I divert in this article from my series on hormone balance and weight loss to discuss a very vital subject. It is only because this issue comes up so often in my practice that I feel the need to share with my readers the truth on this subject.
Mass media and mainstream medicine is telling you that stomach acid must be bad for you. It is no coincidence that the drug companies (Big Pharma) began to promote this idea shortly after they developed a plethora of pills to neutralize and reduce stomach acid. The antacid section of the pharmacy or grocery is huge. There are over-the-counter meds like Mylanta and Maalox. [incidentally, the AL in these meds represents the aluminum ingredient found in them – aluminum is a toxic mineral implicated in Alzheimer’ disease!]. The older acid blocker meds (H-2 blockers) such as Tagamet, Axid, Zantac or Pepcid; and the latest more effective meds which inhibit acid production (proton pump inhibitors-PPI) such as Nexium (the purple pill) , Aciphex, Prevacid, Protonox, and Prilosec. Big Pharma is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in direct- to- the public advertising of these drugs. This type of sales pitch to the consumer is, by the way, illegal in most countries.
The strong message of this article is that you DO need adequate amounts of stomach acid! We are supposed to have acid in our stomachs, called hydrochloric acid, and that is why the stomach wall lining is so thick, much thicker than the small intestines walls. A deficiency of stomach acid results in multiple digestive problems, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, reduced immune response with subsequent chronic infections and a general downward spiral of your health.
In my practice, as well as in the practices of many holistic doctors, out of thousands of patients tested there are very, very few who produce excess stomach acid. What we do find is that lowered stomach production of acid is a common condition, especially in patients older than 40 years of age. It may sound like a major contradiction- treating lowered acid production with antacids to relieve digestive complaints! In this and the next article I will explain this issue in greater detail; why mainstream medicine is missing the mark and what to do to get relief and healing. Dr. Jonathan Wright,M.D. wrote a fine book titled “Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You.” He is a leading alternative medicine physician.
Stomach acid (hydrochloric acid –HCl) is produced by parietal cells. These cells respond to the hormone gastrin. When food, especially protein, is ingested this sets off a response by gastric cells to secrete gastrin. This in turn sets up a command to the parietal cells to produce HCl. The HCl is necessary to digest the food stuff. The pH of the stomach should be maintained at 1-3, which is very acidic. When there is an imbalance of the pH, digestive problems begin.
It is very rare condition called hypergastrinemia, where there is an overproduction of HCl. If the pH is too high, gastrin levels will increase in order to stimulate production of HCl.; certain tumors or genetic conditions may cause this. PPI drugs such as Nexium and Prilosec also shut off HCl production, thereby signaling gastin cells to want to produce more HCl – a total mess! This situation- hypergastrinemia- has been associated with gastric cancer, and non-gastric cancer. Colon cancer has been found to be associated with high gastrin levels. H-pylori is a pathogenic bacteria found in the stomach. H-pylori is associated with too little stomach acid!
Too little HCl is called achlorhydria. It can be caused by pernicious anemia, thyroid disease, H-pylori infection and long term use of acid blockers like the PPI’s. PPI’s were not meant to be used long term, and yet I have patients whose doctors have prescribed PPI’s for over 2 years! resulting in illness and chronic infections such as strep and pneumonia.
In the next article of this series I will delineate what specific illnesses and syndromes are caused by the use/abuse of acid blocking drugs. I will proceed to tell my readers what should be done, what works, and what is the healthy alternative for digestive balance and long-term health. Stay tune!