The Importance of Hydrochloric Acid in the Stomach

Gastric acid is a colourless, watery, acidic, digestive fluid produced in the stomach. It is one of the main solutions secreted, together with several enzymes and intrinsic factors.  If your levels of hydrochloric acid are low, then you will probably experience acid reflux.

There are three phases in the secretion of gastric acid:

1.      The cephalic phase: Thirty percent of the total gastric acid to be produced is stimulated by anticipation of eating and the smell or taste of food.

2.      The gastric phase: Sixty percent of the acid secreted is stimulated by the distention of the stomach with food. Plus, digestion produces proteins, which causes even more gastrin production.

3.      The intestinal phase: The remaining 10% of acid is secreted when chyme enters the small intestine, and is stimulated by small intestine distention.

Gastric acid production is regulated by both the autonomic nervous system and several hormones. The parasympathetic nervous system, via the vagus nerve, and the hormone gastrin stimulate the parietal cell to produce gastric acid, both directly acting on parietal cells and indirectly, through the stimulation of the secretion of the hormone histamine from enterochromaffine-like cells (ECL). Vasoactive intestinal peptide, cholecystokinin, and secretin all inhibit production.

Low hydrochloric acid levels are very common. The older you are, the more likely you are to have low levels. In fact, at least 30% of the population over the age of 65 are low in stomach acid (a condition called hypochlorhydria).

There are a number of reasons for this situation, including stress and age. However, another reason is nutrient deficiencies. Low levels of the mineral zinc and vitamins B1 and B6 can also contribute to low levels of stomach acid. Deficiencies in zinc and B vitamins are extremely common either due to lack of intake from food or due to increased needs for example, chronic stress, or due to depletion by alcohol or smoking for example.

I found giving up wheat and gluten immediately helped the acid reflux I was experiencing after I ate. If I do have a piece of bread then I make sure I have pure apple juice (from the farm shop) and an apple after dinner. This then helps break the food down and stops the pain and bloating.

Detoxification

Stomach acid is essential to detoxification. An absence of stomach acid inhibits the liver from releasing bile, which compromises bile flow, which in turn may adversely affect the entire liver and lymphatic system from releasing stored toxins.

After taking painkillers for a number of years I am convinced this is the reason my stomach acid became depleted.

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