Stomach acid is a critical component of your digestive process. If your digestive system can't function properly, you won't be able to get the nutrients your body (and your bones) need to stay strong.
Today we'll have a closer look at this underappreciated bodily fluid. You'll learn how it helps you absorb micronutrients and what happens if you develop a stomach acid deficiency.
We'll also examine the connection between proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) prescribed to reduce stomach acid and osteoporosis, and then you'll learn drug-free ways to cultivate healthy levels of stomach acid.
How Stomach Acid Helps You Absorb Nutrients
The acid in your stomach plays an indispensable role in food digestion. Your stomach must maintain a very narrow range of acidity to optimize the breakdown of compounds and absorption of micronutrients.
For example, it's the secretion of stomach acid that triggers the production of pepsin. Pepsin is the enzyme your body uses to digest protein. If your stomach acid levels are too low, then your pepsin levels will be too– and as a result, your body won't be able to break down proteins into their component amino acids for absorption.
Insufficient protein intake can lead to sarcopenia— loss of muscle mass. As muscle mass decreases, bone mass follows.
There are many micronutrients that your body can't pull from your diet without using stomach acid in the process. That includes the most foundational bone-building mineral: calcium.1
Your body also needs stomach acid to effectively absorb:
Stomach acid is essential for breaking down and absorbing protein. There are many micronutrients that your body can't pull from food without using stomach acid in the process, including calcium.
Hypochlorhydria: Low Stomach Acid
A deficiency of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is called hypochlorhydria.
In addition to helping you absorb a variety of nutrients, hydrochloric acid eliminates bacteria and viruses in the stomach, protecting you from infections. The symptoms of hypochlorhydria are varied, and include:
- Upset stomach
- Nausea taking supplements
- GI infections
- Hair loss
- Brittle Fingernails
- Neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and vision changes
In addition to these symptoms, low stomach acid has been associated with chronic conditions including:
- Thyroid issues
- Chronic autoimmune disorders
- Pernicious anemia
Hypochlorhydria has a number of potential causes, and many of them may coincide. They include:
- Age – Stomach acid production slows with age, making people over the age of 65 more likely to experience hypochlorhydria.
- H. Pylori – Infection with the bacteria H. Pylori causes stomach ulcers, and over time it can result in low stomach acid.
- Surgery – Certain surgeries, like gastric bypass surgery, can reduce stomach acid production.
- Chronic stress – prolonged periods of high stress may lead to low stomach acid.
- Medications – Antacids or medications prescribed to treat ulcers and acid reflux can lead to hypochlorhydria. We'll talk more about this cause, next.
A deficiency of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is called hypochlorhydria. It causes several digestive symptoms and has been associated with a variety of chronic health conditions including osteoporosis. Common causes of decreased stomach acid production include age, stress, certain bacterial infections, and antacids or acid reflux medications.
Proton Pump Inhibitors Linked To Osteoporosis And Fracture
Given that low levels of stomach acid inhibit your ability to absorb the nutrients you need to keep your bones healthy, it naturally follows that drugs that reduce stomach acid– such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)– could lead to bone loss.
A study of 63,000 adults aged 50 and older in Canada examined this possibility and found an association between proton pump inhibitors, osteoporosis, and fracture.2
The researchers compared the incidence of fracture to participants' prescription records. They found that people who suffered an osteoporosis-related fracture were nearly twice as likely to have used a PPI for seven or more years. Those who had hip fractures were 62% more likely to have used a PPI for five or more years.2
The researchers point to the effects of PPIs on stomach acid as part of the mechanism by which they speed up bone loss, resulting in the fractures they observed.
PPIs, such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid) – to name of a few – are often prescribed for people experiencing chronic acid reflux, or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD or GERD). Some of the symptoms of these conditions are also caused by low stomach acid, so a drug that reduces stomach acid might be counterproductive.
If you take a PPI, consult with a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor to discover the root cause of the problem and natural treatments to replace PPIs.
Researchers found that people over 50 who took a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) for a period of five to seven years or more were significantly more likely to experience an osteoporosis-related fracture.
How To Increase Stomach Acid Naturally
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to support improved digestion and help your body produce more stomach acid:
- Chew thoroughly – Chewing is the first step in the digestive process. Breaking down your food thoroughly allows for better digestion and absorption. And the process of chewing signals your body to produce digestive enzymes and fluids– such as stomach acid.
- Ginger – Ginger stimulates the production of stomach acid, so try making a ginger tea to drink before or after meals.
- Lemon – Similar to ginger, lemon can help stimulate your stomach acid production and maintain a healthy stomach acidity. Try a tea with lemon juice, or a homemade bone-healthy lemonade before or after meals.
- Avoid stress – Stressful situations put your body on high alert, diverting energy away from your digestive tract. Find a calm environment for your meals, and set aside stressors. Avoid eating on the move, or squeezing meals in between high-stress activities.
There are natural ways to increase stomach acid production including chewing your food thoroughly, enjoying ginger tea or a tea with lemon juice before or after your meal, and avoiding stress.
What This Means To You
You need your body to produce the right amount of stomach acid so you can absorb all of the bone-building nutrients in your diet and avoid a fracture.
If you take a PPI, consult with a functional or naturopathic doctor who can help you switch to a natural treatment that won't hurt your ability to absorb bone-building nutrients.
A small change that prioritizes stomach acid production can make a big difference in your overall well-being and the strength of your bones. The Osteoporosis Reversal Program provides you with common-sense holistic advice to help you build healthier habits that strengthen your bones and improve your overall health without taking drugs.
If you’ve been searching for an all-natural and evidence-based osteoporosis treatment that works, give the Osteoporosis Reversal Program a try. It is filled with breakthrough, yet simple-to-understand nutritional, exercise, and lifestyle solutions that are proven to increase bone density and strength naturally — all backed by over 100 scientific sources.
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If you don’t want to take dangerous (and ineffective) osteoporosis drugs, the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is the perfect solution to improve your bone health naturally.