01 Jan What Happens When we Have Low Acid in the Stomach?
By Dr. Michael Yarish, ND
Naturopath Barrie, Innisfil
The Lakeside Clinic – Center for Integrated Medicine
Decreased secretion of stomach acid is generally associated with aging, but can affect anyone at any age. Low stomach acid can also be caused by overeating, especially refined carbohydrates, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, lack of sufficient protein in the diet, low estrogen levels, hypothyroidism and chronic overuse of alcohol, coffee and marijuana.
Stress shuts down stomach acid production. During stress, cortisol is increased and DHEA is decreased. The body needs to be in a parasympathetic (relaxed) state for optimal secretion of stomach acid.
Antacid drugs such as cimetidine, omeprazole, ranitidine and famotidine also shut down stomach acid production. Ironically, it is these drugs that are prescribed most of the time by medical doctors to patients who complain of gastric burning. Gastric burning is a major symptom of low stomach acid caused by a drop in internal stomach pressure. More often than not, gastric burning is a result of too little stomach acid, not too much stomach acid. Patients are prescribed the acid blockers listed above which make matters worse.
Low stomach acid occurs when the pH of the stomach rises above 3.5 and is associated with the following problems:
- Improper digestion, especially of proteins leading to gas and bloating
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Reduced absorption of nutrients
- Osteoporosis (leading to hip fracture)
- Increased risk of infection (especially H. Pylori) leading to ulcer formation
- Increased bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract
- Key vitamin and mineral deficiencies (B12, calcium and iron)
- Eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, vitiligo, hives
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
Signs and symptoms of low stomach acid include bloating, belching, burning, gas, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation. Other less common but telling symptoms of low stomach acid include cracked, peeling or weak fingernails, rectal itching, undigested food in the stool, acne and nausea after taking supplements.
Testing for Low Stomach Acid
At The Lakeside Clinic, we use the gastric string test to check for evidence of low or high stomach acid. The test is safe and effective and can be performed quickly at the clinic. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, especially gastric burning, it would be wise to have your levels checked at our clinic before considering acid blocking drugs. If your stomach acid is too low or too high, we can implement a very effective protocol to correct the problem without the use of drugs.