Thursday, January 17, 2013
Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You
By Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. and Lane Lenard, Ph.D
Digestion is one of the most important functions of the body. Without complete digestion of food, proper absorption of nutrients cannot occur. If we do not adequately absorb the vitamins and minerals from the food we eat, this decrease in nutrients can have far reaching effects on our health. If our digestion is not up to par, we can be consuming a healthy diet and yet still be malnourished.
The book “Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You” by Jonathan V.Wright, M.D. and Lane Lenard, Ph.D. is a fascinating look at how important digestion is to our overall health. As the title suggests the authors place a large emphasis on the vital role that stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCL) plays in the digestive process. They warn the reader of the possible dangerous consequences that can result when stomach acid is suppressed by acid blocking drugs.
Wright and Lenard explain, contrary to popular medical opinion, that some of the culprits of acid indigestion are not too much acid produced by the stomach but not enough hydrochloric acid and also a weak valve ( lower esophageal sphincter) which separates the stomach from the esophagus, allowing the stomach acid to back up into the unprotected esophagus. The stomach has a protective mucous covering which prevents the beneficial stomach acid from eating away at the actual stomach lining, where the esophagus does not have such a protective coating. The authors thoroughly cover the mechanics of digestion in relation to the science and they also share some of their successful experiences in treating patients.
According to the authors, instead of suppressing or eliminating a requisite ingredient in the digestive process with stomach acid blockers, we need to investigate the primary inducements of the dis-ease or discomfort and treat the cause of the problem and not just the symptoms. I feel that this is a very important point which needs to be stressed as our current mainstream medical system rarely treats the true cause of illness and much human suffering is the consequence.
For example – some of the questions we should be asking are 1. Why is the stomach lining too thin in certain areas resulting in ulcers? 2. Why is the LES valve too weak, allowing acid up into the esophagus? The authors suggest that certain bacteria, now known to cause ulcers, may proliferate in a stomach which does not produce enough hydrochloric acid. Another result of inadequate HCL production in the stomach can be malabsorption of protein and other nutrients that may help to keep the LES valve strong.
It is pointed out that while HCL suppressing drugs may seem to help heartburn symptoms in the short term, the side effects from acid suppression may not show the accumulative damage to the body till several years down the road. The clinical trials conducted by the pharmaceutical companies generally only last for several months and therefore could not be useful in warning patients of the probable long term side effects.
On page 41 the authors provide the reader with a list of disorders associated with low stomach acid. Several examples are; osteoporosis, pernicious anemia, allergies, poor absorption of protein, bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, stomach cancer, skin diseases, and accelerated aging. Hydrochloric acid secretion decreases in many people over the age of 60. This age related condition is called atropic gastritis. When this happens the finely tuned digestive and assimilation processes get thrown out of balance. In addition to this age related problem, millions of people are interfering further with digestive balance by taking antacid drugs every day. When looked at through the lens of modern medical thinking, suppression of this valuable and necessary stomach acid seems to be the only way to treat the digestive distress that many people are experiencing.
Fortunately, Wright and Lenard present us with natural and safe solutions to this ever growing predicament. The reader is advised to avoid certain substances which cause the LES valve to malfunction such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, certain medications, etc. Then the authors recommend that…at the same time we are eliminating the “bad stuff” we need to be adding in the “good stuff”. The book goes into detail concerning what to avoid and what to add to the diet in order to improve digestive function. The list of helpful substances which aid in restoring digestive function and healing the stomach lining, includes bitters, HCL, pancreatic enzymes, licorice root, vitamin C, ginger root, probiotics, and more. It is also recommended that a person be tested for HCL production. Suggestions are given on how to wean yourself off of acid blockers and how to find a physician who will treat you with natural methods.
I feel that the book ‘Why Stomach Acid is Good For You” shares critical knowledge, teaching the reader how digestion works and why healthy digestion is so important in the prevention of disease. The information is presented in a direct and clear manner. I have already begun putting to use some of the advice set forth in this book and am beginning to experience positive results. I’d like to close with some encouraging words from the authors. “ Instead of drugs that merely suppress symptoms by disrupting normal GI function, we tell you how to use a variety of safe, natural, inexpensive substances that work with the body’s physiology – not against it – to restore healthy gastric functioning, heal damaged tissues, prevent future disease, and perhaps extend your life.”