February 23, 2015
307 Hypochlorhydria [23 Feb 2015]
When we experience indigestion, the first thing we think of reaching for is an ant-acid pill. But in many cases that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Here’s why you may need to take an acid supplement pill instead.
As we age our stomach’s production of acid declines – one source estimated at by age 50 we produce only 15% of what we did at age 25, and that more than one in three people over 65 produce negligible amounts. Symptoms of low stomach acid – called hypochlorhydria – also cause indigestion, although of a different type. Suspect low acid is the problem if:
• you don’t feel well after eating meat
• you frequently experience acid reflux after eating*
• your stomach feels bloated and heavy after eating
• you burp or experience gas 1 or 2 hours after eating.
There are additional disadvantages to low stomach acid in addition to these unpleasant symptoms. Sufficient stomach acid is required for proper digestion of protein, certain minerals (iron, copper, zinc & calcium) and vitamins (B12, folic acid). Also stomach acid is a first line of defense from ingested pathogens; weak acid allows more germs to survive into the intestines.
There is a simple test for suspected low acid. Eat a high protein meal (e.g. a 6 oz. steak) and take 1 tablet of Betaine HCl. If you experience a burning or heavy feeling in your stomach, then you didn’t need it and your acid level is fine; if you felt nothing then the tablet helped digest the protein and your acid level is low. Repeat several times to be sure.
If you determine that your level is low the next step is to determine the optimum dosage. Increase by one Betaine tablet per meal every few days until you experience a warm or burning sensation, then decrease by one. Dr. J. Wright finds a common dosage to be 3,000-5,000 mg per meal. CAUTION: do not use Betaine if you have a gastric ulcer or if are taking anti-inflammatory drugs including corticosteroids, NSAIDS or aspirin, as these damage the stomach wall and the added acid will irritate the damaged tissue.
* The reason low stomach acid causes acid reflux is not completely understood. Steve Wright explains that it contributes to intra-abdominal pressure which pushes the stomach fluids back into the esophagus which can be irritated with even weak acid.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.