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Can You Stomach This?
by Jon Barron • Los Angeles, CA

With the rise of digestive disorders—from acid reflux to IBS—many are quick to conclude they have either too much stomach acid or too little.

Unfortunately, gulping down various pharmaceutical and OTC drugs could actually be making matters worse. To understand other options, first we need to understand how stomach acid fits in the digestive process.

Most people believe that when you eat a meal it drops into a pool of stomach acid where it's broken down, nutrients absorbed in the small intestine, then passed out of the body through the colon. Not quite. What nature intended is that you eat enzyme rich foods and chew your food properly. If you did that, the food would enter the stomach laced with digestive enzymes. These enzymes would then "predigest" your food for up to an hour, breaking down as much as 75% of your meal.

Only after this long period of "pre-digestion" are hydrochloric acid and pepsin introduced. The acid inactivates all of the food-based enzymes, but begins its own function of breaking down what is left of the meal in combination with the acid energized enzyme pepsin. Eventually, this nutrient-rich food concentrate moves on into the small intestine. Here the acid is neutralized and the pancreas reintroduces digestive enzymes to the process. As digestion is completed, nutrients are passed through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, we don’t support what nature intended. Processing and cooking destroy enzymes in food, making the food entering our stomach severely enzyme deficient. The food then sits there for an hour, like a heavy lump, with very little pre-digestion taking place. This forces the body to produce large amounts of stomach acid in an attempt to overcompensate. The end result can have a serious impact on your health.

Too much stomach acid

In an attempt to overcompensate for lack of enzymes in the food, the stomach produces an inordinate amount of stomach acid, leading to acid indigestion. Alcohol, sugar, and caffeine can also double acid production. Taking antacids or purple pills doesn't actually solve the problem; it merely eliminates some of the symptoms: gas, bloating, bad digestion, and chronic digestive disorders.

The simple solution for most people with excess stomach acid is to supplement with digestive enzymes which can digest up to 70% of the meal in the pre-acid phase. This eliminates the need for large amounts of stomach acid and takes tremendous stress off the digestive system and the pancreas (which has to produce huge amounts of digestive enzymes for use in the small intestine).

Dietary changes and supplemental digestive enzymes are likely to produce significant results, without creating problems further down the digestive tract. Drinking 2-4 ounces of organic, stabilized, aloe vera juice every day can also help soothe irritated tissue in the esophagus and help balance out digestive juices in the stomach. If you do nothing, it can lead to more problems.

Too little stomach acid

Years of forcing your body to massively overproduce stomach acid to compensate for the lack of enzymes in your diet has long-term consequences. Eventually, your body's capacity to produce stomach acid begins to fade, with a concomitant loss in your body's ability to sufficiently process food in the stomach. The health consequences can be profound. Low production of stomach acid is quite common and becomes more prevalent with age. By age forty, 40% of the population is affected, and by age sixty, 50%. A person over age 40 who visits a doctor's office has about a 90% probability of having low stomach acid.

Consequences can include:

• Poor digestion. Not only is there insufficient stomach acid to break down food, there is insufficient acidity to optimize the digestive enzyme pepsin, leading to intestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders, skin diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis.

• Food allergies

• Low absorption of vitamins and minerals especially calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid.

• Increased chance of allowing harmful bacteria and parasites to grow and interfere with digestion.

Symptoms of low acidity include bloating, belching, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn and flatulence immediately after meals. Ironically, these are the same symptoms associated with too much stomach acid! In fact, up to 95% of people who think they are suffering from too much stomach acid actually have too little. The use of antacids and purple pills then become exactly the wrong treatment to use since they exacerbate the underlying condition while temporarily masking the symptoms.

Alternative Options

• Supplement with digestive enzymes to reduce the need for stomach acid

• Mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with water and a little honey and drink this with each meal. You may gradually increase the vinegar up to 3-4 tablespoons in water if needed.

• Supplementing with betaine hydrochloride (HCL) tablets can also help, but anything beyond minimal doses as found in most health food store supplements should only be administered under the supervision of a health practitioner to avoid damage to the stomach lining.

The bottom line here is that most people are very confused about the role stomach acid plays in health. They think they have too much, when in fact they have too little. They tend to treat the symptom and suppress stomach acid production, ultimately leading to long-term health problems. Or ultimately lose the capacity to produce sufficient stomach acid as a result of dietary abuse and continual use of medications to suppress the body's ability to produce it. Don’t fall into that trap. Eat enzyme rich food, chew it thoroughly, and then, enjoy your food with ease!

Jon Barron is one of the world’s foremost authorities in cutting edge nutritionals. International lecturer, editor and publisher of the LifeStyle Resources Newsletter and the Barron Report, Jon is the author of Lessons From the Miracle Doctors. He is also the creator of Baseline Nutritionals, a line of supplements formulated “without compromise.” Contact www.jonbarron.org.