You may have read or heard that it is healthy to be more alkaline, but the truth of the matter is that different parts of our body have different pH’s.
What is the pH of the stomach acid and why is stomach acid important
The stomach is designed to have an acidic pH between 1.5 and 3.0 and it is the acidic pH that functions as the bodies first line of defence against pathogenic organisms that can cause food poisoning and parasitic infections that can cause all sorts of digestive problems. If anyone has low stomach acid these organisms may survive and thrive further down in the digestive tract causing a host of gut health issues which is why the importance of stomach acid should never be overlooked.
Have you ever wondered how 2 people can eat the same food yet one develops food poisoning and the other does not?
Stomach acid levels may be something to consider! Eating food is one of the main ways in which we are all exposed to all sorts of possibly harmful microorganisms. For this reason, the stomach is designed to have an acidic pH that acts to disinfect the stomach and kill any harmful bacteria and parasites found within the food. Having an acidic pH to kill pathogens entering the body via food is one of the primary functions of stomach acid.
The other main purpose of stomach acid is to properly break down your protein, especially animal protein as meat can be difficult for the body to digest. The main enzyme responsible for protein digestion is pepsin and it is activated by the HCL and works best in the presence of appropriate stomach acid levels so that protein can then be broken down into amino acids and assimilated.
But what does protein digestion have to do with our health? Well, protein, when broken down into amino acids is used to build our tissues such as muscle. Amino acids also make up hormones, enzymes and antibodies.
A deficiency or malabsorption of amino acids can result in the body not being able to provide the precursors to make our muscle, hormones, enzymes, antibodies etc.. therefore the body cannot function as it should. Thus a myriad of symptoms that may seem unrelated can be traced back to low stomach acid and malabsorption of amino acids.
Another common symptom that is associated with low stomach acid is heartburn also known as acid reflux. But how is it that low stomach acid contributes to acid reflux when it is the acid burning the esophageal or stomach lining?!
First off the esophagus is not meant to have ANY contact with stomach acid which is why the lower esophageal sphincter is meant to keep HCL in the stomach only. The stomach is designed to hold the acidic contents of stomach acid as long as the mucosal lining of the stomach is intact and not inflamed.
Having an intact healthy mucosal lining is key for preventing stomach acid from burning a hole through the stomach lining. If the stomach lining is inflamed for any reason most often stomach acid levels are still low but what is required is healing and soothing of the stomach or esophageal lining with soothing demulcents such as aloe and slippery elm which can be found in seeking health’s optimal GI powder
How can low stomach acid cause heartburn?
When there are insufficient amounts of HCL in the stomach, the process of protein digestion will not take place as quickly as it should so the stomach holds onto the contents for a longer period of time. The proteins then begin to putrefy while the carbohydrates begin to ferment… and this fermenting builds up pressure and gas which can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to inappropriately open and release the acidic contents of the stomach into the esophagus, resulting in the uncomfortable symptom known as acid reflux.
If you are experiencing heartburn or acid reflux the first step is to help soothe and protect the inflamed tissue with cooling foods such as cucumber, slipping elm and aloe or by utilizing a supplement such as optimal GI powder.
Addressing other underlying causes to heartburn such as poor gallbladder function and enzyme deficiency is critical to overcoming heartburn for good. Supporting these key organs with liver nutrients and digestive enzymes can be very beneficial for preventing heartburn.
Stomach acid production often decreases with age along with digestive juices in general so why is it that as people age heartburn becomes more prominent? Is overproduction of stomach acid really the problem? In some cases that may be true but more often than not stomach acid is low and instead we need to heal, soothe then support the acidity of the stomach.
How to increase stomach acid naturally?
Some natural and gentle ways to increase stomach acid and support protein digestion is to have a tsp to 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice prior to eating to help support digestion and the acidic ph of the stomach.
The list can go on and on in regards to how important stomach acid is in relation to our health and for more information, I highly recommend reading the book Why Stomach Acid is Good for You by Dr. Jonathan M. Wright.