Have you ever noticed how many advertisements there are for both prescription and over-the-counter antacids? It seems like every time you turn on the television, browse the Internet or open a magazine there's an ad telling you how "X" product can instantly relieve your painful intestinal symptoms of gas, bloating, heartburn and indigestion. Look closely at those ads; chances are good the ones you see feature adults over the age of 40, since most changes to stomach acid levels are age-related beginning at about age 30. Usually, these changes take about 10 years to produce any noticeable symptoms, which is why stomach acid products tend to be marketed to the over-40 crowd.
Hypochloridia vs. Hyperchloridia
If you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from the symptoms of excess stomach acid, consider this before you take another antacid product: the symptoms of Hypochloridia (low stomach acid) are virtually the same as the symptoms of Hyperchloridia (excess stomach acid). Maintaining optimal levels of stomach acid is key to your health, however, as we age, our naturally-occurring stomach acid levels drop.
A recent study in Japan revealed that about half of all their research subjects over the age of 50 suffered from Achlorhydria, a severe form of Hypochloridia in which naturally-occurring stomach acids are almost completely absent.
This means that people who have low levels of stomach acid (typically adults aged 40 and older) may be inadvertently taking antacid treatments for high stomach acid, leading to a host of health problems related to malnutrition as a result of malabsorption. That's right, malnutrition: when your body is unable to completely absorb the vitamins, minerals and nutrients from your food you can end up being malnourished regardless of how well you eat or how fit you are.
Ironically, people who mistakenly treat their low stomach acid by taking products designed to reduce stomach acid (remember, both conditions result in very similar symptoms) are actually making their problems worse by suppressing their already-low levels of gastric acids. This is why getting a correct diagnosis for digestive issues is key to good health, otherwise, serious complications from chronic malnutrition can develop. These complications include constipation, chronic fatigue, severe depression and recurrent parasitic infections in the gut.
Both mainstream and alternative health practitioners are now working to draw attention to the massive scope of this problem: Dr. Natasha Turner, ND, is a regular guest on the Dr. Oz show who advises that people undergo simple tests to guard against the dangers of misdiagnosing low stomach acid as excess stomach acid. Tests for Hypochlorhydria range from the use of Betaine Hydrochloride to ingesting Heidelburg capsules; tiny, pill-shaped electronic monitors that transmit real-time information about a patient's stomach acid levels.
How To Improve Digestive Health
The good news is that low stomach acid can be easily treated using over-the-counter supplements and by adapting your diet. One simple step you can take to support the health of your digestive system is supplementing your diet with digestive enzyme products like Enerzyme, EnergyFirst's own custom-formulated digestive enzyme complex. These easy-to-swallow all-natural vegetarian capsules are designed to strengthen your body's natural digestive process by breaking down foods into readily-absorbed nutrients. Enzyme supplements can also help promote and maintain the natural pH balance within your body, leading to a calmer, more efficient digestive system.
Another proven way to improve digestive health is adding more fiber to your diet. The typical North American diet is seriously lacking in the fiber we all need to support healthy digestion and the efficient removal of toxins from our bodies. Organic Fiber by EnergyFirst is a great source of organic, all-natural, gluten-free fiber, providing 10 grams of dietary fiber in every 12-gram serving. This tasteless fiber supplement can be added to shakes, sprinkled on cereals and mixed into nut butters, making this an easy way to boost your daily fiber intake.
If you suspect that you might be suffering from low stomach acid, ask your health care provider about tests you can take to measure your stomach acid levels.
ND Health Facts: http://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Hypochlorhydria_(Low_Stomach_Acid)
Dr. Natasha Turner: http://drnatashaturner.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Clear-MedicineHCL-challenge.pdf
MedLine Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003883.htm
American Holistic Health Association: http://www.ahha.org/antacidsarticle.htm