Maybe you have heartburn or GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) and have been prescribed an acid-reducer like Protonix, Prilosec, Nexium, etc. These are called Proton Pump Inhibitors or PPIs.
The conventional thought process has always been that you have HIGH stomach acid causing the symptoms of heartburn/reflux. But, it’s beyond rare for a doctor to actually TEST your stomach acid to verify that it’s low before moving forward with a treatment strategy that may lower it even further– this is just based on assumptions (and pHARMa rep guidance 😉)
If your doctor hasn’t done an Esophageal pH Test or Stomach Acid Test then you do not know for sure you are treating “high” stomach acid.
Acid Reducing meds are just an “easy fix” for the conventional medical world. And meant to be short-term usage of 4-8 weeks MAX! Most people on PPIs actually have no medical need for them!
What exactly is stomach acid? A highly acidic solution (called hydrochloric acid – HCl) created by cells inside your stomach lining which is released at very specific times to break down your food. The pH scale ranges from 1-14 with 1 being highly acidic and 14 being highly basic (not acidic). Stomach acid ranks around 2! That’s one of the most acidic substances known!
Your stomach is a fantastic place though – you’d think how on earth can the human body withstand such an acidic environment without burning and disintegrating?! Well, for one the stomach is equipped with incredibly thick mucous lining that protects it from the burning effects of the acid. If the mucous wears off in a small area you can have a peptic ulcer. If the lining thins overall you can suffer from gastritis. As you see you NEED that lining to protect you.
Now we put a lot of stress on our stomachs to break down food by not chewing our food properly or enough. So many people “inhale” their food instead of chewing until it’s liquified which puts enormous strain on the stomach to do it’s own job plus the job of the mouth.
SO, CHEW YOUR FOOD! 😊
BUT, even though PPIs are one of the most prescribed classes of drugs today, can you believe that LOW stomach acid is much more common than HIGH stomach acid???
Yes, it’s true!
I’d say about a 90:10 ratio of LOW:HIGH stomach acid. Yes, you read that right – 90% of people with heartburn and reflux actually have LOW stomach acid vs the 10% of people having true high stomach acid.
The majority of people with reflux and heartburn given a PPIs likely already have low stomach acid. Now it is going to make it even lower!? YIKES! Not the right direction to move in, right?!?!
This is inherently a HUGE problem with these assumptions that heartburn and reflux need acid reducing medications.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CAUSES OF HEARTBURN AND REFLUX IF NOT FROM HIGH STOMACH ACID?
- Poor lower esophageal sphincter (LES) tone allowing acid from stomach to move into the esophagus
- Food sensitivities
- Histamine Intolerance
- Medications – including antidepressants, pain killers (like advil), antibiotics, muscle relaxers.
- Hiatal Hernia – a fixable structural issue in which the upper stomach pops up through the diaphragm muscle
Unfortunately, instead of investigating the cause and removing that – you are prescribed a medication that will sometimes/often make matters worse – especially if you have low stomach acid already!
Some people will report a lessening of their heartburn when taking acid-lowering medications – that’s because they work – they do lower your stomach acid – even if it’s already low. And if you have a weak esophageal sphincter then that means even LESS acid is moving up into the esophagus so it feels like the right move.
What are the repercussions of low stomach acid?
- Poor Food breakdown leading to fermentation/gas production, bloating, abdominal pain
- Poor nutrient absorption
- Vulnerability to ingested pathogens
- Feeling of food sitting in your stomach – fullness for hours after meals
- Weak bones
- Increase in H. pylori bacteria
THIS STUDY was able to show some of the serious repercussions of PPI medications:
- Stomach Cancer
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Cardiovascular Disease
Going on ANY medication because a doctor can’t help you figure out the root cause can and does often cause serious harm. I’m not saying there is NO role for these meds but it’s tiny.
Root cause issues are the key!
Here’s a simple, at-home assessment to give you an idea of your stomach acid levels. This, by no means, is a diagnosis or meant as a replacement for medical testing!
Dissolve a ¼ tsp baking soda in water and drink on an empty stomach – within 3-5 minutes you should need to belch as the baking soda is neutralized by stomach acid and gas is formed. If you belch later than 5 minutes or not at all – it may indicate low stomach acid.
Then what’s the next step? There are multiple things one can do to support stomach acid production but it’s best to discuss your particular situation with a doctor who knows the in’s and out’s of all of this. First thing is to CHEW YOUR FOOD! Chewing your food sends a signal to the stomach to start producing stomach acid. Some use Betaine HCl to directly boost acid but this can be bothersome and inflammatory if you have gastritis or ulcers. Some use Apple Cider vinegar, Manuka honey, Bitters or various herbs which stimulate the natural production of HCl.
Whatever you do it’s best to get to the bottom of WHY you have low (or high) stomach acid so you can heal on the deepest level possible. Band-aids are band-aids even if they are natural.
But for your health practitioners: EXPECT BETTER! DEMAND MORE!
I’m here when you need me!
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