The crucial role of stomach acid in our health

The crucial role of stomach acid in our health

Many of us have been led to falsely believe that excess stomach acid is the reason we have heartburn, GERD (acid reflux), and other digestive issues. This is not only false but dangerously misleading. I call this the Myth of High Stomach Acid, and I see it perpetuated by nearly every doctor (both allopathic and holistic).
Stomach acid is critical to our health, and in reality, many of us do not have enough. Conditions of excess are in fact extremely rare, and many of the symptoms that patients complain about are due to low stomach acid.
Rather, what happens more often is that our digestive system is so disrupted that we do not have enough acid released at the correct time to digest our food.

So why is it so important to maintain stomach acid in our body?

- Stomach acid is needed for proper and complete digestion. In order to break down protein into smaller chain amino acids, we need adequate levels of stomach acid. Amino acids are essential to full-body health and without them, we see a whole host of health issues.
- An inability to break down proteins can lead to allergies, digestive issues, and eventually more serious conditions like hypertension, migraines, and insomnia.
- Stomach acid activates pepsin, which breaks down proteins, which is where food allergies are derived from.
- We also need stomach acid in order to absorb vital nutrients and minerals, and those with lower stomach acid tend to be more nutrient + mineral deficient.

- Stomach acid is crucial in preventing pathogenic infections. This is why you see animals with high stomach acid that can eat raw meat and not get sick. While human levels should not be this high as we are not wild animals, our current average stomach acid is not up to par, and leads us to have more parasite activity, and other pathogens in the body. (This is especially important because stealth pathogens are typically the root cause of most auto-immune conditions.)

What about PPI's?

Proton Pump Inhibitors are the Western Medicine solution to heartburn and acid reflux. Because of the belief that stomach acid is evil, many practitioners resort to prescribing PPIs, which work by shutting down the production of stomach acid. Not only does this not treat the issue, but actually makes it worse over time, and produces a slew of other negative health problems. What's worse, is that PPIs are now being prescribed to infants


The dangers of PPI's:

  • Patients using PPIs have a higher likelihood to develop allergies due to not being able to break down proteins. Studies have shown that within 12 weeks of being on PPIs, 25% of the patients had new food allergies.

  • PPI use is associated with a higher risk of C. Diff. Colitis, an infection of the colon.

  • Using PPIs for a year or longer increases the risk of magnesium depletion, and can lead to seizures (most have a black box warning about this)

  • Patients on PPIs are 5x more likely to get salmonella because there is not enough acid to kill bacteria.

  • Increases risk of pneumonia due to altering the microbiome in the throat/larynx, which allows for more organisms to get into the lungs

  • A meta-analysis has shown that the use of PPIs is associated with chronic kidney damage

  • Increases risk of fractures

  • Can create dysbiosis in the gut

  • Increases risk of SIBO


What can lower stomach acid?

  • Not enough salt. In order for stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) to be produced, our body requires sodium chloride or salt. Years of nutrition "experts" talking about the dangers of sodium has led to a nationwide deficiency, and an overuse of processed table salts.

  • Calcium excess. When there is too much calcium in the body, this can lead to suppressed adrenals. Once this occurs, sodium and potassium are lost through urine in what is known as sodium pump failure. Because sodium and potassium are essential for stomach acid production, this leads to impaired digestion + amino acid deficiencies.

  • Not enough bitters in the diet can drastically reduce the production of stomach acid and bile.

  • Chronic stress

  • Antacid use

  • Stomach acid production decreases with age

Other causes for heartburn and GERD:

  • Excess weight. Abdominal fat can put pressure on the lower sphincter, whose job is to keep acid in the stomach.

  • Dysmotility. GI issues caused by a lack of diversity in our microbiome can lead to digestive problems, and for our stomach and GI tract to not work in harmony. When this happens, stomach acid might not be released at the proper time and release too much too late.

  • A high amount of sugar in the diet

How to increase stomach acid:

  • Get high-quality salt back into the diet

  • Reduce calcium intake, as we do not need as much as we are lead to believe

  • Add plants like chamomile, arugula, dandelion greens, chicory, peppermint, and sorrel to your diet. An arugula salad or chamomile tea is enough to stimulate stomach acid + aid digestion.

  • Lower stress levels

  • Work with a practitioner to get off of antacids or PPIs

  • Use digestive bitters, which are made from bitter herbs, to stimulate stomach acid + bile


The importance of stomach acid is oftentimes underrated. We need stomach acid to reduce risk of bacteria overgrowth and infection, be able to break down proteins in order for our body to make use of important amino acids, and to absorb minerals and nutrients from the food we eat.

Those with digestion issues tend to suffer from low stomach acid and dysbiosis in the gut. While chronic PPI use is rampant in the United States due to so many Americans having acid reflux, people are having more and more issues with food allergies + sensitivities, and chronic nutrient deficiencies.

While there is a high number of people with heartburn or GERD, about 66 million, the root cause is not excess stomach acid. Pile that on top of dietitians advising against consuming salt, and you have the perfect storm.

My favorite way to encourage stomach acid and bile production is by eating seasonal bitter greens like arugula or dandelion greens.

I’d love to hear your PPI and stomach acid stories! Share in the comments below 😊

As always, Happy Healing!

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