The need for vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and other nutrients is relatively constant throughout our adult lives. Unfortunately, the ability to properly break down food and consequently absorb vital nutrients at the same time with age decreases, mainly due to a decrease in stomach acid levels.
Hypochlorhydria – lack of stomach acid
Because the symptoms of too little and too much stomach acid are almost the same, many people with stomach problems are treated with stomach acid inhibitors because they believe they have too much stomach acid. But the probability of them doing the right thing is only about 10 percent. In fact, you are more likely to be deficient in stomach acid, so your health is only getting worse. Key and important vitamins and minerals cannot be absorbed in the case of hypochlorhydria, as food is not broken down properly. The consequences are different: general health on foot, fatigue occurs, we develop allergies or sensitivity to certain food groups, digestion deteriorates, problems with bloating and flatulence begin. Problems continue in the gut: we may develop irritable and / or leaky gut syndrome, leading to new health problems.
Alkaline or acidic?
Many people say that our body must be alkaline if we want to be healthy, but this is not true. The blood must be alkaline, while the environment in the stomach must be very acidic. On a pH scale of 1 to 14, the pH of the environment in the stomach must be between 1 and 3, i.e. very acidic.
If the environment in the stomach is not acidic enough, it cannot release the main enzyme for breaking down proteins, pepsin. Pepsin is an extremely important enzyme as it breaks down proteins, which allows us to absorb amino acids. Strong stomach acid is also important because it helps release bile from the liver and pancreatic enzymes that we need to successfully break down food.
The three main functions of stomach acid:
aid in the absorption of minerals and vitamin B12,
killing pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, yeasts, parasites).
Symptoms of hypochlorhydria
The most common symptoms that indicate that the environment in the stomach is too alkaline, which makes it no longer able to break down protein, are fatigue after meals, a feeling of stagnant food in the stomach, pieces of unprocessed food in the stool, wind, bloating, flatulence, heartburn and reflux. Over time, the symptoms become visible: hair falls out, thins and becomes drier, nails are furrowed and brittle, skin is withered, can be dry and dirty, we suffer from fatigue, we are susceptible to infections, and fungal growth (also vaginal), yeasts and parasites.
Contrary to popular belief, as many as 90 percent of the population, which has problems with reflux, heartburn and indigestion, actually suffers from a lack of stomach acid. This is especially true for people over the age of 40, as the amount of stomach acid decreases with age. We also contribute to this ourselves – by taking medicines, painkillers and stomach acid inhibitors, as well as by chronic stress and lack of individual minerals.
Why are heartburn and reflux not necessarily an indicator of excess but of stomach acid deficiency?
Lack of stomach acid affects the sphincter muscle at the entrance to the stomach. The sphincter muscle controls the pH of the environment in the stomach; if this environment is not acidic enough, it cannot close tightly. This allows the food to return to the esophagus, causing reflux, heartburn and GERD. When the upper sphincter is not closed tightly enough due to a lack of stomach acid, the enzyme pepsin enters the esophagus, causing chronic coughing, hoarseness, throat irritation and a feeling of a lump in the throat.
When we come to the doctor with such symptoms, he usually prescribes us one of the stomach acid inhibitors, which calms the symptoms only temporarily. Because it inhibits the secretion of stomach acid, we do not feel a burning sensation in the esophagus, but the condition usually worsens over time, as food is not broken down efficiently, leading to malabsorption (lack of nutrients) and intestinal strain.
Most people, especially the elderly, actually need more and not less stomach acid, but instead further inhibit its excretion.
Degradation of proteins and stomach acid
Proteins or amino acids are important for every cell in the body – they need collagen, elastin, hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, antibodies, hair, skin, nails, muscles…
If we have too little stomach acid and proteins cannot be completely broken down into amino acids, the body has no building blocks for tissues. This is especially noticeable on hair, nails, skin and muscles. In addition, we lose valuable neurotransmitters in the brain, central nervous system, and spinal cord, important amino acids (e.g., tryptophan), hormones (e.g., adrenaline), and amino acids needed to produce hormones. When the hormonal balance is disturbed, we face a bunch of problems – from gaining extra pounds to slower metabolism and mental or emotional fluctuations and problems.
Unprocessed proteins often also cause allergic reactions, as the body does not recognize these substances, causing them to be attacked by the immune system, which triggers an allergic reaction.
Minerals and vitamins
Another consequence of a lack of stomach acid is that we cannot absorb all the important minerals. Zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron are minerals that start to be deficient if the environment in the stomach is too alkaline. Malabsorption of minerals leads to hair loss, heart palpitations, anxiety, tinnitus, osteoporosis, anemia, poor immune system… In addition, zinc deficiency inhibits the production of stomach acid – and so we find ourselves in a vicious circle of hypochlorhydria.
Absorption of vital vitamin B12 will also be disrupted if we do not have enough stomach acid. This vitamin needs stomach acid to absorb it, which separates it from the proteins to which it is bound in food. Later, vitamin B12 binds to an intrinsic factor in the stomach that carries it to the small intestine where it is absorbed. Hypochlorhydria (also as a consequence of treatment with gastric acid inhibitors) may result in poor absorption of vitamin B12. Problems with vitamin B12 absorption only increase with age, when stomach acid levels begin to decline naturally. Symptoms of a deficiency of this vitamin are poor memory, confusion, tingling in the arms and legs, severe fatigue, confusion, neurological changes… Some people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may actually suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency.
We now see why it is essential that too little stomach acid should not be overlooked – and why it is imperative to provide a sufficiently acidic environment in the stomach.
Betaine HCl (betaine hydrochloride) or hydrochloric acid can help with hypochlorhydria. However, hydrochloric acid should not be used if you have gastritis, wounds and ulcers on the stomach or if you are being treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (painkillers) or suffer from any other stomach disease. Do not take Betaine HCl if you are taking stomach acid blockers or if your doctor has confirmed that you have too much stomach acid.
Anyone who does not have these problems but suspects that you are deficient in stomach acid can take a simple test with Betaine HCl to help you determine if you have too little or not enough stomach acid. Do not perform the test if you know you have too much stomach acid, are taking stomach acid inhibitors, or have any of the problems listed above.
Replacement of stomach acid with Betain HCl capsules
Take the test by buying Betain HCl capsules and taking one Betaine HCl capsule in the middle of a high-protein meal (meat, legumes, nuts, eggs…). If you do not feel any change after a meal, it means that there is still not enough stomach acid, so repeat the test the next day, this time with two capsules. Continue the test until you reach an amount that causes a slight heat in the stomach or a burning sensation that indicates that there is too much stomach acid. In this case, drink some water to soothe him. Now you know that the amount of Betaine HCl you need is one capsule less than the one that triggered the heartburn. So if you feel the burning sensation with two capsules, that means you only need one. If you feel heartburn after taking one capsule, it means that there is enough stomach acid and there is no need to add it, and the cause of your problems probably lies elsewhere. Heartburn can also occur if you have gastritis and ulcers, so in this case, DO NOT perform this test! Be sure to take the test during a high protein meal.
When you find the right amount of hydrochloric acid, replace it for so long (always during a high-protein meal!) That a warm or burning sensation in the stomach will occur with just one capsule, which is a sign that you no longer need Betaine HCl because it is acidic. enough.
Hypochlorhydria is an often overlooked cause of poor health. When there is just the right amount of acid in your stomach, many health problems can go away. Your health will be at a higher level, you will have more energy and feel better. The right amount of stomach acid will not only affect your well-being, but also your appearance: your hair will be stronger and thicker, your skin will be healthy and shiny, and your nails will be strong and beautiful.