Put down that antacid – At least until you’ve read my list of the top 5 reasons you need ample stomach acid.
This may sound crazy, but your acid reflux is not likely caused by too much stomach acid. It’s probably because you don’t have enough! Sounds contradictory, I know. But it really is very rare for a person to have too much stomach acid.
You see, our diets often result in too little stomach acid. Plus, as we age, we just start to produce less stomach acid. And, sorry to tell you, but we are all getting older. (At least you’re not alone in that!)
So our symptoms are what confuse the issue. Because it seems logical that acid reflux results from too much stomach acid. But what happens is that the lower esophageal sphincter, the connection between the esophagus and stomach, gets lazy as a result of too little stomach acid over time. Another result is that the lining of the stomach is not as thick and plush as it should be.
That’s why it’s important to look beyond the symptoms and ask my favorite question – “Why?”
The stomach needs to be a very, very acidic environment. And here are the
Top 5 Reasons You Need Ample Stomach Acid
- Defense Against Pathogens – Your stomach acid is your first line of defense against pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria and viruses). It’s typically too acidic an environment for them. And that’s a good thing, for us.
- Digestion of Proteins – The acid in our stomach breaks down the complex proteins we consume into shorter peptides. Without ample stomach acid, we would be unable to benefit from the nutrients – amino acids – found in protein.
- Vitamin B12 Absorption – In order to absorb Vitamin B12, we need something called intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is produced by the cells in the lining of the stomach. With low stomach acid, the lining isn’t thick and there is little to know intrinsic factor.
- Iron Deficiency – In order to absorb iron, stomach acid is needed to convert it to a form that the body can absorb.
- Mineral absorption – Additional minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and copper need stomach acid for absorption.
If you think about it, you’ll realize that adding supplements may not be the answer. You could be consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, etc. But if your body cannot absorb them then additional supplementation will not help. And clearly, that antacid may quell your symptoms and provide you temporary relief, but it is only making matters worse.
Photo Courtesy Rennett Stowe via Flickr