The Antacid Myth
If you suffer from acid reflux, you might think you have too much stomach acid. Think again. The vast majority of you actually have low stomach acid and your hypochlorhydria (that’s the term for low stomach acid) is likely causing your heart burn. I know, it sounds contradictory. Excessive stomach acid levels are only found in very rare disease cases and I have yet to see one in my clinic. Although antacids work to temporarily relieve symptoms of heartburn, they are not addressing the cause of heartburn. Lowering the stomach acid even further in someone with hypochlorhydria makes the real problem worse and can lead to more complicated health issues like irritable bowel syndrome, GI infections and megaloblastic anemia from low B12 absorption (we need stomach acid to absorb B12). Did you know the original pharmaceutical grade acid blockers came with a warning label saying, “Do not use for more than 14 days”? Today, people stay on these drugs for years, leaving the stomach vulnerable to infection, improper food breakdown and poor nutrient assimilation.
Hypochlorhydria can be caused by stress, inadequate nutrient intake, bacterial infections and food sensitivities. In addition to addressing the actual cause, I treat low stomach acid and heartburn by giving hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes with food. Yes, you read that correctly. I prescribe you more acid for your acid reflux and it works. (Exception = people with rare tumors that secrete acid or active ulcers). A typical dosage is 2 capsules of HCL with enzymes a few bites into a meal. I also prescribe demulcent herbs and nutrients that soothe and promote healing of the gastric mucosa. So far (knock on wood), I’ve had 100% success rate treating heartburn patients with this protocol. The majority of patients are able to stop using the supplements within 3 months of treatment.
Anyone with long-term heartburn symptoms should be properly worked up to rule out GI ulcers or other GI pathology.