Low Stomach Acid Comes With High Risks!

Digestion series Part 1

“It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong.” Francis Bacon, Sr. 1561-1626.

Stomach acid with a very low pH (between 1.5 and 3) is required in order to properly digest protein and assimilate the nutrients you eat. Low stomach acid, known as “Hypochlorhydria”, has become epidemic in modern societies and contributes to a wide range of serious and chronic health issues. Here are some reasons why having strong stomach acid is essential for good health:

Pathogens: Strong stomach acid is your first line of defense against food borne illness. It kills harmful microorganisms that can make you sick.

Protein: Pepsin is the protein digesting enzyme which can’t be released in the stomach without adequate acidity. Insufficient stomach acid leads to protein (amino acid) deficiency, causing the body to steal protein from the surface of joints to transfer it to where it is most needed. This potentially contributes to arthritis.

Protein deficiency triggers sugar cravings, unstable blood sugar and the constant desire to snack. Being very tired with chronic low energy levels is another red flag. A sluggish metabolism, poor concentration, moodiness and difficulty losing weight are a few other signs of protein deficiency.

Minerals: Insufficiently acidic or weak stomach acid also leads to deficiencies of major minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron and selenium. Even if you supplement with these minerals having low stomach acid will inhibit their assimilation and bioavailability. This in turn leads to a wide range of deficiency symptoms such as anemia, muscle cramps, prostate problems, osteoporosis and potentially many more.

Vitamin B12: Without very strong stomach acid vitamin B12 can’t be assimilated from foods or supplements, leading to a deficiency with symptoms that may include “pins and needles” sensations, brain shrinkage, premature aging, vision problems, dizziness and wobbliness.

Heartburn and Acid Reflux:  An older stomach loses elasticity, can’t hold as much food and empties more slowly. With low stomach acid the food ferments in the stomach. The effect of fermentation is gas. The pressure builds, the contents expand and the only way to escape is directly up into the esophagus. This may also contribute to chronic bad breath despite good oral hygiene.

Chronic and auto-immune diseases: Researchers have found strong links between many serious problems and low stomach acid levels. Among them are Lupus, Addison’s, asthma, celiac and gluten intolerance, food allergies, rosacea, vitiligo, eczema, diabetes and leaky gut syndrome.

Helicobacter Pylori Infections: Low stomach acid is a leading cause of ulcers. The stomach bacteria H. Pylori appears to inhibit the production of stomach acid, which is likely the reason it is linked to stomach ulcers. This type of bacteria thrives and becomes more dangerous in an alkaline environment. H. pylori bacteria are also related to higher rates of stomach cancer.

Malnutrition despite a healthy diet:  Despite eating a very healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight many Americans are still malnourished due to this issue. Most American doctors aren’t trained in nutrition and so find it hard to believe that anyone in a first-world country could possibly suffer from malnutrition.

By prescribing antacids and acid reducing drugs to their patients doctors exacerbate the problem while their patients become ill with a variety of avoidable problems. There are currently no over the counter products from Big Pharma which are specifically designed to combat Hypochlorhydria. Fortunately many excellent digestive enzyme products are available from functional medicine and nutrition companies.

The cascading effect of nutritional deficiencies leads to a multitude of chronic and dangerous issues. We’re only scratching the surface here. Other common symptoms include brittle nails, yeast infections, hair loss in women, depression, dry skin/hair, chronic fatigue, rectal itching, skin rashes and nearly every type of digestive complaint.

Strong stomach acid is normal in healthy young people, but as we age the pH of our stomach acid begins to rise, becoming more alkaline. Some practitioners observe that by the age of 50 we have lost 50% of our acidity and it continues to worsen.

Mental, emotional or physical stress and trauma can reduce stomach acid. Kidney disease may lead to low stomach acid. Taking antacids, eating junk food and sugar, diarrhea and vomiting also lead to an overly alkaline stomach environment. Your blood type may also predict pH levels and concentration of stomach acid.  Some children have low stomach acid despite their age due to some of these factors.

Here are medications known to aggravate the situation:

  • Anticholinergics, such as oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), prescribed for overactive bladder and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, doxepin, others)
  • Calcium channel blockers and nitrates used for high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Narcotics (opioids), such as codeine, and those containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
  • Quinidine
  • Sedatives or tranquilizers, including benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) and temazepam (Restoril)
  • Theophylline (Elixophyllin, Theochron)

If you recognize yourself in this discussion here are some suggestions to follow immediately to get back on the right track:

Eat protein foods first so that your stomach acid isn’t wasted.  Supplement with a liquid collagen protein. Vegetables and other carbs don’t need acid to digest, so eat them last.

Avoid drinking beverages with meals since it dilutes stomach acid making it too weak to do its job. A few sips of water during and after a meal are fine, but consuming soft drinks, iced tea, coffee, beer or too much water will dilute the digestive juices.

*Supplement immediately before a protein meal with a digestive aid containing Betaine HCL with pepsin, and immediately after a meal with pancreatic enzymes. Experiment with the dosage to find the most effective potency for you.

In part 2 we will delve into the subject of GERD, acid reflux and heartburn.  The natural and inexpensive solutions to these painful symptoms may surprise you. We’ll also discuss digestive aids in more detail.

*This isn’t an option for people taking H2 blockers (Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac), Proton Pump Inhibitors (Prolosec, Aciphex, Prevacid, Dexilent, Protonix), are diagnosed with an ulcer or who have a history of long time use of NSAIDs.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/expert-answers/heartburn-gerd/faq-20058535

http://nutritiongang.com/low-stomach-acidity-hypochlorhydria/

https://www.drberg.com/blog/the-importance-of-hydrochloric-acid

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