Everyone tends to think of stomach acid as being the “bad guy.” But stomach acid is incredibly important for our health and often not the real cause of heartburn.
Before we get into why stomach acid is so important, let’s go over why stomach acid may decrease in the first place:
- Getting older: decreasing stomach acid is a natural part of the aging process.
- Chronic PPI and H2 blocker (Medications such as prilosec and Nexium) use decreases stomach acid production over time
- Infections (especially h. pylori). We use the GI Map stool test to check for this pathogen as well as others
- Gall Bladder Removal can lead to bile reflux, the backup of bile into your stomach.
- Overly acidic diets long term. Sounds counterintuitive, but your body, in its infinite wisdom, tries to compensate over time by excess intake of spicy foods, tomato products, coffee, alcohol, and other acidic foods. By decreasing stomach acid it’s attempting to decrease acid production so as not to be overly acidic and cause harm. However, it’s too good at its job!
- Zinc deficiency puts you at risk for low stomach acid since your body uses zinc to produce stomach acid.
- Chronic & acute stress decrease stomach acid production. Eating in a stressed, on-the-go manner decreases the production of stomach acid.
How does having adequate stomach acid help you?
- Acidify the stomach pH and liquify dry or solid food.
- Digest Protein: Stomach acid helps denature proteins which begins the digestive process of protein, activating the digestive enzyme, pepsin, which continues breaking down protein into amino acids. We have the TRIAD and the Metabolmix tests which measure your amino acid status. If you are found to be low in several amino acids your issue could be lack of protein intake, increased need for that specific amino acid, or it can also be that you’re lacking adequate stomach acid, and cannot properly break down the protein from your food.
- Acts as a protective barrier against pathogens and destroys harmful pathogens. Stomach acid can destroy bacteria, viruses, yeast, and mold which travel into your digestive tract through your mouth or in your food itself (think contaminated meat or produce). Adequate stomach acid also helps prevent harmful bacteria, parasites, and yeast from taking up residence in your stomach and small intestine. A less acidic environment is an ideal environment for opportunistic bacteria and yeast to flourish, making you more likely to have inflammation, food sensitivities, brain fog, and anxiety. We offer several tests that can assess the presence of bacterial overgrowths and pathogenic organisms.
- Aids in mineral and vitamin absorption. Having adequate stomach acid supports optimal absorption of vitamins like folic acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta carotene (body turns it into vitamin A), and vitamin B12. Stomach acid also helps with the absorption of all minerals and trace elements like calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium because it helps to cleave minerals away from foods.
- Encourages bile flow and impacts pancreatic enzyme production. Which helps with the breakdown of carbohydrates, absorption and excretion of fat, and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
- Regulates stomach emptying. Stomach acid helps to regulate the rate of stomach emptying, so not having enough stomach acid can lead to an increased sense of fullness, reflux, burping, nausea, and food regurgitation.
So what can you do? Set up an appointment with one of our nutritionists to assess your stomach acid production and if a supplement and/or testing may be necessary. Let’s unlock the key to your optimal health together.