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How Improving Stomach Acid Production Enhances Digestion.
Many people think having stomach acid is bad and that it can cause a variety of stomach problems, including stomach ulcers. In truth, you need your stomach acid for proper digestion of carbohydrates and proteins. While too much stomach acid can lead to problems, just the right amount is necessary for good health.
Stomach Acid and Protein Breakdown.
Without stomach acid or by taking too many antacids, the proteins in your diet can’t be broken down. Stomach acid causes denaturation of proteins, which involves opening them up from their coiled state so that enzymes can trim them down to become amino acids, which are the building blocks for other proteins in the body.
Low stomach acid can lead to a deficiency of protein. This means that your body must take protein from sources within the body, such as the muscles and joints. Muscle weakness and arthritis can come out of not having enough protein in the diet.
Stomach Acid and Calcium Assimilation.
You need enough stomach acid to cleave the calcium from whatever protein it’s on and to allow for the digestion and uptake of calcium. A lack of adequate calcium absorption can lead to diseases and problems such as osteoporosis and muscle cramps.
Dealing with Low Stomach Acid Conditions.
If you are compulsively taking antacids or suffer from a disease that results in low stomach acid, there are things you can do to improve your nutrition in spite of the low acid production. Here are some tips:
• Eat protein at the start of the meal. Most of the stomach acid is excreted as soon as you begin eating. If you eat carbohydrates such as is in a salad for the first course of your meal, you waste the stomach acid, which is washed out by the carbohydrates, leaving very little to digest the protein you will eat later. When you eat your meat course, nothing is left in the stomach to digest it with. This leads to protein malabsorption and protein deficiency.
• Try taking an acid supplement. If you suffer from severe lack of stomach acid or if eating the protein at the start of the meal doesn’t work, you may need to take betaine hydrochloric acid tablets. One or two of the tablets should be taken following the meal. If you take the tablets before the meal, the natural production of your stomach acid will be inhibited. The idea is to help your stomach make as much of its own acid as possible and supplementing the acid your stomach makes with the hydrochloride tablets.
Once you have enough stomach acid (by stopping antacids or by taking a hydrochloride acid supplement), you need the digestive enzymes that work on the proteins in that type of environment. These digestive enzymes serve to cleave off the amino acids for maximal digestion. Some products for low acid conditions and stomach trouble contain both the stomach acidifier (hydrochloric acid) and pepsin, which is the enzyme needed to digest protein.
Pepsinogen is the actual pro-enzyme secreted by the stomach. It turns into its active form, pepsin, which acts on the stomach proteins to reduce them to amino acids. Pepsin works best under the acidic conditions of the stomach so without stomach acid, the pepsin will not function properly. If pepsin doesn’t do its job, there is no other part of the digestive tract that can take up the slack and you will become protein deficient.
Stomach Acid and Pathogens.
If you don’t produce enough stomach acid, you are more prone to getting overgrowths of parasites, fungi, and bacteria in the stomach. This can negatively impact your health in many ways. Stomach acid also helps keep you from getting food poisoning and actually prevents stomach cancer.
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