Poor stomach function can give rise to acid reflux, excess fullness after meals, gas, bloating, belching, flatulence, dyspepsia (stomach pain), nausea or vomiting, fatigue, insomnia, joint and muscle pain, skin disorders, sugar cravings, cramping, diarrhea and constipation – and more. It can be caused by low or excess stomach acid, swallowing air, over dilution of stomach juices by drinking too much liquid with food, food intolerances or allergies, or malabsorption.
Low or Excess Stomach Acid?
Hydrochloric Acid is produced in the stomach to break down food, liberate minerals and disable unwanted microbes that have been ingested. It also activates Pepsin, a powerful protease which breaks down protein and releases vitamin B12 from food.
Stomach acid can decline with age and also with stress, or due to zinc depletion (extremely common especially in men), leading to incomplete digestion. In the absence of inflammation or ulceration supplemental acid and/or Pepsin (or bromelain) can be temporarily prescribed, with B12 and zinc, until the underlying cause of the low stomach acid has been addressed. A tablespoon of cider vinegar in a glass of water sipped with each meal can aid digestion.
You can determine if you need more or less stomach acid by taking a tablespoon of cider vinegar or lemon juice. If this makes your indigestion go away, you need more acid. If it makes your indigestion worse, you need less acid. Either way, consult your doctor before deciding on a course of action.
Side-effects of medications
Proton pump inhibitors such as Omeprazole and Lansoprazole are aimed at greatly inhibiting gastric acid secretion temporarily in order to treat acid-related diseases such as gastroduodenal ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Barrett’s esophagus, and functional dyspepsia. They also aim to provide secondary prevention of aspirin/NSAID-induced ulcers. Long term use (for more than a few months) has been linked to bone fractures, gut infections and debilitating vitamin B12 deficiency. The drugs can also trigger episodes of wind and bloating because they prohibit optimal digestion and absorption, leaving more food free to feed microbes and promote bacterial and fungal overgrowth in the gut.
In addition antibiotics, laxatives, codeine, morphine, antacids, steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can significantly affect the health of the digestive tract and interact with dietary supplements – so please seek medical advice first.
In the same fashion as an inflamed gut wall, an inflamed stomach makes the body less efficient at absorbing the vital nutrients it needs from food, particularly vitamins A, D and zinc, our critical defences against disease and cell damage.
Next month, we continue looking at poor stomach function and the impact on your health, including optimal eating habits, dietary advice for digestive health, sleep and stress and digestion, how exercise helps, and natural remedies for digestive problems.
Healthright’s aim for 2022 is to help you improve your health naturally and safely.
Come and ask us how. We look forward to seeing you very soon.