Healthy Beginnings

Most people need more stomach acid… not less!

Indigestion (dyspepsia) with heartburn is experienced by an estimated 60-70 percent of the general population over 50 at some point in their lives.

Excluding specific causes such as ulcers, infection or cancer, the vast majority of these people, if they are seen by a doctor, are treated with medication to decrease the acid production in the stomach.

There are a number of problems that this presents and has the very real possibility of making things worse.

First of all it is known that there are specific cells in the stomach that produce hydrochloric acid for some very good reasons. As a result, the stomach lining is designed to be able to handle these acid levels without normally causing any problems.

It is also known that the esophagus (the tube we swallow things through into the stomach) is not built to handle any of this acid. Normally, acid is prevented from entering the esophagus by the closing of the cardiac valve (a muscular valve) at the top of the stomach that closes quickly after whatever you swallow passes into the stomach.

The way that deficient acid can cause heartburn is that the cardiac valve is pH (measure of degree of acidity) dependent. Low acid levels cause the cardiac valve to not close properly or fast enough and some acid leaks up into the esophagus.

Stomach acid is so important that it is regulated by four positive modulators of acid release and only one negative modulator.

Adequate acid levels are primarily important for proper protein digestion and absorption. In addition, a low acid environment is linked to reduced absorption of key micronutrients such as calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12.

Also, since gastric acid helps to eliminate harmful ingested microorganisms and hinders bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and small bowel, low acid levels can increase the risk for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Conventional medicine routinely treats heartburn with a prescription for one of a number of drugs that cut down on the amount of acid secretion in the stomach. Besides causing trouble with the above normal functions of the acid, the drugs also work to stop the heartburn… as long as you are taking the drugs!

As soon as the drugs are stopped however, the heartburn returns. The drug literature says, “not to be used for longer than 3 months”. It is not uncommon for people to be prescribed these drugs for years at a time!

Unfortunately, many people these days suffer from improper or poor digestion. When you combine that with a poor diet, it is a perfect situation to eventually develop some form of “disease”.

What to do? That is coming in next month’s article.

For more information, contact Reno Integrative Medical Center, 6110 Plumas St., Ste.B, Reno, NV 89519, at 775-829-1009 or visit