THE HEALTH HAZARDS OF BLOCKING ACID PRODUCTION BY THE STOMACH
By Dr. James Howenstine, MD.
Removal of (stomach acid) has serious long term consequences over time. The resulting poor digestion is the genesis of all sorts of significant health problems.
A recent study from Holland revealed that patients using acid suppressing drugs had a quadrupled risk of developing pneumonia when compared to patients not using these drugs. There are two classes of drugs that interfere with acid production by the stomach:
Many physicians have become accustomed to ordering one of the above drugs when a patient is placed on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory NSAID drug for arthritic symptoms because of the well recognized risk of ulcer formation and internal bleeding that can occur with NSAID therapy. This decision is based on the incorrect assumption that stomach acid is bad and decreasing this acid production should help prevent ulcer formation and subsequent bleeding episodes. Stomach acid is critical to digestion of food and the long term loss of this beneficial acid causes a myriad of health problems.
In the study from Holland the medical records of 360,000 patients were surveyed for usage of Proton Pump Inhibitors and H2 Receptor Antagonists. The risk of developing pneumonia increased the most in the patients receiving the highest doses of these drugs. Dr. Allan Spreen relates that when stomach acid production is decreased by these drugs there is also diminished tightness in the muscular contraction of the gastroesophageal sphincter during digestion. This lack of a trap door effect permits gastric fluid to have an easier time in refluxing up into the esophagus where it can drop into the lung. One of the functions of gastric acid is too kill infectious bacteria in the stomach. The loss of maximal acid production by the stomach might make it easier for this regurgitating stomach fluid to contain living infectious organisms when it drops into the lung and thus facilitate bacterial pneumonia.
The actual development of stomach and duodenal ulceration is related to lack of digestive enzymes and mucous which protect the stomach lining against ulceration. Stomachs that are not producing adequate amounts of acid also tend to be low in their production of digestive enzymes. These stomach enzymes and mucous act to protect the normal stomach lining from being digested by acid and thus can protect from ulcer formation. In normal digestion the high stomach acid content causes no problems with reflux of acid into the esophagus because the gastroesophageal sphincter is able to become tight enough so that no acid regurgitates into the esophagus. The appearance of regurgitated acidic gastric fluid on the esophageal lining is what produces the pain seen in this condition (reflux).
Health Problems Related To Lack of Adequate Amounts Of Gastric Acid Over Long Periods Of Time
There are a multitude of health problems related to deficiency of gastric acid production. Lack of hydrochloric acid causes failure of digestion in the small intestine, inability to breakdown fiber, flawed enzyme activity and inability to assimilate minerals. Lack of gastric acidity causes disappearance of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate) from the body. This electrolyte lack causes an inability to maintain body pH in an appropriate level and also leads to nearly complete failure to produce enzymes. Persons lacking gastric acid are unable to digest protein which is responsible for 50 % of the body’s sugar production so there is a tendency to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) with symptoms reflecting low blood sugar values (shakiness, sweating, hunger, confusion, headaches, dizziness, palpitation). A serous problem occurs when vitamin B complex is not absorbed. This results in lack of enzyme function which is responsible for nearly every bodily function that keeps us alive.
Thyroid function becomes flawed because of lack of vitamins B2, B3 and B6 along with the minerals iodine, zinc, selenium, magnesium, copper, molybdenum, essential fatty acids and the amino acid tyrosine. Lacking these substances thyroid hormone can not be constructed.
Magnesium deficiency tends to raise blood pressure and interferes with normal dilatation of arteries. Lack of folic acid and pyridoxine (B6) results in elevation of homocysteine values which accelerates arteriosclerosis.
Lack of gastric acid causes bacterial infections in the intestines to flourish, nutrients become wasted in the stools, undigested substances become able to penetrate the injured intestinal wall (leaky gut syndrome) and auto immune reactions develop against these abnormal ingested foreign blood proteins. Lack of the vitamins A, B, and C impairs the normal protection against developing malignancies. The missing electrolytes, vitamins and minerals leads to impaired liver performance (zinc and manganese deficiency cause deficiency of the key liver nutrient choline). Muscle wasting follows impaired protein ingestion.
Histamine is important for proper immune function and the lack of hydrochloric acid prevents histidine from being converted into histamine. This histamine lack causes the mast cells in the stomach to fail to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid. Chronic stress depletes the body of B vitamins and minerals which are already lacking.
Eighty percent of healthy 85 year old adults test positive for hypochlorhydria (not enough stomach acid). At least 50 % of persons over 50 years old have diminished stomach acid production.
Zinc is absent or nearly absent from all the major farmlands in the U.S. Zinc is needed for over 200 enzyme reactions in the body. This review has only touched on a few of the significant problems which result from decreased gastric hydrochloric acid production.
The mere presence of heartburn does not prove that the patients symptoms are caused by stomach acid as persons regurgitating bile onto the esophagus may experience similar pain. The seriousness of the health problems resulting from lack of stomach acid makes other methods of handling the symptoms of heartburn and regurgitation an important issue.
Therapy For Impaired Gastric Acid Production.
Any patient exhibiting any of these signs of absent acid production by the stomach should consider stopping H2 blocker or proton pump therapy. Dr. Allan Spreen states that about 66 % of patients suffering from heartburn, indigestion and reflux have responded well to the use of frequent acidophilus powder which relieves the pain without altering acid production by the stomach. The bacterial preparation may need to be taken frequently. Stomachs that are low in acid production are also low in production of digestive enzymes. Treating with acid and digestive enzymes along with the acidophilus tends to be beneficial as long as stomach acid fails to reach the esophagus. Dr. Spreen likes the formulation Super Enzymes by Twin Lab taking two capsules in the middle of the meal. This product contains betaine hydrochloride, a plant based form of acid like that in the stomach. Acidophilus seems to work better if the capsule is opened so the saliva carries the bacteria down the esophagus into the stomach. Acidophilus can be found in health food stores and over the internet. Refrigerated varieties of acidophilus in either capsule or powder in dosage of billions of CFU (colony forming units) ¼ to ½ teaspoon before meals and bedtime as well as whenever needed during the daytime. Swallow with saliva or a few sips of water.
The English product
Potter’s Acidosis contains meadowsweet, charcoal, and rhubarb
which often works to stop internal bleeding from ulcers, cancer and
gastritis when all other therapies have failed may be quite helpful.
This can be obtained by calling 011-44-1942-405100 or herbal-direct.com
in England. Individuals who fail to improve with these measures will
need consultation and possibly even surgery to tighten the esophageal
© 2004 Dr. James Howenstine - All Rights Reserved
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Dr. James A. Howenstine is a board
certified specialist in internal medicine who spent 34 years caring for
office and hospital patients. After 4 years of personal study he became
convinced that natural products are safer, more effective, and less
expensive than pharmaceutical drugs. This research led to the
publication of his book A Physicians Guide To Natural Health Products
That Work. Information about these products and his book can be
obtained from amazon.com and at www.naturalhealthteam.com
and phone 1-800-416-2806 U.S. Dr. Howenstine can be reached at [email protected] and by mail at
Dr. James Howenstine, C/O Remarsa USA SB 37, P.O. Box 25292, Miami, Fl.
The Hopi Indians in Arizona eat a vegetarian diet whose primary ingredient is calico corn. Their incidence of cancer in 1974 was one case per 100,000. At the same time, the white population in Arizona was having one case of cancer for every four persons.