Polly: Marilyn pointed out an excellent article on stomach acid by Lynda Wells, PhD. It has been repeated here with Dr. Wells’ permission. Other great articles can be found at Dr. Wells’ website,
Her Wellsprings Center for Natural Healing is located at Worden’s Pond Shores, Wakefield, RI where she offers clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, Hatha Yoga, Reiki, craniosacral therapy, Japanese magnetic healing, and colon cleansing.
Mrs. Generic: My symptoms are burping, stomach bloating, my stomach upsets easily and I tend to be constipated. I take antacids for the symptoms but do not get much relief. Do you have any ideas to help my digestion?
Lynda J. Wells, PhD: It sounds like you may have poor stomach output of hydrochloric acid, known as hypochlorhydria. Have a comprehensive stool analysis and a hair analysis to help ascertain if that is the problem.
Hypochlorhydria is fairly common; according to some surveys, a low level of stomach acid occurs in up to 47% of the general population, the highest incidence being found in older people.
Much has been said in the media about too much acid, hyperacidity, and millions of dollars are erroneously spent on antacids, when the opposite problem is often the case — too little acid. The bloating, belching, upset stomach and constipation that you mention are common symptoms. Some others are listed below.
On the other hand, some people may experience no gastrointestinal symptoms whatsoever. When there are no symptoms, individuals can wind up years later with serious consequences that are never related to the unrecognized hypochlorhydria.
Without acid, the body has a difficult time digesting food. The chief function of stomach acid is the initiation of protein digestion. Without it, proteins putrefy in the intestines which means the bacteria wind up decomposing the protein and producing foul-smelling compounds like hydrogen sulfide gas, cadaverine (what does a name like that tell you?).
Acid secretion is also of fundamental importance in the assimilation of many minerals, and of vitamin B12. Before looking to hormone replacement therapy for prevention of osteoporosis, check your stomach acid. As well as looking to vitamin B12 shots for pernicious anemia, check your stomach acid.
Another important function of hydrochloric acid is the stimulation of pancreatic enzyme and bile release into the small intestine. Without enough pancreatic enzymes and bile, the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins A and E, is severely compromised, inadvertently causing undernutrition even with an excellent diet.
Hydrochloric acid is also primarily responsible for keeping the three pounds of bacteria that live in the colon from translocating up into the small intestines. (This is a very important immune function.) Without a potent amount of hydrochloric acid, undesirable strains of bacteria and yeast can take hold and multiply, and interfere with digestion and absorption. They can also inflame the intestines, cause them to become permeable to undigested foods and thus the individual becomes allergic to healthful foods. Do you know that the total absorptive area of the inside wall of the small intestine of an average person is about the same as a standard football field, and every square inch of this surface can be covered with mucus in which bacteria are imbedded and growing? Imagine the negative impact from odd strains of bacteria.
One can begin to see why, if allowed to continue for many years without treatment, many diseases can ensue from hypochlorhydria. Some associated with it are: asthma, celiac disease, chronic autoimmune disorders, diabetes, eczema, food allergies, gall bladder disease, gastric cancer, gastritis, lupus, osteoporosis, pernicious anemia, psoriasis, and acne rosacea. According to Dr. Jonathan Wright at a September, 1994 seminar on the Use of Laboratory Testing in Nutritional Medicine, ulcerative colitis, hair loss, 100% of multiple sclerosis, and 100% of rheumatoid arthritis can also be added to the list.
A way to determine the proper dose of hydrochloric acid for your individual need may be accomplished in the following manner. On three consecutive mornings take one, then two, then three betaine hydrochloric acid tablets on an empty stomach. If you have no negative reactions, then take one or two before each meal for a week and see how your digestion feels. If it is better, you can safely assume that your stomach has not been producing enough acid for proper digestion. Some bad reactions to the tabs are heartburn, worse gas, or pain in the stomach. If it hurts, do not take any more. You can neutralize the reaction with milk or baking soda in water. A few persons require as little as 5-10 grains of betaine hydrochloride with each meal. Others may need as much as 50-60 grains. The right dose can be estimated but has to be finally adjusted by trial and error. Pepsin and gentian are often added to the hydrochloric acid supplements to further promote protein digestion.
Over time the stomach cells that secrete acid may be repaired by supplements of licorice, glutamine, and gentian. Sometimes acupuncture helps restore the cells, and if a subluxation is creating weakened stimulation of nerves to the stomach, chiropractic will help.
Next time you think of taking an antacid, STOP, try taking acid first to see if that relieves the symptoms. If your problem is too little acid, antacids just contribute further to the above scenario.
Symptoms of poor stomach acid output
nausea after taking supplements
weak, peeling, cracked fingernails
dilated capillaries in the cheeks and nose (in non-alcoholics)
post adolescent acne
other mineral deficiencies
chronic intestinal infections
undigested food in stool
Disorders associated with poor stomach acid output
Addison’s disease or weak adrenals
chronic autoimmune disorders
gall bladder disease
H. Pylori Infections
Polly: If you have stomach pain, get tested for a H. pylori infection. H. pylori is the bacteria most often responsible for stomach ulcers. This infection is very common in people with the yeast syndrome, and the infection will down-regulate (lower) stomach acid production. Common treatments for a H. pylori infection are antibiotics (Omeprazole, Losec, and Amoxicillin), vitamin C, grapefruit seed extract, deglycerolized licorice, bismuth (Pepto-Bismol), mastic gum, Active Manuka honey, magnesium, zinc, N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC), and coconut oil. (The body creates monolaurin from the lauric acid in coconut oil, and it is the monolaurin which kills H. Pylori.) Please be careful with supplements of NAC if you have mercury poisoning or if you are hypothyroid. You may not tolerate much of it. If you are having trouble finding the mastic gum, Allergy Research/ Nutricology carries it. Phone (800) 782-4274 website http://www.nutricology.com Don’t use the gum if you are allergic to pistachio because the gum is made from the pistachio tree. Check for the latest information on H. pylori infections at http://www.helico.com .
Harold: My doctor gave me those antibiotics, but they weren’t effective, and he didn’t recommend anything else. On my own I took NAC, Evening Primrose oil, Panax Ginseng, Active Manuka honey, a special Calcium-Magnesium supplement (in colloidal form) and when necessary, Pepto-Bismol. This has done the trick along with changing my double filtered water (which turned out to be highly acidic) to spring water, which has a neutral pH. With the above, and a radical change of diet, I pretty well have it all under control with very little discomfort.