptoms! The size of the particle is optimised to ensure it isn't absorbed by the body and remains only in the digestive tract, allowing it to capture and eliminate substances in enterohepatic circulation that contribute to leaky gut consistently as they are continuously reabsorbed. MANC® is able to bind histamine in the wall of the small intestine, thereby reducing inflammation. This gives the epithelial tight junctions a chance to repair themselves and strengthens the integrity of the intestinal wall.
MANC® also absorbs and eliminates ammonium from the stomach and intestines. This optimises the level of acid in the stomach, ensuring that there isn't too much acid, nor too little acid, both of which are linked to recurring heartburn. Once the MANC® has bound to the toxins such as ammonium, it travels through the digestive tract where it is passed out with our body's natural bowel movement.