Why Stomach Acid is Good for you
Taking antacids to squelch that heartburn? There might be a better way..
We all know someone, if we don’t have it ourselves, who suffers from acid reflux, or heartburn. You eat something acidic, like spaghetti sauce, and shortly after, you get a burning sensation in your chest. Most people turn to antacids to quell the burn, like Tums or Pepcid, as needed. Some people have heartburn so frequently they have to take a daily medication, like Nexium or Prilosec, to prevent heartburn. The common though for these drugs is that we have too much stomach acid, which pushes up into our lower esophagus causing the burning sensation. Thus, we take an acid blocker or proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to calm the acid increase from eating or turn off acid production before it starts, respectively.
What if I told you that acid reflux is not caused by TOO MUCH acid, but actually by TOO LITTLE? You’d say I was crazy, right? Everyone knows too much acid is bad, and that’s why the antacid industry is at $10 billion dollars in yearly sales worldwide.
It sounds illogical to say that too little acid is the culprit, but it’s true. Many of us don’t know the anatomy and physiology of our own bodies enough to know what we actually need.
How does reduced stomach acid cause indigestion? While food begins its mechanical and chemical breakdown in the mouth (courtesy of chewing and salivary enzymes), the major breakdown of food starts in the stomach. Specifically, protein triggers the release of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, or HCl). HCl is designed to start the digestive process in the stomach. The very strong acid is supposed to start breaking things down to a point where they can pass along into the small intestine, the next stop on the digestion train. Food isn’t supposed to remain in the stomach for very long. The HCl should be strong enough to do its job, crank things up, and hand the baton to the duodenum. When HCl isn’t strong enough, or there’s not enough of it to go around, food stays in the stomach longer than it should. Proteins putrefy, carbohydrates start to ferment, and this is what produces bloating, discomfort, and the gas that “refluxes” back into the esophagus.
By taking antacids or PPIs, we are lowering the amount of acid even more, which only worsens the problem. Although we get temporary relief from taking these drugs, we are doing nothing to fix the issue. So acid-reducing and blocking drugs are simply band-aids. They do nothing to address the underlying cause. In fact, by merely suppressing the symptoms and allowing the sufferer to continue eating as before, they lay the groundwork for slow-growing, long-term health complications. It has been shown that low stomach acid can contribute to many other health issues, including acne and asthma in children, just to name a few.
Luckily, low stomach acid, or hypochloridia, is fairly easy to treat. Taking HCl supplements with Pepsin, another important factor in digestion, can help significantly. You can also eat bitters, or other foods that are high in acid before each meal. Replacing the good bacteria in your gut is also an important step to optimizing your digestion. Take a probiotic daily, and feed your gut bacteria with healthy fiber sources, like vegetables.
Having dealt with many digestive issues myself, I’ve seen how life changing simply improving your digestion can be. Let me help you get on track with your own bio-individualized nutrition plan and lose that heartburn forever!