Dr. Jonathan Wright, M.D. a well known natural healing physician who since 1973 has run a Integrative Medicine clinic in Renton, Washington indicates that 90 percent of his patients with osteoporosis have low stomach acid. Here is the reason why – if stomach acid is low, your body won’t be able to absorb calcium, strontium, magnesium and the other minerals critical to good bone health. Good health is determined not by what you eat but by what you absorb!
Your stomach produces hydrochloric acid which is used to digest food. This stomach acid along with the digestive enzyme pepsin can reduce even the toughest piece of meat to liquid. As we grow older, the stomach’s capacity to secrete hydrochloric acid sometimes becomes impaired and the result is lower acid and impaired digestion. Dr. Wright observes that many patients do not respond well to a nutritional program until hydrochloric acid and pepsin are added to their regimen. The same is true regarding a person’s response to some herbal remedies or nutritional supplements. The herbs and supplements were unable to exert their therapeutic effect until the active ingredients were released by the action of hydrochloric acid and pepsin in the stomach. So this might explain why some patients respond well to certain nutritional remedies and others do not.
How to know if you have low stomach acid - Hydrochloric acid levels decrease with age, when you are under a lot of stress, and/or when you are taking acid-suppressing medications such as Zantac or Pepcid. A procedure called the Heidelberg test measures the acidity of the stomach but unfortunately it is not widely available. You may have low stomach acid if you demonstrate some of the common symptoms of this condition – broken fingernails, thinning hair, heartburn, bloating after meals, belching or a feeling that the food is just sitting in your stomach after meals. Most of the time we have been taught that those gastrointestinal symptoms are caused by too much acid when in reality more times than not they are caused by too little acid.
Increasing stomach acid. However, if you think you would benefit by more stomach acid, you can conduct a therapeutic trial of betaine hydrochloric acid. Available in capsules or tablets, betaine hydrochloric acid is derived from beets and can be found at any health food store or online supplement retailer. Start by taking one capsule in the early part of each of your meals. Then gradually increase the dose by one capsule every few days until you feel a warming or burning sensation within 30 to 60 minutes of taking the dose. Then cut back by one capsule, and stay at this dosage.
Remember, the more stomach acid you have, the better you will be able to digest foods and absorb minerals. Many older adults have a low level of stomach acid as a chronic health condition and it may be necessary for them to continue taking betaine hydrochloric acid tablets indefinitely. Work with your nutritionally oriented doctor to determine if this is necessary or if there is a root cause for you low stomach acid production that can be corrected. This technique of using betaine hydrochloric acid tablets should not be used by people who have active ulcers, gastritis or heartburn- it may further irritate the stomach lining. Those who are regularly taking medications that can cause ulcers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other anti-inflammatory drugs should work with their integrative physician to optimize stomach acid production. Remember, without adequate stomach acid, you are just wasting your hard earned dollars on calcium and other bone building supplements.