Adequate stomach acid is vital for good gut health – it digests and breaks down our food, kills off any bugs and bacteria, stimulates further digestive enzymes further down the digestive tract and keeps our beneficial gut bacteria happy (they love an acidic environment. The bad bugs like an alkaline state). However, too low or too high stomach acid can cause some very uncomfortable symptoms such as indigestion and GERD.
ANTACID SIDE EFFECTS
Indigestion will often as not be diagnosed as too high stomach acid, but did you know that the symptoms for low stomach acid are the same as for high stomach acid – heartburn after eating, indigestion, bloating etc.? My clients often come to me with all of these symptoms and they are taking antacids to alleviate them. However, antacids may reduce stomach acid further (if you have been on antacids for a long time you may have started out with high stomach acid but it is now pretty low) and make matters even worse. When a client comes to me with gut issues, I want to make sure that their stomach acid is optimal. I have an easy little test using bicarb of soda that helps me assess how their stomach acid is doing. Many of my clients have been on antacids for years and the test shows that they have next to no stomach acid at all. This can cause serious gut discomfort due to the inability to break down food effectively in the stomach. Low stomach acid can be driven by many factors, such as ageing (our stomach acid reduces as we age), zinc deficiency (zinc is required to produce stomach acid), medications etc.
However, some clients definitely have excess stomach acid or conditions such as hiatus hernia whereby the valve leading from the esophagus to the stomach is faulty and the acid from the gut refluxes back up into the esophagus. I would always recommend my GERD and indigestion clients to do a food intolerance test. I have found that identifying reactive foods and eliminating them from the diet can help to normalise stomach acid, and eradicate symptoms. Common infections such helicobacter pylori can cause chronic indigestion (as well as stomach ulcers and cancer on a long-term basis) so if things do not improve I will refer you to your GP for a breath test to test for this particular bacteria, which can live in your gut for years.
High and low stomach acid can also be caused by making poor food choices. An excess intake of junk food and alcohol can be big drivers of stomach acid dysfunction. Chronic indigestion and GERD are not normal and can be improved and completely eradicated with an individualised nutrition plan.