9.15.20 Lesson #3.1 Stomach Malfunction

Why is HCl so important? If we don’t have enough of it we can experience heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, bloating, burping, and a rancid stomach. This probably isn’t what you’ll read on popular health sites, but think through it with me. With what we know so far about digestion (see Lessons 1-3), we know that digestion is a North to South Process and that “Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food. The goal of digestion is to reduce food molecules so small that the nutrients can be absorbed and used by the cells.”(NTA slides 2019)

One role of HCl is to bath our stomachs in acid to kill off bad bacteria and parasites. It acts as a disinfectant for everything we eat and drink! One especially critical bacteria to balance is helicobacter pylori. H. pylori, for short, can get out of balance and overgrow in the stomach. This often causes ulcers. Ulcers are sores in the stomach lining that expose the outer layers of the stomach to the acidic environment. This is very painful and can cause bleeding, which can cause anemia or low iron. Enough acid in our stomachs can kill excess H. pylori and protect us from this complicated domino effect!

Secondly, without enough HCl in our stomach, pepsinogen can’t be activated into pepsin. That means protein isn’t getting broken down into short amino acids that can be used by the body. The cells that make HCl also make the intrinsic factor (needed for B12 absorption) so we can assume there isn’t enough intrinsic factor being produced. Without B12 we are going to have pernicious anemia. Also, the rest of our food will be in larger particles because it hasn’t been exposed to high acidity. Despite the muscles of our stomach trying to propel our food through the pyloric sphincter, the particles will be too large.

This ultimately leads to food staying in our stomachs too long. Here fats will rancidify, proteins putrefy, and carbs ferment. As they do this, it can cause a backward flow that will force the cardiac sphincter at the top of our stomach to open and cause reflux into the esophagus. The esophagus isn’t made to handle ANY acidity so that is going to hurt like crazy. The gases from the mal-digested food will also make our stomach feel like it is expanding causing bloating and bad burps.

Despite many doctors prescribing acid reducers (neutralize the HCl) and proton pump inhibitors (inhibit the production of HCl), they are really avoiding figuring out why you may have reduced HCl, a weak cardiac sphincter, or other chemical or mechanical issues in the digestion process. And while many fail to connect the dots, it is a basic fact that poor digestion leads to a multitude of health problems including depression and other mental health conditions.