Today’s article is based upon a question I recieved this question from a reader through my syndicated newspaper column:
From T.B. in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
In a previous column on apple cider vinegar (ACV), you stated that “heartburn and reflux can sometimes be related to insufficient levels of stomach acid, not high levels like many of you who take acid blockers assume.” Really Suzy? I’ve been on Omeprazole for years for heartburn. My doctor says you’re nuts and got angry when I questioned him.
Doctors who thoroughly understand gastrointestinal function know this basic principle of physiology. A simple blood test evaluates stomach acid levels. Most physicians don’t test your “gastrin” level, they just hand you a prescription for medication. This bothers me.
Judging from the millions of pills that are dispensed from American pharmacies on a daily basis, the business of convincing you that “stomach acid is bad” is working. Don’t misunderstand, acid blocking drugs are effective and necessary for certain individuals, but they are way overprescribed.
The medications don’t improve the function of the spincher that opens (which allows acid to flow up) and closes (which prevents acid from refluxing upword).
Sometimes the foods we eat contribute to heartburn and reflux, even foods you may not think are a problem. See my graphic below to learn more about the foods that trigger this situation. But you have to agree with me that as a nation, we should spend more money educating the public on how to eat healthier, rather than drugging people up each day, and advertising double-bacon triple-bypass cheeseburgers. I’m just saying…
Anyway, the signs of low acid (termed hypochlorhydria) may be heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, burping, cramps, food sensitivities and a higher risk for autoimmune disorders, gallbladder disease, pancreatitis and cancer. Hypochlorhydria is a huge problem in this country and it’s getting more widespread, especially since the advent of acid blocking meds.
Insufficient acid (whether it is drug-induced or not) can also cause:
Rosacea and acne
Eczema and psoriasis
Why does acid help?
Many reasons, and one of them is that it keeps the tiny trap door shut between your stomach and esophagus. This sphincter is pH sensitive and in a healthy person, it stays shut because of the natural stomach acid. With acid deficiency, the stomach pH increases and this may cause the trap door to swing open, causing that familiar burn. Many people swear by the vinegar trick because it provides various acids including “acetic” acid, but gulping ACV forever is not my preference because it may be too caustic.
Digestive acids are sold at health food stores by names such as “betaine hydrochloride,” “betaine with pepsin” or “trimethylglycine.” Begin supplementation slowly and increase your dosage upward based on symptom relief. Take acid supplements at the end of each meal, not the beginning. Ask a knowledgeable physician if acid supplements are appropriate for you, especially if you take medications of any sort. Acid supplements aren’t right for everyone and should be approached with caution.
Betaine supplements work best when you eat healthy foods; you may also need to be gluten and casein free. Depending on your condition, you could also greatly benefit from probiotics, digestive enzymes, ginger, cayenne pepper, glutamine, bile salts and/or DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice).
A study concludes that bisphenol-containing plastics (still in some water bottles) make men four times more likely to have erectile dysfunction.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.