Mason County News
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Natural Health from A to Z
Wednesday, March 3, 2010 • Posted March 3, 2010

Indigestion is big business in the United States. Americans spend more than 7 billion dollars per year on acid suppressing drugs and over 4 billion dollars per year on over-the-counter antacids.

Most people assume that too much stomach acid is the cause of acid indigestion and take acid suppressors. Surprisingly, the primary cause of indigestion in over 90 percent of the people is not enough stomach acid.

Stomach acid is good and necessary for health. Stomach acid is essential for proper digestion and healthy immune response. Blocking stomach acid for long periods can lead to other health problems. When stomach acid is low, many essential nutrients cannot be absorbed. These include amino acids, vitamins and essential minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc.

Common symptoms of low stomach acid include gas, indigestion, iron deficiency, dilated blood vessels in the cheeks and nose, chronic yeast and fungal infections, chronic intestinal parasites, weak fingernails, acne, and nausea after taking supplements. Diseases associated with low stomach acid include eczema, gallbladder disease, hepatitis, osteoporosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.

An easy way to tell if you are part of the 90 percent with too little stomach acid is to take 1 tablespoon of either lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar in a small amount of water at the beginning of a meal. If this lessens or eliminates indigestion, then chances are your stomach does not produce enough acid. A good natural remedy for this kind of indigestion is HCl and pepsin.

Stomach acid production tends to decline with age. The stomach lining suffers damage from certain things that we ingest such as aspirin, ibuprofen, coffee, chocolate, potassium chloride tablets and iron salts.

Food allergies are also a culprit in indigestion. Certain foods cause inflammation in our digestive tract. An inflamed digestive tract cannot perform normally. Almost everyone in the United States is allergic to white flour and products made with white flour. Other common food allergens that lead to indigestion include orange juice, coffee, and milk. Try 2 weeks without these foods and see if your digestion improves.

Acid reflux can also be caused by not enough stomach acid. However, it is a more complicated problem. The valve at the top of the stomach that is supposed to close and not allow reflux is called the LES for lower esophageal sphincter. If the LES is not doing its job, then look to factors that weaken this important valve.

These include foods such as fats, chocolate, coffee, peppermint, sugar, onions, hard alcohol, citrus, and carbonated beverages. Certain medications can also weaken the LES. These include bronchodilators, aspirin, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, Valium and Demerol.

The bacteria H. pylori which is linked to stomach ulcers can also be the cause of indigestion. Vitamin C is one of the best natural agents in retarding the growth of H. pylori. Use the ascorbate form of C since ascorbic acid, the most common form of C is a stomach irritant.

Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.

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