Why Low Stomach Acid Isn't A Good Thing
When we first see the words low stomach acid, we might tend to think of it as being a goal we should work towards achieving. Our view of stomach acid is that it's something that exists mainly for the purpose of causing digestive problems. After all, if we didn't have stomach acid, we wouldn't ever have an acid stomach, or a need for antacids, nor would there be disorders such as acid reflux disease that can make life less pleasant. After all, stomach acid consists primarily of hydrochloric acid (HCl), which can be strong stuff, though fortunately the concentration in our stomach is on the order of one-half of one percent. Sodium chloride and potassium chloride also make up part of the stomach acid mix.
Why We Need It
The truth is, stomach acid exists for a purpose, and a very good one at that. Without it, we would have a problem digesting our food, and a major problem in trying to digest protein. In fact, if it wasn't for stomach acid, we probably couldn't digest protein at all. Without being able to take advantage of the benefits of protein in our diets, we'd be in pretty sad shape, if in fact we could even exist. To make matters even worse, an absence of stomach acid would make it impossible to completely digest most fats and carbohydrates. Added to the need for stomach acid from a nutritional perspective, the fact that without it, significant amounts of undigested food entering the colon could wreak havoc with one's health and well being.
What all this means is this. While we pay quite a bit of attention to cases involving an excess of acid in the stomach, a low-stomach acid situation, medically referred to as hypochlorhydria, carries with it its own set of problems. Stomach disorders we routinely blame on an excessive amount of stomach acid can sometimes be caused by quite the opposite situation, a deficiency in the amount of stomach acid our digestive system has to work with.
For the most part, our body does a remarkable job of keeping the amount of stomach acid at about the proper levels and the proper concentration. The acid, also called gastric acid, is produced by cells in the lining of the stomach. Production is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which is the nervous system responsible for the operation of the digestive tract. It is controlled by several hormones as well. As long as both the autonomic nervous system and the production of the required hormones run smoothly, we shouldn't experience problems associated with either high or low levels of stomach acid.
A Fairly Common Disorder
Low stomach acid problems tend to mostly affect those who are middle-aged or older. In fact, just under half of the population in that age range experience low stomach acid problems at one time or another. When these problems do occur they are more often than not mistaken as being the result of an excess of stomach acid. After all, low stomach acid symptoms include belching, bloating, both diarrhea and constipation, heartburn, indigestion, stomach pains, and a few other things that can easily be associated with a high stomach acid condition. The remedies taken, more often than not designed to decrease the amount of stomach acid in the digestive system, will at times only make matters worse. The problem we need to address is to figure out how to find out what's wrong when the symptoms of both low and excessive levels of stomach acid are often the same or are very similar.
While most of us know that having an excess of stomach acid can be a significant cause of discomfort and even illness, having a deficiency of the acid in the digestive system is worse, much worse in fact. There's a long list of diseases and disorders, ranging from autoimmune diseases, to rheumatic arthritis, to osteoporosis, which can be traced back to chronically low levels of stomach acid.
Betaine And Broccoli
The low acid condition is usually quite treatable, and it often involves nothing more than over-the counter medications and pro-biotic supplements. Increasing the amount of vitamin B12 in the system can be helpful as well. Some doctors will recommend injections of vitamin B12 over a period of time. Betaine HCL supplements can help produce stomach acid, and these supplements are more than likely something most doctors would recommend. Less concentrated amounts of betaine are found in certain foods, such as broccoli and spinach, vegetables which then should be made a regular part of the diet, at least until the stomach returns to normal.
Although it is easily treatable, low stomach acid is not a particularly well known malady. Since the symptoms are so similar to those brought about by excessive amounts of stomach acid, the condition is often treated in a manner that can make the condition, or at least the symptoms, worse. This is a disorder that requires a little education to fully understand and to make prevention and treatment relatively easy tasks. Unfortunately, television ads addressing acid stomach problems don't provide much in the way of facts that are particularly useful.
Copyright © 2007 Stomach Problem. All rights reserved. Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.