Do you feel:
- Stomach pain
- Burning or aching after 1-4 hours of eating
- Use antacids frequently
- Digestive problems subside with relaxation
If you are experiencing any of these situations, then you might be experiencing problems with your stomach acid pH balance.
The pH Balance of the Stomach
The stomach produces gastric acids that help breakdown the food contents that a person eats. With the gastric acids, studies stated that its role is diverting the bile and pancreatic juice from the intestines. With humans, the stomach plays a significant role as a biological filter with moderate lifestyle changes. Whether it changes in a person’s diet, hygiene, and medical interventions can alter the stomach’s pH levels.
With the stomach acidity in the body, it is a double-edged sword. High acidity in the stomach can prevent pathogen exposure, but it can also decrease the likelihood of recolonization of beneficial microbes. Low acidity in the stomach is more likely to be colonized by pathogens and can cause gastric infections.
Acid reflux is a common condition that features a burning pain in the lower chest area, and it occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe. Diseases that are the result of acid reflux is one of the most common gut complaints from individuals and seen by hospital departments in the United States. The stomach contains hydrochloric acid that helps breakdown food and protects it from pathogens such as bacteria.
Even though the lining of the stomach is specially adapted to protect it from hydrochloric acid, the esophagus is not protected from this powerful acid. The gastroesophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle that generally acts as a valve that lets food into the stomach but does not let the food back up into the esophagus. When it fails, the stomach contents will regurgitate into the esophagus, and the symptoms of acid reflux will be felt.
One of the risk factors that acid reflux causes that are not preventable are hiatal hernia. This hernia causes a hole in the diaphragm that allows the upper part of the stomach to enter the chest cavity. Other risk factors include:
- Smoking (active or passive)
- Low levels of physical exercise
- Certain medication
- Poor diet
Some of the symptoms that acid reflux creates can cause heartburn, and it is uncomfortable when the sensation travels up to the neck and throat. When an individual lays down or bends over, it tends to get the worst and can last for several hours. Some of the symptoms caused by acid reflux include:
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
- Asthma symptoms
Hypochlorhydria is the medical term for low levels of stomach acid. Individuals with hypochlorhydria are unable to produce enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach and may experience digestive issues, nutritional deficiencies, and gastrointestinal infections.
Some of the common causes of hypochlorhydria are:
- Age: Aging can make the stomach produce less acid in the body. A 2013 review stated that adults over the age of 65 are more susceptible to develop that hypochlorhydria.
- Stress: Even though everyday stress does not have much effect on the production of stomach acid, chronic stress, however, can contribute to hypochlorhydria.
- Medication: Individuals that use long-term antacids or other medication for acid reflux or heartburn may decrease the stomach acid that the body produces.
- Bacterial Infection: A bacteria called Helicobacter pylori is a widespread, yet under-appreciated pathogen that can alter the host physiology and subvert the host immune response. It is the primary cause of peptic ulcers and gastric cancers while contributing to a low level of stomach acid.
- Zinc deficiency: Zinc is a necessary mineral for stomach acid production. A lack of this mineral can contribute to hypochlorhydria to the body.
- Stomach surgery: Surgical procedures like gastric bypass surgery can reduce the amount of the stomach produces.
Symptoms of hypochlorhydria are related to impaired digestion, increase infection, and reduce the absorption of nutrients from food. Symptoms may include:
- Upset stomach
- Undigested food in stool
- Neurological issues like numbness, tingling, and vision changes
The stomach is producing gastric acids that help break down food components. When environmental factors are in effect, they can alter the stomach’s pH balance and can disrupt the hydrochloric acid. Since stomach acidity is a double edge sword, it can go back and forth on the pH levels. High acidity in the stomach can cause acid reflux to the esophagus and decrease the likelihood of recolonizing beneficial microbes in the gut. Low acidity in the stomach can cause hypochlorhydria and develop digestive issues, nutrient deficiencies, and gastrointestinal infections. These products can help support the gastrointestinal system, as well as supporting the pH-optimized enzymes in both the gastric and intestinal function in the body.
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Beasley, DeAnna E, et al. “The Evolution of Stomach Acidity and Its Relevance to the Human Microbiome.” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 29 July 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4519257/.
Britton, Edward, and John T. McLaughlin. “Ageing and the Gut.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 12 Nov. 2012, www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/ageing-and-the-gut/A85D096755F5F7652C262495ABF302A0/core-reader.
Dix, Megan. “What Is Hypochlorhydria?” Healthline, 12 Mar. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/hypochlorhydria.
Green, G M. “Role of Gastric Juice in Feedback Regulation of Rat Pancreatic Secretion by Luminal Proteases.” Pancreas, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 1990, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2199966.
Kines, Kasia, and Tina Krupczak. “Nutritional Interventions for Gastroesophageal Reflux, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Hypochlorhydria: A Case Report.” Integrative Medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), InnoVision Professional Media, Aug. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4991651/.
Leonard, Jayne. “Hypochlorhydria (Low Stomach Acid): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 17 July 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322491.php.
MacGill, Markus. “Acid Reflux: Causes, Treatment, and Symptoms.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 13 Nov. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146619.php.
Ramsay, Philip T, and Aaron Carr. “Gastric Acid and Digestive Physiology.” The Surgical Clinics of North America, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21889024.
Team, Healthline Editorial. “Symptoms of Acid Reflux.” Healthline, 21 June, 2016, www.healthline.com/health/gerd/acid-reflux-symptoms.
Testerman, Traci L, and James Morris. “Beyond the Stomach: An Updated View of Helicobacter Pylori Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” World Journal of Gastroenterology, Baishideng Publishing Group Inc, 28 Sept. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177463/.
Wang, Yao-Kuang, et al. “Current Pharmacological Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.” Gastroenterology Research and Practice, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710614/.
The information herein on "Functional Endocrinology: pH Balance In The Stomach" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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