Acid or Antacid? That is the Question

A low level of stomach acid production occurs in 47% of the general population, the highest incidence being found in people over fifty years old. Millions of dollars are erroneously spent on drugs that decrease the amount of acid in the stomach, antacids like Alka-Seltzer®, or drugs in the Zantac®, Prevacid® or Nexium® families.

The opposite problem, however, is often the culprit: too little acid. Without enough acid, the body has a difficult time digesting foods, absorbing minerals and vitamin B12. Bloating, belching, upset stomach, heartburn and constipation are common symptoms of low stomach acid output. Food is not getting digested and is moving through the stomach too quickly, making it prone to reflux up. The result is undernutrition, even with an excellent diet.

So, before looking to hormone replacement therapy for prevention of osteoporosis, or to vitamin B12 shots for pernicious anemia, have your stomach acid checked. Without a potent amount of hydrochloric acid, the three pounds of bacteria that live in the colon can move up into the small intestines where undesirable strains of bacteria and yeast can take hold and multiply. Besides interfering with digestion and absorption, these microbes can inflame the small intestine, causing them to become permeable to undigested foods. The individual, thus, becomes allergic to healthful foods.

Did you know that the total absorptive area of the inside wall of the small intestine of an average person is about the same as a standard football field, and every square inch of this surface can be covered with mucus in which bacteria are imbedded and growing? Imagine the negative impact from undesirable strains of bacteria and yeast with so much room to multiply! If allowed to continue for many years without treatment, a variety of diseases can ensue, such as asthma, celiac disease, chronic autoimmune disorders, diabetes, eczema, food allergies, gall bladder disease, gastric cancer, gastritis, lupus, osteoporosis, pernicious anemia, psoriasis and acne rosacea.

Symptoms that may be caused by poor stomach acid output include:

  • stomach bloating
  • burping
  • upset stomach
  • burning
  • flatulence
  • diarrhea
  • constipation, difficult movements
  • nausea after taking supplements
  • rectal itching
  • weak, peeling, cracked fingernails
  • dilated capillaries in the cheeks and nose (in non-alcoholics)
  • post adolescent acne
  • iron deficiency
  • other mineral deficiencies
  • chronic intestinal infections
  • undigested food in stool
  • vitiligo
  • ulcerative colitis
  • hair loss

Keep it simple! If you have bloating, belching or heartburn, first try a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of water with each meal. If that doesn’t work, try 1300 mg of betaine hydrochloride (this becomes hydrochloric acid when in the stomach) with each meal. The right dose can be estimated, but has to be adjusted finally by trial and error. Pepsin is often added to the hydrochloride supplements tofurther promote protein digestion.

Over time, the stomach cells that secrete acid may be rejuvenated with supplements of licorice, glutamine and gentian. Sometimes acupuncture can help restore the cells. If a subluxation is creating weakened stimulation of nerves to the stomach, chiropractic can help.

Next time you think of taking an antacid, stop. Try taking vinegar or betaine hydrochloride first to see if that relieves the symptoms. If your problem is too little acid — sure, an antacid may relieve the symptom of heartburn — but if taken regularly, will just worsen the above scenario.

Dr. Lynda J. Wells has been a natural health care practitioner since 1985. She is a licensed nutritionist and nationally certified nutrition specialist, an herbalist, a Reiki practitioner, and also uses homeopathy, acupressure and colon cleansing when needed. She accepts all health insurances. Lynda may be reached at (401) 789-5185 or