Many people routinely use antacids for relief of heartburn or as a calcium aupplement. The truth is that both of these choices are usually nutritionally unsound.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Stomach acid is required for good digestion. Poor digestion produces heartburn. People with heart-burn take antacids. Antacids reduce stomach acid. OOPS-more heartburn. Stomach acid is required for good mineral absorption, including calcium & magnesium. Calcium carbonate antacids neutralize the stomach acid needed for their absorption.
The stomach’s job is to produce and hold digestive acid and enzymes. When antacids are used regularly, the stomach senses this and, over time, increases its acid production rate set point. Taking antacids to reduce acid can lead to the production of excessive acid and more discomfort.
Often, it is a LACK of stomach acid, not an excess that creates symptoms of indigestion. Naturopathic physicians have found that supplementary digestive acid and enzyme supplements can improve digestion and thus eliminate symptoms of indigestion. Lack of stomach acid can also result in food allergies, nausea after taking supplements and rectal itching. It can be indicated by weak fingernails, anemia, chronic parasites, fungal infections, and acne.
HEARTBURN AND GASTRIC REFLUX
Most digestive discomfort is a feeling of gaseous bloated fullness. The pain feels like burning that radiates upward. Heartburn is most often the result of gastric juices refluxing up into the esophagus above the stomach. The discomfort of heartburn usually gets worse if you lie down because this makes it easier for gastric juices to back up.
What could make normal stomach digestive fluids flow up where they don’t belong? Usually overeating or factors such as obesity or pregnancy act to displace the contents of the stomach. Also smoking, alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, fried foods, etc., can weaken the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus. But, most commonly, it is poorly digested food fermenting and causing gas that blows the stomach up and weakens the one-way valve that prevents gastric reflux. Once again, digestive enzymes may be the solution.
THE PROBLEM OF GASTRIC ULCERS
The stomach contains both hydrochloric acid and an enzyme called pepsin which are required for digestion of proteins. These are both normal and desirable but are also capable of digesting the stomach, which is made mostly of protein. The stomach normally produces a mucus coating that lines the inside to protect it from being digested. The best healing approach is to help the stomach to produce a healthy protective coating by using an herbal combination such as Intestinal Soothe and Build.
A common bacteria called h-pylori will begin to destroy this protective lining if left unchecked. To kill this bacteria, use an herbal combination such as Gastro Health over a 3 month period to kill this bacteria and do not share food or drinks with anyone who has not been treated for this bacteria. This patented formula will kill the h-pylori but not destroy the good protective strains of acidophilus in your system.
DISEASES RELATED TO LOW STOMACH ACID
When food, especially protein, is insufficiently digested, the larger, partially digested, molecules can be absorbed by the body. These “foreign invaders” trigger the immune system and produce food allergies. When a person doesn’t get full benefit from their foods, even the best diet can be inadequate. You can’t assimilate nutrients until they have been adequately broken down by digestion.
WHAT DO ANTACIDS DO?
Antacids reduce the acidity of the stomach by chemically absorbing or neutralizing some of the hydrochloric acid. Reducing stomach acid can temporarily relieve irritation of a weakened or exposed stomach lining. It can also reduce the acidity of stomach contents which become refluxed into the esophagus.
WHAT ABOUT ANTACIDS AS CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS TO AVOID OSTEOPOROSIS?
Some antacids contain calcium carbonate, a rock, and are advertised as calcium supplements. Calcium carbonate is an insoluble salt that must be ionized by stomach acid before it can be absorbed. About 40 percent of post-menopausal women (who are often concerned about osteoporosis) are severely deficient in stomach acid and can only absorb about 4% of the calcium in this form. Calcium carbonate greatly increases the risk of kidney stones, particularly when milk is also used regularly.
Although calcium citrate is also an antacid, it is already in a form that the body can use and is absorbed much more effectively.
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COMMON PROBLEMS WITH COMMON ANTACIDS
CALCIUM CARBONATE AND ACID REBOUND
Calcium carbonate is especially fast-acting. Within a few hours, however, the body will overcompensate by producing an extra surge of acid.
PROBLEMS WITH SODIUM BICARBONATE
When used for long periods of time, sodium bicarbonate can cause increased acidity throughout the body. Highly acidic body chemistries (systemic alkalosis) are involved in health problems such as arthritis, kidney stones, nausea and mental confusion.
ALUMINUM HYDROXIDE AND BONE LOSS
Antacids containing aluminum can contribute to phosphate deficiency when used for long periods of time. This is because the phosphate in food reacts with the aluminum in the antacid to form a solid material that is simply passed in the stool. In order to keep enough phosphorus in the blood, the body will take it out of bones. Bone demineralization is especially a problem for the older people who tend to use these products regularly.
ALUMINUM AND IMPAIRED MENTAL FUNCTION
Although the FDA and manufacturers say that aluminum in antacids is not absorbed, studies since 1986 have shown that it is, especially in cases of kidney problems and in the presence of acidic foods such as citrus fruits or soda pop. There is increasing evidence that aluminum is involved in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and some other nervous system problems.
MAGNESIUM IN ANTACIDS
Magnesium salts such as magnesium-oxide, magnesium-hydroxide and magnesium-carbonate are often used as antacids. Although they are milder, they are also laxative and can cause diarrhea.
OTHER SIDE EFFECTS OF ANTACIDS
Use of antacids can cause bowel irregularities including constipation, nausea and diarrhea with occasional vomiting. They can lead to kidney stones, demineralization of bones, bone pain and muscle weakness with cramping. They can be counted on to produce malabsorption of minerals.
The list of diseases that have been associated with low gastric acidity include, but are not limited to: Anemia, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, celiac disease, dermatitis, diabetes, eczema, gallbladder problems, hepatitis, lupus, osteoporosis, psoriasis and problems with over- and under-active thyroid glands.
To avoid these and other low stomach acidity problems, utilize digestive enzymes such as PDA and Food Enzymes with each meal.
Originally published in the The H. E. L. P., Natural Health Newsletter and edited by Kay Lubecke, B.A., M.S. Certified Herbalist and Nutritional Counselor