Book Review: Why Stomach Acid is Good For You

Why Stomach Acid is Good for You - Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. and Lane Lenard, Ph.D.

This was yet another life changing book I read for my NTP course. The information is so contrary to conventional wisdom that I want everyone to read this book. It reveals an open secret that is supporting a billion dollar business selling acid reflux ‘remedies.’

The situation is that acid reflux is epidemic in our culture. I and most everyone I know thought this was because of an over abundance of hydrochloric acid in our stomachs. This book presents meticulous research and explanations that turn that belief on its head.

Heartburn and other digestive issues are not caused by too much stomach acid. Stomach Acid is a vital component of digestion, nutrient absorption, immunity and much more. Conventional remedies for heartburn either neutralize stomach acid or suppress it. These ‘treatments’ do alleviate the immediate pain and burning that happens when acid refluxes into the esophagus. But by reducing the level of stomach acid, they exacerbate the problems which are actually caused by too little stomach acid, (hypochloridia).

The digestive process is an amazing and complex system. Learning about it, I wasn’t surprised by how much can go wrong with the process. I was instead surprised and delighted by how magically it works! Stomach acid plays a key role in this process. It does many wonderful things but two of the ones that struck me are:

  1. It breaks the molecular bonds of foods so that the nutrients can be released and the absorbed farther down the system in the intestines.

  2. The changing acid level in the stomach triggers other processes farther down the system. For example, when a high enough acid  level is reached, the valve that leads to the duodenum opens to release the digested food to the absorption stage. Without high enough acid, the partially digested food stays in the stomach too long and gets gross and the nutrients are not absorbed.

I knew something about the importance of stomach acid, but I learned some fascinating new things that it does.

1. Hydrochloric (HCL) acid protects us from bacteria. The digestive system is a system that is exposed to the outside world through food. HCL in the stomach can kill harmful bacteria that make it inside in our food.

2. HCL is important in brain function including the production of Serotonin. HCL digest proteins, producing amino acids - the building blocks of neurotransmitters such as Serotonin.

3. The rampant food sensitivities in our culture are caused in part by stomach acid dysfunction. Undigested allergenic proteins make it to the intestines where they wreck havoc, allowing allergens to get into general circulation causing allergies and even autoimmune disorders.

I was really curious to learn why hypochloridia causes acid to reflux into the esophagus. Why would too little acid make the acid spread to the esophagus? The book suggested that acid gets into the esophagus because of a malfunction of the valve that opens from the esophagus into the stomach. The valve is supposed to open briefly when we swallow to allow food to pass, and then close. When there isn’t enough stomach acid, this valve isn’t triggered to close. The esophagus valve stays open, and if the acid level is too low, the valve leading to the small intestine stays closed. That gross food hanging out in the stomach for too long starts to gurgle, putrefy and bubble. This causes the more acidic juice of the stomach to bubble up into the delicate esophagus, causing that horrible burning sensation. And Ew!

There is overwhelming evidence presented that acid reflux is primarily caused by a deficiency of stomach acid. The pharmaceutical remedies briefly alleviate the symptoms while exacerbating the actual cause of the issue. This creates dependence on the medicines. If you’ve ever been on a PPI, I’m sure you know that you can’t stop taking it without scary, urgent pain. The only entities benefiting from the treatments are the pharmaceutical companies who profit by providing both the cause and the remedy of the problem.

I am saddened by this profit-motivated approach to healthcare. Unfortunately, it’s part of a bigger problem with our technological, commercial approach to food and wellness. Instead of feeling sad about this depressing situation, I will use it to fire my passion to help people support their amazing, beautiful bodies and souls.