Stomach Acid - Its Role and Importance for Prevention of Heartburn
Stomach Acid is Needed for Proper Digestion
A Common Symptom of a Lack is Heartburn
The rate of heartburn increases with age and the level of stomach acid decreases with age. This suggests a problem with the idea that heartburn is caused by excess acid. Just what is going on with the acid in our stomachs? The truth is that it is caused most often by low stomach acid. The typical acid reflux treatment is using the wrong approach.
One of the symptoms listed on the heartburn page was vomiting. When a person vomits in reaction to a bad case of heartburn do they ever decide "I want to empty my stomach"? - no, not usually. It's like the stomach has a mind of its own and decides "I don't want this mess in here."
Here is the Scenario
You eat a big meal. Typically, North Americans eat two to three times more protein than needed. Because it is mostly or completely cooked there is little or no digestion of protein happening for the first up to ½ hour because all the protease enzymes that came in the food are destroyed by the heat of cooking.
Finally, a little hydrochloric acid shows up and the pepsin starts to work to digest protein. Maybe the person pops a few antacids in anticipation of getting heartburn.
Come time for the stomach to start emptying, all the little sensors are sending signals like "The protein in here is not processed to the point it should be. It's not ready for the next stage of digestion." Undigested protein is a big problem for your immune system. The intestine is saying "don't send it here." Sometimes the stomach sends it back where it came from.
If there was enough hydrochloric acid production or if supplemental hydrochloric acid was taken, the protein would be sufficiently digested to move on to the next stage in the process and there would be no heartburn symptoms.
The reason proper digestion of protein is so important is that undigested protein, if absorbed through the intestinal wall, is seen as a major threat by your immune system.
Many people get relief by modifying what and how much and how fast they eat and by avoiding the antacids that only make the problem worse in the long run.
Now we understand that hydrochloric acid is very important for complete protein digestion and that it needs to begin in the stomach. Once digested food enters the small intestine the mixture becomes alkaline rather than acid and protein breakdown by pepsin ends.
Other Notes about Stomach Acid
Hypochlorhydria means decreased hydrochloric acid production
Achlorhydria means no hydrochloric acid production
Low stomach acid leaves us prey to:
" ... salmonella, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and tuberculosis, not to mention garden-variety heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence, or other common symptoms of dyspepsia." (Jonathan Wright, MD and Lane Lenard PhD Why Stomach Acid is Good for You)
The Benefits of a Good Acid Supply
needed for proper calcium absorption
kills bacteria and viruses etc.
facilitates proper digestion of protein
Most people with rheumatoid arthritis don't have enough hydrochloric acid and often have bacterial overgrowth in their stomachs.
We need enzymes to break down food to get materials to make hydrochloric acid and other things.
Pepsin is a very strong enzyme. If it was produced directly by the cells lining the stomach it would digest them. So the cells produce pepsinogen which, once it is in the stomach, is converted into pepsin in the presence of hydrochloric acid.
The pH (measure of acid-alkaline level) of the stomach should be 1-3. When it rises to about 5 which antacids will cause it to do, bacteria will begin to thrive. We need beneficial bacteria in our intestines but we should not have bacteria growing in our stomachs.
Dr. Jonathan Wright, M.D. has found "that about 50 percent of all children who come to the Tahoma Clinic with asthma find permanent relief of their wheezing within thirty to sixty days, without taking corticosteroid and bronchodilator drugs"
(Lenard Ph.D, Lane, Wright, M.D., Jonathan, Why Stomach Acid is Good for You. M. Evans and Company Inc., 2001) He does this largely through restoring normal acidity to the stomach to ensure proper digestion.
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Share Your Stomach-Acid Story
Do you have an experience regarding a stomach-acid problem? Do you have advice for people who might have this all-too-common problem? Share it here. (Submissions may be edited for clarity, grammar, spelling etc.)
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