There is some debate among the medical community regarding the prevalence of hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid). While aging is regularly associated with decreased acid production, there continues to be confusion around gastric acid measurement. For instance, while only about 10% of the population measured showed low fasting acid levels, a decline in gastric acid secretion during and after consuming a meal (a marker that is rarely reported) may be a much more important measure of acid-related digestive issues. So why is this important?
Inadequate levels of stomach acid can result in many nutritional and digestive issues. For instance, a reduction in gastric acid secretion (elevated stomach pH) prevents adequate digestion of proteins resulting in increased food allergies. A low acid environment is also linked to reduced absorption of key micronutrients such as calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Additionally, since gastric acid helps eliminate harmful ingested microorganisms and hinders bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and small intestines, low stomach acid can increase the risk for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Given the importance of adequate levels of stomach acid, it becomes evident how the long term use of acid suppressant drugs like proton pump inhibitors (PPI) and acid blockers like Zantac can cause health issues when used long term and are only recommended for short term use.
While poor nutrient absorption and protein digestion are reversible, if not corrected they can eventually contribute to both chronic diseases and are often the starting point for the development of autoimmune disorders.
This is also why we recommend you work closely with a healthcare practitioner when it comes to nutritional supplements and why Vitopia Health places so much emphasis on customer education. Assuming you have a healthy diet, if you are still low on the nutrients mentioned above or are experiencing recurrent SIBO, it is important to look for the root cause as more supplements are not always the clear answer. Learn more about the importance of gut health on the Vitopia website!
To Your Health!
Mike Woodley, R.Ph., FAARM, ABAAHP