Are you one of the MILLIONS of adults taking stomach acid medications? With over $6 Billion in sales on antacids, you're not alone.
Started them because you felt a little heartburn after you ate?
What if I told you that your heartburn was most likely from LOW stomach acid?
It's true. As we get older, our ability to produce most secretions, including stomach acid goes DOWN, not up. (Thanks, physiology classes!)
Maybe some of you do have true GERD or reflux.... from a faulty valve (LES) at the top of your stomach. Some of you may be overweight, which pushes up on your stomach (and pushes your trying-to-be-digested food upward). Pregnancy can do this temporarily, as well. Some may have a hiatal hernia (where the top of the stomach pokes up through the diaphragm muscle, where it doesn't belong).
Wait, where was "too much stomach acid" on that list??...
You're probably wondering "how can I get heartburn from LOW acid?"
I'm glad you asked.
You need stomach acid to activate your protein-digesting enzymes (pepsin) in the stomach - this breaks protein down into useable amino acids. The low pH produced by stomach acid also inhibits bacterial growth in the stomach and creates the signal to release your food from the stomach (now called chyme) into the small intestine for further digestion.
It takes LONGER for you to process a protein-rich meal when you have low acid. Your stomach will dump as much as is (mostly) ready into the small intestine, leaving undigested food to ferment (causing gas) in the stomach. You eventually release MORE acid to try to finish this digestion, making it seem like you have too much stomach acid, when really if you had enough, you wouldn't need a round 2 of acid to finish your meal. The gas from the fermenting food can cause the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) to open up to relieve the pressure. Hence your heartburn sensation.
***If you burp and taste your dinner, you didn't properly digest it!
Check out this list of signs and symptoms of LOW stomach acid. How many do YOU have now or are being treated for?
Bloating, gas, indigestion, burping... Heartburn, reflux.... vitamin and mineral deficiencies.... yeast infections (candida), dysbiosis, IRREGULAR BOWELS.... Food sensitivities, allergies, or intolerances.... Bad breath (halitosis), weak nails.....
As well as others not on the above picture: FATIGUE, ADRENAL (cortisol) imbalances.... GLUCOSE imbalances... The repercussions of LOW stomach acid are numerous and go way beyond your digestive system.
In the human body, you never affect one organ system without affecting other(s).
Functional medicine providers remember that. That's why it's so crucial to evaluate your entire functioning, while ensuring proper foundational function. (Like good acid levels for digestion, preventing this cascade of consequences.)
NOW for a very important word of CAUTION. If you are on prescribed antacids, DO NOT go off of them without supervision. Why? The "rebound" phenomenon is powerful. Meaning, you will produce excess acid for a few weeks after reducing/eliminating your dosage, making you feel worse initially.
It will pass. Find a doctor that will help you.
Side effects of long term use of antacids include: headaches, diarrhea, lowered immune function (making one more prone to problems such as pneumonia and nasty Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections); the mineral deficiencies lead to: osteoporosis, fractures, muscle spasms, irregular heartbeats, seizures....
When Dr. Welch was expecting baby #2, she experienced heartburn for much of her pregnancy. She DID NOT use antacids (and her OB even told her not to because of the rebound effect - some do remember physiology!!) She used natural methods (especially gravity), such as sleeping at a slight elevation at night, to keep stomach fluids down where they belong.
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Iowa Functional Health is an alternative health provider in Des Moines, Iowa.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.