Beginning in their mid-thirties, most people begin secreting less stomach acid. Stomach acid secretion then continues to decrease year-by-year. People who chronically use acid reducers, have hypothyroidism, have low blood sugar, and who have or have had an H. Pylori infection (the bacteria associated with ulcers) are at a greater risk of developing hypochlorhydria. More than 50% of the world's population harbors H. Pylori in their upper gastrointestinal tract.
Adequate stomach acid is critical to digesting proteins. Stomach acid begins the protein digestion process and is required to produce a digestive enzyme called pepsin which further breaks down proteins. Fat and carbohydrate digestion and absorption rely on stomach acid as well. Stomach acid triggers the pancreas to produce enzymes that digest fat (lipase), protein (protease), and carbohydrates (amylase).
Additionally, stomach acid aids in keeping the stomach a sterile environment, preventing the overgrowth of bacteria and yeast. Low stomach acid can lead to bacterial or yeast overgrowth, also known as dysbiosis. Stomach acid is also needed to properly absorb micronutrients including calcium, iron, and vitamin b-12 to name a few.
The condition of having low stomach acid is called hypochlorhydria (hi po klor hid ria). Symptoms of hypochlorhydria include belching, burping, bloating or gas immediately following a meal, bad breath, constipation, poorly formed stool, and undigested foods found in the stool. Many cases of irritable bowel syndrome are directly related to low stomach acid. Anemia is also common in people with hypochlorhydria.
My next post will deal with correcting/managing hypochlorhydria.
Yours in Health,
Dr. James Turnbull D.C., C.C.S.T., F.I.A.M.A.