Millions of people in the United States are suffering from digestive problems which are painful and can be embarrassing.
- GERD / Acid reflux
- Gas / Bloating
- Stomach cramping or cramping in the intestines
- Diarrhea / Constipation or both
- IBS like symptoms
- H. pylori infection
are the symptoms people struggle with and try to get help from their physician. Complaints about acid reflux or GERD after eating most likely are treated with a prescription of Proton Pump Inhibitors. This kind of medication works by reducing the amount of stomach acid made by glands in the lining of the stomach. Millions of people world wide take this kind of medication.
The question is: Does your stomach really produce too much stomach acid?
In fact, most people who suffer from acid reflux have too little stomach acid. By taking proton pump inhibitor they reduce the little bit they produce even more.
Let’s think about it, stomach acid starts the digestive process of protein and carbohydrates. With too little gastric juices the chime (pronounced: kime), which is the food that has been mixed with stomach acid, sits in the stomach for a long time, starts to ferment. Gas is being produced by bacteria through the fermentation process, which then has to go somewhere. It creates pressure and discomfort, extends the abdomen, and leaves the stomach through the esophagus and the mouth.
Bottom line is that the pressure from the gas is the problem.
The gas is what pushes the food that sits in the stomach into the esophagus. the burning sensation is caused by the stomach acid that the food is mixed with.
Let’s take a look at the consequences of low stomach acid.
- Stomach acid starts the digestive process of protein and carbohydrates but it also kills bacteria. Bacteria are everywhere and our body is equipped to defend and protect itself. Stomach acid is one way to protect our body from an overload of bacteria but also viruses and parasites. Low stomach acid production therefore increases the chance of having too many bacteria in the stomach and duodenum, the part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach. The immune system now is being taxed with a large amount of pathogens that are not being killed in the stomach before they enter the gut.
- Stomach acid triggers the production of pancreatic enzymes which help digest carbohydrates and proteins. With too little stomach acid the pancreas will not release adequate amounts of digestive enzymes. As a result the food only partially digests and most likely sits for a long time in the small intestine.
- But stomach acid also triggers the release of bile into the upper part of the small intestine. Too little bile secretion as a result of a weak trigger by the stomach acid prevents fats from being digested properly. In addition, bile carries the toxins secreted by the liver to the small intestine to be eliminated.
- Bile also works as a cleaning solution on the gut lining and you can imagine that this mechanism is being reduced with a small amount of bile flowing into the gut.
- Conjugated bile salts kill the bacteria that produce LPS (Lipo-Poly-Saccharides) which is toxic.
- In addition the duodenum also produces stomach acid which kills bacteria. Too little acid in this area causes an overgrowth of bacteria where it is not supposed to happen. This causes the fermentation of the food and gas production.
- Those bacteria in the duodenum produce ammonia and hydrogen gases. Those cause bloating and inflammation on the gut lining.
- With an overgrowth of fermenting bacteria in the gut, the gut lining becomes inflamed and the mucosal layer compromised. In other words, the gut becomes leaky (leaky gut).
- When bacteria die they release LPS (Lipo-Poly-Saccharide) which is a toxin. Those neurotoxins can negatively impact the vagal nerve and reduce it’s function. As a result the brain – vegal connection is disturbed and influences the gut peristaltic negatively. In other words, the muscles in the gut lining which move the food through the intestines slow down. Food then sits for a very long time either in the small or the large intestine.
- H. pylori infection increases and stomach ulcers can develop. While H.pylori is a commensal bacterium, and being held in check by adequate amount of stomach acid it can flourish with too little amount of stomach acid.
As you can see the consequences of low stomach acid are poor carbohydrate and protein digestion of the food you ate, poor bile release, poor fat digestion, bacterial overgrowth, gas production, and the discomfort that comes with it.
When you read this, does it remind you of SIBO like symptoms? SIBO is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Stomach acid is the medium that kills bacteria. Bile is the medium that also kills bacteria. Since both, stomach acid and bile, are not produced in adequate amount, the chance of bacterial overgrowth are increasing.
What can you do?
Digestion starts in the brain when we see and smell food. You know that thinking about a lemon will trigger saliva flow in the mouth. By sitting down for a meal without any distraction of the cellphone or tv you can concentrate on the food you are about to eat. Enjoy the colors and the smell (if you eat real food) to trigger the production of saliva and stomach acid.
Saliva excretion increases even more when you start chewing your food. Saliva starts the digestion of carbohydrates but it also triggers the release of stomach acid before you swallow your food.
Stress decreases stomach acid production. Reduce as much stress in your life as possible. Maybe a diary can help you figure out where you can make changes for the better.
Sleep plays a role in stress reduction.
Drinking filtered water during a meal will dilute stomach acid. Try to drink water between meals.
Caffeine consumption can increase cortisol production and therefore can be perceived as a stressor by the body. Caffeine also increases the peristaltic of the large intestine and can cause diarrhea.
Drugs like Aspirin and Tylenol disturb gut function as well as liver function.
Proton Pump Inhibitor drugs reduce stomach acid.
Antibiotic kill the beneficial bacteria as well as the pathogenic and this causes dysbiosis of the microbiome. Taking a spore based probiotic with the antibiotic will eliminate the chance of developing dysbiosis.
Antihistamine reduce stomach acid production
Herbs such as peppermint and ginger increase stomach acid production.
HCL supplement helps increasing stomach acid and brings down the number of H. pylori bacteria count.
Beets help with bile secretion
Bitters help increase stomach acid production and help the release of bile into the small intestine.
Reduce protein consumption until you have adequate stomach acid production.
Digestive enzymes to help with protein digestion and overall digestion of the food you ate.
MegaGuard is the best supplement that helps with low stomach acid production, gastric emptying, and stomach cramps.
Contact me if you need any help or have questions about the subject in this article. Please consult with your physician prior to making decisions about the supplements listed.