The Importance of Maintaining Stomach Acid Levels

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Filed Under: General Health, Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

The Importance of Maintaining Stomach Acid Levels

Having enough stomach acid helps avoid wide-ranging health problems

Most everyone has been brainwashed to think that digestive acids produced by the stomach are the root of digestive problems. Antacid tablets and liquids have been around for years. The latest supposed remedy for stomach problems is the "acid blockers," which have become one of the best-selling over-the-counter drug categories in history.

With all of this acid blocking going on, you have to wonder: How does food get digested without stomach acid? The answer is, it doesn't—and that leads to three problems, all of which get worse the longer you use one of these drugs.

  • First, proteins aren't broken down properly and certain minerals aren't being absorbed because stomach acid is required for this to happen. When the improperly digested substances reach the intestines, gas-forming bacteria multiply quicker than election-year promises and cause a serious gas problem.
  • Second, low stomach acid eventually causes a protein deficiency. Your body then robs protein from joint surfaces and moves it to the areas where it's needed. This can lead to possible arthritis.
  • Third, a lack of stomach acid impairs the digestion and assimilation of calcium, which can result in many health problems, including muscle cramps and osteoporosis.

How to Cope With Low Stomach Acid

If you happen to have fallen victim to the stomach acid propaganda, don’t worry. There are a couple of simple steps you can take to make sure your health doesn’t suffer.

  • Eat the protein foods at the beginning of your meal. Your stomach churns out nearly all of its hydrochloric acid when you begin eating. So, if you begin a meal with a salad, as many of us in this country do, you "waste" the acid. That's because the carbohydrates that make up a salad require no hydrochloric acid for digestion. Later, when the protein foods (meat, fish, beans, and cheese) need the acid, there’s none left. So always eat the vegetable salad either with the protein food, or after, but never before.
  • Try supplemental hydrochloric acid. I suggest doing this if eating protein earlier in meals is not enough to stop the problem. I always recommend it in the form of betaine hydrochloride tablets. Take one or two tablets after you eat, but not before or during your meal because it will shut off your natural acid production. Instead, you want your stomach to produce and secrete as much acid as it can first, then you can add the additional acid needed.

Once your digestive tract is re-acidified, the next step is to provide a proper digestive enzyme to help your digestive system further break down the food you eat. A good product will include acids and enzymes similar to the ones naturally produced by the stomach. Look for pepsin and betaine hydrochloride on the label. Learn more about digestive enzymes and their benefits for digestive health.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Nutritional Support and Overall Wellness

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